From the category archives:

Rufus Seminar/UCLA

I know, I know, it’s a sad moment: the Rufus seminar is over. We had our last class of the quarter. (We are on quarters at UCLA, which means 10 weeks: the first class was an introduction.)Today the class was “teacher’s choice” meaning I brought in my iPod and played my favorite songs outside the […]


Our final discussion session had two songs on the agenda: “Damned Ladies,” and “Oh What a World.” I started the class by playing Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero.” “Bolero” is quoted toward the end of “Oh What a World.” I explained how the piece works, and identified the overall shape. I speculated that the opening tune “men […]


“Peach Trees” and “Memphis Skyline” were on the agenda for today. “Peach Tree in Bloom” by Vincent Van Gogh We started with “Peach Trees” and I confessed I didn’t understand it. Fortunately, one of the class is from Manhattan and his explanation helped with putting the song into context. Bryant Park is a place where […]


“The Art Teacher” and “Danny Boy” were discussed today. With respect to the meaning of “The Art Teacher” the first order of business was whether the story teller was a boy or a girl. Most felt it was indeed from a woman’s point of view, but one student said that she remembered Rufus saying in […]


Today we discussed “Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk” (CaCM) and “Poses.” Both of these songs are on this CD, “Poses” RW’s 2nd album Discussing the music, we determined CaCM to have the following form: A A A’ B A A A’ B B'(instrumental) A” A”’ A’ is the minor version of A; the instrumental “interlude” that […]


(The class happened at breakneck speed today, trying to cover all this material and dip into the text meanings only briefly. This is a brief and hurried report to those who are anxious to know what we covered in the seminar. A polished analysis it is not.) Per Mark Carlson’s right-on suggestion, we emphasized the […]


Today we discussed “Agnus Dei” and “The Maker Makes.” The class opened with an attempt to define the difference between “religion” and “spiritiuality.” There are all types in the class: Catholics, Jews, agnostics, atheists, humanists, Muslims… and each had their own takes on the notion of spirituality. I didn’t tell them what I knew to […]


Today we discussed two songs: “Go or Go Ahead” and “I Don’t Know What It Is.” Go or Go Ahead Another excellent class with passionate and excellent interpretations of the songs. The juxtaposing concepts in the opening lines (“thank you” vs. “bitter knowledge,” “guardian angel” and “stranded”) were cited as strong ironic images. The religious/sacred […]


[Background: I am teaching an undergraduate 1 unit Freshman seminar at UCLA on “The Music of Rufus Wainwright.” The students are mostly Freshman, and are not music majors. I will post my somewhat scattered recollection of the class, and hope that the participants will post comments to correct, clarify and amplify their thoughts. Others are […]