Oberlin Blogs

Therefore I Am

December 26, 2023

Marcus Jensen '27

I am what some would call an enthusiastic music listener and performer, but by no means encyclopedic nor virtuosic. I know my fair share of facts from cultural (and familial) osmosis, but I don’t know who produced Bowie’s Heroes off the top of my head, nor can I perform a Brahms sonata flawlessly even after practice. Music is something that I love, but coming to Oberlin I felt underprepared - excited to be joining such a musical community, yes, but scared that I’d be shown up as a fraud.

I walked into my first class for the music of the 1970s a little apprehensive - this age of music, in particular, was one that I had very little knowledge of. Not even ten minutes in we had covered three or four bands of whom I had zero previous experience with, and I felt entirely out of my depth.

And yet…

We had some discussion question - I can’t remember exactly what - that related (as they all did) to the larger musical community and history while being grounded in specific 1970s examples. I tentatively raised my hand and offered my view on the ideas that were being bandied about in relation to music that I did know more about. And not only did I miraculously avoid being smote by a bolt of divine academic retribution, but my idea prompted a second wave of discussion using all of the bands that I had mentioned - some of which, as previously mentioned, I had learned about only ten minutes prior. Similar things happened in my other classes. I realized that I didn’t have to know everything about the specifics that were being used to model ideas - I could absorb said specifics, and then use them as a springboard for my own interpretations. I learned that…well, that I could learn. You don’t have to know everything about any topic to have interesting new ideas on it - not saying you should be uninformed and be whipping out hot takes left and right, but complete and total knowledge is not a prerequisite to participation.

Similar Blog Entries