Listen to part of a lecture in a history class.
Professor: It is obvious that in mainstream America today, as well as in many other parts of the world, forms of music such as hip-hop or rap are becoming more and more popular with young people and older people alike. The record industries, quite naturally, are reaping the rewards. What I’d like to do is take a step back right now from these styles and trace their roots. Let’s find out where they came from and where it all started. You don’t think it is possible perhaps, but it is. Any ideas?
Student A: Didn’t they, uh, evolve from blues and jazz?
Professor: Well, you’re getting closer. Yes, you are right; they are connected, but what about their predecessors? Well, class, for the answer to that, we’ll have to go way back to around the fourteenth or fifteenth century. Yes, that’s right. The roots of rhythm and blues, jazz, rock, rap, hip-hop, any of these styles can be traced back to early West Africa, dating all the way back to the 1500s. Remember that most African cultures were based on what is called an oral tradition. That is, the histories of the societies,- of people and happenings, were passed on through words and songs, not the written page as it was in Europe. One of the most important facets, or people, in this oral tradition in West Africa is the griot. The griot is a person… I say is, class, because they continue to function and are still important today, some five hundred years later. He is basically the local historian responsible for remembering and telling the stories of a tribe or society through tales or songs. Of course, forms of music often accompanied the stories to instill emotion and climax in the history. Rhythm and beat eventually added to the story songs. In essence, the griot helped remind people, through the oral tradition, of every aspect of what had occurred within that society in order to keep the memories, the society, alive and connected to its past. Let me try to say this more succinctly. Griots helped preserve their culture’s past and also connected the present with that past. Now, are there any questions at this point? No? Okay. Then, thinking back over to America really quickly. How do you think this oral tradition was passed to North America if we consider it the root of many forms of music in America?
Student B: Well, Professor, unfortunately, there is only one possible answer for that… the slave trade.
Professor: That’s exactly right. Sure, many West Africans were seized and taken from their homelands and shipped unwillingly to the New World as slaves. They were severed from their families, culture, homeland, heritage, their entire world. But, once they arrived in America or the West Indies and other places, they continued with their oral tradition of singing about their past and telling stories of their homelands and people. As they continued this oral tradition, they were able to fill up what was hollow, what was missing inside of them, and it served to reconnect them perhaps not physically, but spiritually, with their cultures and ancestors. Does everyone see this connection? Good.
Now, songs eventually took on new meaning and purpose for the slaves. First, it was a means of educating one another about the past as well as present. Slaves were prohibited from reading and writing, so they relied on stories and songs to educate each other about what was occurring in the area, plans for escaping, or perhaps news from the Underground Railroad in coded form. That is, class, to the average listener, like a master, the songs sounded simple and meaningless. Yet, to the slaves, they were full of important information and underlying meanings. What these early slave songs did, class, was give the slaves an important boost in confidence. It gave them the idea that they did have some sort of control over what they said and did.
Now, let’s get more to the music connection. One of the reasons the oral tradition was so successful was that it also relied heavily on rhythm and repetition, which, if you think about it, most music today and in the past does. The reason the slaves incorporated rhythm and repetition was that, because they were forbidden from reading and writing, it made remembering important facts and situations much easier to do. Furthermore, the early slave songs provided them with a kind of spiritual escape from the treacherous bonds of slavery. On the surface, the slaveholders seemed to control every aspect of their slaves’ lives, yet, through songs and the oral tradition, slaves were able to be free in a sense, which often became cathartic for them.
Listen to part of a lecture in an environmental science class.
Professor: Yes, yes, yes, and in all actuality, class, there are a number of what we call green fuels, more environmentally-kind fuels on the market right now. I know there’s a lot of talk about hybrids and electric automobiles and what not. But, the fact is, right now, without breaking the bank, you can help by using a car that does less damage to the atmosphere and ecosystems. Anyway, the first green fuel I’m going to talk to you about today is, hold your breath, class… diesel fuel.
Student A: Diesel! There’s no way that can be. It’s the nastiest one of them all. Plus, diesel engines are so loud.
Professor: Oh, but on the contrary, Susan! You are thinking of old diesel fuel and diesel engine cars. Well, put your mind to rest. He’s gone. He’s out of here, and there’s a new version in town, folks. Just developed, or should I say, refined, last year. It has a much lower sulfur content than its predecessor, which means good things for the environment, folks. Actually, the new diesel is probably the most significant advance in traditional fuels since the late sixties. Oh, yes, this is big-time, class. And there’s more.
Automobile manufacturers are taking advantage of it. They are beginning to introduce car models that even clean the diesel emissions before, that’s right, before, they are released into the air and atmosphere. This spells good things for the world. New, high-tech fitters are also being implemented in cars to catch all those bad microscopic particles that we breathe and can be harmful to humans. But that’s not all. Believe it or not, diesel is both rich in energy and highly efficient. Tests have shown that the new diesel gets between 25% to 45% better mileage than gasoline. Now, you can’t tell me your wallet isn’t loving that. Also, emissions from the new diesel release up to 30% less carbon dioxide into the air than gas burners. More? Well, it’s available right now, virtually everywhere, from coast to coast. Now, can anyone offer up another viable option as a green fuel?
Student A: I read somewhere that natural gas is becoming kind of popular.
Professor You nailed it. She’s absolutely right, class. Natural gas is actually the cleanest fossil fuel we’ve got. And, when cars use natural gas as an energy source, they cause even less pollution than, well, of course, gasoline autos or any of these funny looking hybrids crawling around on the highways! When it comes to natural gas, we have tons of it—enough to last a very, very long time, which means we would be less reliant on foreign countries for fossil fuels. Also, natural gas cars get about the same mileage as traditional gasoline cars, which could be seen as a drawback. But, we’re thinking green, and, when it comes to cleaning up the environment, natural gas is an excellent option.
Still, unlike diesel, there are not many filling stations in the country for natural gas. This could make people shy away from the natural gas option. A couple of companies have created a market for home filling stations, but these can be a bit expensive. I mean, think about it. How many of your own homes use natural gas for heat? Let me see a show of hands. Yes, about half of you, as I suspected. Well, if it is good enough for our homes, and it is cheap and clean, why isn’t it good enough for our cars? Tons of countries are already using natural gas in large quantities in their automobiles, and they’re benefiting both on a personal level as well as an environmental one. I do hope we start to consider natural gas more seriously because it really is an excellent alternative fuel to gasoline. It is. Now, I think we have enough time to discuss one more alternative green fuel. Anyone? Anyone?
Student B: Sir, isn’t hydrogen another possibility? Professor And you are absolutely right, Jeff. It is. Hydrogen cars are slowly being introduced to the market as we speak, and they are a great alternative because hydrogen produces, zero, count it with me, class, zero emissions. Hydrogen cars don’t even have mufflers. There are no emissions whatsoever! That’s got to be good for the environment, hasn’t it? Sure it does. Also, it is a bit cheaper than traditional gasoline. But, hang on a minute. There are some issues. Hydrogen engines are still in the early stages of development. They are somewhat inefficient and outrageously expensive. It goes without saying that they have a long way to go. But, who knows, with more development, they could be the fuel of the future. We’ll just have to wait and see.