Kiss may have wanted to rock and roll all night, but Georgetown visiting professor Patrick Warfield rocks and rolls every day during class. Warfield, who teaches courses on American popular music, focusing on rock, jazz, blues and rap, has struck a chord with many students by harmonizing history with the classic sounds of American rock and roll. This week, Warfield sits down with THE HOYA to talk about rock and roll, the music industry and his particularly popular class, “History of Rock.”

Why did you choose to be a music professor?

To be honest, there’s nothing better than listening to music, talking about music and getting paid for it. I went to school thinking I was going to be a classical musician, but then I discovered that was not the life I wanted, and that this is much more fun.

Who is currently your favorite band/artist?

Right now, Medeski Martin and Wood. They’re a modern jazz group, and especially during semesters that I’m teaching jazz history, I listen to them, and I like them very much.

What are your thoughts about the popularity of your “History of Rock” class?

You could put a monkey in that room and it would still be one of the most popular classes at Georgetown. The subject material is very popular, and it’s a line between the fact that I want the class to be fun, and rock itself is fun to listen to. The history of rock is interesting because it deals with politics and war and race and gender; at the same time, I don’t want students to think that fun means super-easy. So I’m always trying to make students come into rock history and have them treat it as they would another class, with the same seriousness. I also try to make faculty understand that it’s not a blow-off class – you learn about the Vietnam War, the feminist movement, et cetera.

Some say rock and roll is dead. What do you think is the current state of rock and roll?

I think it is really easy to romanticize rock history, and that’s true of history in general. Rock has always been accused of being overproduced. People accused Phil Spector of overproducing his work – or even the Beatles’ album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which is considered one of the greatest musical works of all time. That question comes up in rock history, and the easiest answer is if you can explain the difference between rock and pop then you should be teaching the class instead of me. I used to think rock was dead after the music I listened to in college, but I have the students I teach do a project where they introduce me to a new song, and so I think there are a lot of good things out there, but it’s just a matter of wadding through the garbage.

What are your thoughts about the music industry in general?

I don’t think it’s a matter of it being any better or even worse then it ever was. Rock has always been a commodity, making money and artistry have always been connected, and it is easy to say that the music industry has gone bad, but that’s the way it has always been. Any person can now get their music out, so the way the music is distributed is what has changed.

How has the Internet changed the industry?

If I knew how the Internet was going to affect music, I would be very wealthy and not teaching at Georgetown.

Some say rap and hip-hop are the genres of music for which our generation will be remembered. What are your thoughts on that?

I don’t know if there is anything more strange about imagining Eminem perform when he’s 50 than seeing Keith Richards perform when he’s 60. I think that your kids will listen to rap and hip-hop and romanticize it. But the historical connection won’t be there. Our music was connected to Vietnam War and many other historical events. If you think about what gets played on an oldies rock station, I don’t think the Beatles are going to go away. Popular music has a tendency to pile up on itself. I do think in 20 years we’ll still be hearing the Beatles, but there will be a whole more stacked on top of that. There are bands that I didn’t really know that I like a lot more now than I did in high school. I was never particularly into The Police until people suggested that I look back on them. The stuff you listen to when you’re 50 won’t be the same music you listened to when you’re 18, but that stuff will bring back memories.

What’s new in the music department?

The music department has all sorts of great things going on – new major; new connection to post-classical ensemble; we’ve got the Guild of Bands, a student organization of bands; we’ve got part-time faculty doing recording techniques in music industry classes. There’s much more going on in the music department than when I first came to Georgetown.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.