Monday, July 13, 2009
Some days I really miss the kids. I loved teaching. In the end it was the other teachers that drove me away from the profession not the students. I taught high school music from 1990 until 2002 in the public system. In my first year out of college I was posted to Alexandra Hills High School, a pilot school situated in a suburb in the south east of Brisbane. I remember the place was a bit of an experimental ground for teaching any new syllabus and it was decided that every child should do music, drama and art until year 10. This meant a lot of surly boys doing music and drama when normally they would have had the option to drop those subjects after year 8. I found myself with huge mixed classes in which angry young men made up the majority. This was my first year of teaching and I was determined the kids would learn. I realized how imperative it was to get them under my thumb. It was hopeless trying to teach them to read and write music at that stage, so we spent a lot of time doing what I liked to loosely call ‘music appreciation’. Basically I'd play them some music then conclude the lesson with a lecture and discussion. Then we’d all tool around on the guitars for a bit. Metallica released ‘One’ in 1989 and I decided that this song was just what a group of angry young men needed to listen to. I don’t know what possessed me, but I’ll never forget their stunned faces at the end of it. This class took place in an annexed room at the back of the school so we had the luxury of playing it at a decent volume as well. The only thing more depressing than being an armless, legless war veteran with no face, who’s blind, deaf and mute, is being forced to read about one. The song is based on ‘Johnny Got His Gun’ by Dalton Trumbo I tell the kids. In the introduction, the sound of helicopters (despite them being an unknown commodity in World War 1) and machine guns indicate the impending doom and gloom to follow. Then James Hetfield assumes the inner monologue of the mutilated, faceless man thanks to his terminal grimace of a voice and tightly clenched teeth. Half way in Metallica are already trying to rip our heads off with their maniacal double-tracked guitars and Lars Ulrich bashing his kit like he just found out about Napster. ‘Darkness! Imprisoning me!’ Hetfield is screaming. ‘All that I see, absolute horror!’ The double bass drums pump out the rhythm with each shouted syllable, as if it were choreographed machine gun fire. The boys then proceed to tear into this mind-boggling guitar soloing that rewrites Einstein’s space/time continuum and when played loudly enough; has the power to implode small buildings as well. ‘One’ ends abruptly; much like a Lamborghini stops when it runs into a truck. Well you should have seen their kid’s shocked and sad little faces at the end of it! Looking back it was a little evil of me. But I didn’t have an ounce of trouble from that class ever again. Good times.