Selected Shorts

Robert F. Swift Music, Theatre, and Dance

Robert Swift
Robert Swift photo by Daryl Carlson, courtesy of Laconia Citizen

A course in music appreciation is a staple of any reputable institution of higher learning. Plymouth State has offered one for years.

I began teaching Exploring Music (formerly Intro to Music) in 1981 and have done so ever since. The course is a General Education, Past and Present Directions offering. Many of Plymouth State’s finest students from all degree programs have enrolled over the years. What follows are a few selected examples of their work.

After we study Romanticism, students are required to create original works in that style: poem, drawing, sculpture, musical composition. Some remarkable submissions resulted. Here is one.

Ode to My Guitar
(Christopher Soule)

I don’t know how to take advantage of all you have to offer,
and I do not understand every aspect of your being.

But I do know I enjoy your company like the company of a good book
in a hammock on a sunny day. No interruptions.

I haven’t picked you up in a week or more,
and I don’t think you are in tune.

But an eon couldn’t separate the appreciation I have for your shape,
your sound, and your simple quality of being.

I get frustrated when I touch you.
And I remember my inadequacies in a subject I bear no faculty for.

But that one second of pure sound, a reverberating vibration of energy,
striking through the wood like lightning makes all the difference.

I never bought you a new carrying case to protect you.
Nor did I buy new strings despite your smudgy glean.

But sight is certainly not everything regarding an instrument
meant to smother a couple other senses.

My thanks are sincere.
For the company.
For the sanity.
For the solitude.
For the sound.
For the silence.

Thank you for being the friend that I know nothing about.

As a teacher my mild-mannered, soft-spoken, avuncular disposition is rarely upset. But the introduction into the classroom of personal, electronic communication devices in the past five years has often led to uncomfortable exchanges with the perpetrator, who is asked to leave the room.

Quiz #9 concluded with a bonus question. “Draw something in a style we have discussed. Title it, and identify the style.” (My evaluation is included.)

student drawing of Prof. Swift

Students are required to attend live musical performances and write critiques within a week of the event. Malapropisms occasionally creep in.

“Irving Berlin played the tenor sax in his own solo. The next was the choir singing, Mrs Swift on the piano [a rare sight!], and Irving playing the oboe.” (L.T.)

“She had an amazing voice, and I got chilly when she hit the high notes …” (J.M.)

“ … Travis Keith on alto and Dan Heffernan on bari sax. Travis played more of a passionate sex solo.” (M.R.)

“This is the only music program in the country able to turn a starling into a lark.” (Kim Starling, vocal Music minor, 1985)

In conclusion, we post weekly quotations on the board. Two will suffice.

“It is only that which cannot be expressed otherwise that is worth expressing in music.” (Frederick Delius)

“If I had the power, I would insist on all oratorios being sung in the costume of the period—with a possible exception in the case of The Creation.” (Ernest Newman)