School spirit manifests itself in many ways, from cheering on the home team (loud and proud) to more intimate expressions such as sporting your “I Heart Carleton” pin (quiet and proud). Each is an expressive booster. For one alum, charting his campus experience was best done in song. The soundtrack to an undergraduate life
By Joel Crary
All the Trees of the Field Will Clap Their Hands, Sufjan Stevens
A liberal arts education fashions a radar for coincidence. The study of literature particularly demands that connections be made between the universal and the personal, sometimes so much that distinguishing one from the other becomes impossible. To get into the specifics of how Sufjan Stevens’ song fits into my own grander scheme misses the point. Some songs carry a quality that shrinks the world, making it easier to figure out how we’re connected to it. Milan Kundera put it best in a novel I studied in first year: “It is right to chide man for being blind to such coincidences in his daily life. For he thereby deprives his life of a dimension of beauty.”
You Can’t Sit Down, The Dovells
On Sunday nights in fourth year, Babylon on Bank Street offered Ottawa’s version of Mod Club, a cross-Canada nightspot venture carved from the well-dressed yet rebellious image belonging to 1960s disenchanted London youth. The DJs spun classic R&B and British rock until the wee hours, demanding that sleep be sacrificed to the low cost of a free cover and a mad dash to make the last 95 bus back to Nepean. Songs from the night before rang in my head during Monday-morning lectures on Gothic literature in Dunton Tower as involuntary yawns expressed longing for the weekend.
Coast to Coast, Elliott Smith
Elliott Smith died during my second year at Carleton, and his final record was released nearly a year later to the day. Why do I sharply recall listening to Coast to Coast in the tunnels on a walk to Dunton Tower from the print office in Robertson Hall? Our memories are made up of moments when we forget ourselves and cut out the self-analysis prompted by the university environment. So many of the authors and artists studied in the course of obtaining a BA take on the attractive sheen of doomed heroes. The right song at the right time can serve as a reminder of how tragic and beautiful the world can be.
Elevator Love Letter, Stars
The English Literary Society held its meetings on the 18th floor of Dunton Tower. Most were devoted to critiques of student writing. A girl and I both had chunks of fiction in our bags when we boarded the elevator one evening. She struck up a conversation. The next morning I messaged the entire society mailing list to figure out her email address, but we ended up meeting again through serendipity, which is the best kind of way to meet someone at university. Chance encounters are the stuff of big, meaningful lives.
Rasputin, Boney M
During fourth year, I worked as an editor for In/Words, Carleton’s literary magazine. We brought open mic nights to the Avant-Garde Bar on Besserer Street, owned and operated by hospitable Russian immigrant Alex Yugin. Young people from Ottawa’s lit community would come out to read, perform and posture through a 50-watt amplifier. Between sets, Alex would project music videos at a screen on the stage. Rasputin was in regular rotation. Those songs fuelled the dreams of the heartbroken poets waiting for the right words to set them free.
While I’m Young, Buck 65
If you load Buck 65’s Synesthesia album and press play on Skill Saw just as your foot hits the floor at the base of the MacOdrum tunnel staircase, you’ll slow your pace to make sure While I’m Young ends just as you reach the St. Patrick tunnel exit on the other side of campus. Rich Terfry’s intricate lyrics, beat-up-Buick delivery and oddball sampling tendencies came on like brain Gatorade, replenishing the energy spent devouring texts in the library and laying the hip-hop groundwork for new analytical approaches. Making the affliction of perpetual over-thinking appear controllable, he instilled a drive to write. Listening to Buck 65 was a form of weightlifting.
The Big Picture, Bright Eyes
I bought my first iPod at the Carleton bookstore. The digital music revolution was in full swing by the time I came to university. Being a music listener during that time meant having to get used to the unprecedented access to artists from every corner of the globe. Omaha’s Bright Eyes came storming through coaxial with sprawling lyrics expressing the anxieties of information overload. Lifted made for introspective listening while waiting in line to fill out OSAP forms at Robertson Hall. And at a length of just over 73 minutes, it would get you halfway there.
Coral Fang, The Distillers
The first essay I submitted at Carleton was on punk rock, built around a thesis I had trouble hammering out. Students had been encouraged to make their submissions unique, so I included a mix tape as part of mine, discovering the Distillers in the process. I ended up giving that essay to a girl I was trying to impress. Not sure what I was thinking, since the essay got only a C.
Name That Tune: Inspired to share your own soundtrack? Send us your CU memories: email@example.com