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Try to explain music.
When philosophy professor Christoph Cox puts that challenge to his students, he can never predict the outcome. Almost everyone has an opinion when it comes to music, and generally it's more passionate than reasoned. Getting past the primary emotional response, and moving on to a more critical analysis, is what Professor Cox likes to see in the classroom.
"First year students say they want to write on music, but mostly it turns out they really just want to examine lyrics. I think that's ok, but it's more than just poetry and language, I want to get them to deal with sounds. And that isn't very easy to do," he says.
"There is a strong scene around here. I think Hampshire students have a huge part in that. And then there are established artists like Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr., who serve as kind of mentors," says Cox.
The bulk of this music may not make an immediate dent in mainstream culture, but that doesn't mean much to Cox. It's the outlying edges he's interested in, the new forms and ideas. And when he finds them, well, it just might end up the next class discussion. Or magazine article. Or exhibit, with a very conceptual, very philosophical underpinning.