Works in Progress - Winter 2011

If Music Be the Food of Love, Rock On

By Will Yandik | June 24, 2013

 

For generations mothers have told their children not to grow up to be cowboys, writers, or rock musicians, and the reasons are obvious—the bad pay, bad rep, bad fashion. Fortunately, as the members of the lit-rock band Glass Wave indulge in all three professional personas, they have day jobs—prestigious ones at that, as scholars of French and Indian literature. And although they occasionally don Stetsons for publicity photos, they write original lyrics based on classic literary texts to the tunes of Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, and Supertramp.

The band formed in 2008 shortly after Stanford professors Dan Edelstein and Robert Harrison pulled out electric guitars in their Introduction to Humanities course and jammed classic literary texts to help students review for their exam. Harrison’s brother Thomas, a UCLA literature professor, and Christy Wampole, then a Stanford Ph.D. candidate and accomplished chanteuse, joined them, and the foursome snagged a local drummer. On their first CD, released last April, Wampole in her unrefined contralto recasts familiar stories: Hamlet from the perspective of Ophelia, Echo rather than Narcissus stepping up to the mike, and Lolita—not Humbert—relating that sordid little tale.

The group dodges committee meetings and office hours to steal away to the studio, where they work on the music first and then assign what they believe to be appropriate lyrics. And although they have no stadium tours booked yet, they hope that music transcends parody, that the fans will show up when they take the stage, and, of course, that their students will read more than the liner notes and lend a fresh ear to the classics.

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