In: students2 Feb 2012
Topics in Recorded Music
Stevie Wonder: Innervisions
What an extraordinary seven weeks at NYU.
ReMu’s inaugural Stevie Wonder course, likely the first of its kind anywhere in the world, was an exploration not only of the man’s career but an overview of a crucial moment in popular music history: when African-American recording artists – and the times – demanded independence from a producer’s system; when, simultaneous with the singer-songwriter and album rock movement, black music found its own voice. Stevie Wonder led the movement, opening the door to new forms of expression, paving the way to creative uses of new technologies, and influencing generations to come.
Helping carve a path through the curriculum was Stevie Wonder himself, who surprised everyone with a guest appearance during the first class. Stevie did more than wave hello and move on, he held forth for 30 minutes, telling his story, during which he sang snippets of his songs and took questions from the students. Providing a musical backdrop was DJ Spinna, well known for his successful “Wonder-full” nights in NY, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
The class also attracted Malcolm Cecil, an electronic music pioneer who was one-half of the original production and engineering team behind the classic Wonder albums Talking Book, Innervisions, et al. He spoke at length about his career and treated the class to an exclusive listening session of side one of Innervisions, direct from the original master tape.
In a later class, helping to frame Stevie’s influence, was songwriter-producer Carl Sturken, who with his creative partner Evan Rogers has collaborated with most of the major young pop stars of the last 15 years; most prominently they discovered Rihanna. In class Sturken played songs he co-created, pointing out the obvious and subtle Stevie Wonder influences.
The class concluded with a 90-minute Q&A with Ahmir ?uestlove Thompson and Christian McBride. They’re longtime friends who were high school classmates and are unabashed Stevie Wonder fans. They discussed their favorite Wonder moments, both from listening as kids to personal experiences with Stevie himself. They put those moments in historical, political and social contexts, deftly weaving the conversation into a class as unforgettable as the first.
And we ended as we began: with DJ Spinna playing the music.
The Clive Davis Institute is an innovative undergraduate leadership training program for aspiring creative music entrepreneurs, housed at Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. Students who dream of becoming leading executives, recording artists, record producers and music journalists come to us to learn the art and business of creating and selling hit music.