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Pink Floyd University Course at Ramapo College, New Jersey Print E-mail
Written by Ed Lopez-Reyes   
Friday, 12 June 2015

Ramapo College of New JerseyPink Floyd academic, composer, and pianist Gilad Cohen - whom we have mentioned elsewhere on these pages - is to teach a university course on Pink Floyd at New Jersey's Ramapo College. Cohen recently completed his PhD in music at Princeton University, and the course promises to be an interesting look at the band. Here, we catch up with Cohen for more information on the course, and below, you can even download the syllabus to see for yourself just what a Pink Floyd class would consist of!

Brain Damage: Did you approach Ramapo College with the idea for the course or did they ask you to put something together based on your dissertation work?

This is my first year as an Assistant Professor at Ramapo College. I proposed this course in my first month at the job, as I knew Ramapo' music department, with its clear contemporary orientation, would be an ideal environment for such course. The idea met enthusiastic responses from both faculty and students, and the class is already full, more than three months before the semester begins.

BD: How comprehensively are you covering the band's catalog? On the one hand, you have really focused a good amount of your academic work on Gilmour's playing and composition, on the other hand, much of any discussion of Pink Floyd covering its 50 year history emphasizes the Waters era. How will you distribute your focus between the three eras (Barrett, Waters, and Gilmour)?

My research concentrates on Meddle, Wish You Were Here, and Animals, while referring to Barrett's area when looking at the origins of the band's style (specifically their interest and experiments in large forms, e.g. Interstellar Overdrive). I looked at Gilmour's contribution comprehensively during this era, but the albums in the Gilmour-era were not part of my research. Likewise, the course will mostly concentrate on the albums from the 1970s, but other eras will also be explored, including the experimental albums of the 1960s, the three Gilmour-era studio albums, and a few of Waters' solo albums.

BD: This will be a very popular subject to study but I can tell from the syllabus that it will be a challenging course. Did you review previous courses on popular and iconic music acts that have existed in the past before cementing your vision for this course?

Not quite. While courses about popular music tend to concentrate on the historical and sociological aspect of the acts they cover, I decided to focus primarily on the artistic merits of the band (lyrics, music, and visualizations). We will really dig into the gritty side of the guitar solos, sound processing, lyrics, and chords and arrangements, in order to get a better understanding of the Floydian style and its momentous place in the history of rock. While the students and I will definitely look at previous research, the essence of the course will be to create our own path by listening, analyzing, and looking for conclusions.

BD: Do you anticipate any special guests during the course?

For the first round this course will be running I don't anticipate any guests, although I won't be surprised if local Pink Floyd experts such as my friend Dave Molk, who produced the Pink Floyd conference at Princeton University with me last year, will pay a visit, or possibly Professor Shaugn O'Donnell, who's already been teaching a Pink Floyd course at CUNY Graduate Center, although I haven't discussed it with him yet. In the future, it might be fun to bring some other guests, but I'll need to take it a step at the time.

BD: What was the most difficult part of putting the course together?

Since I anticipate many Ramapo College students from outside our music program taking the class to enrich their understanding and knowledge of music, I need to make sure that the in-depth musical discussions are accessible to those who come with little musical training. I have a lot of experience in working with non-musicians in bands, choirs, and classes, so I hope to find the right way to do it. One of the challenges of teaching this course is also its most interesting aspect: the desire to capture this elusive thing called "style" and find out what things make the music we are studying "Floydian." What makes it work? What made the band so successful and influential? How did they come up with some of their innovative ideas? All of these are questions that fascinated me since I was young, and we'll do our best to answer them.

You can read more about Ramapo College here. Ramapo College's Music Department and Gilad Cohen's profile at the college are featured here and here. You can read more about Gilad Cohen here.

Finally, if you are curious as to what a Pink Floyd class would consist of, click here to open the course syllabus as a PDF file (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader or similar).

 
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