I was talking to someone at a party recently and we got onto the ‘imagine if the internet was around when we were at school’ conversation. We talked about things that might have turned out differently with exposure to different information and it also made me reminisce about a couple of clubs I was part of at high school that, on reflection, were ‘internetty’ before their time. I thought they were fun (albeit geeky) but I didn’t realise how cool they were until now. What’s the secret of cool? See what you think. (We are heading back to New Zealand in 1996).
Cool club #1: Musoc
This club was an architecture-music appreciation club where we listened to music from different periods and matched it to a curated slide show of architecture from the same period. I remember being amazed at the audible filigree in rococo music and fascinated at the synesthesia of the experience. It was run by a Classical studies teacher who was passionate enough to match the music and curate the slides. (Slides!) There was a bit of talking but mostly listening and experiencing. Sometimes the projector jammed but we never minded. Told you. Cool.
Cool club #2: Guest quest
This was a club where we just went to listen to someone who had an interesting story. One speaker was a truck driver who had survived a horrific accident and had a clip on face due to sustaining really bad burns in the accident. Another was a business start up and another was a local charity. We even once went behind the scenes of a funeral director and looked at embalming equipment. It was like a mini Ted Talk and the randomness and surprise of it was like today’s search on the internet except hands on and with real people. Sometimes it was confronting. Also cool.
What made these clubs cool was their capacity to bring the outside world in. I wish that I had more exposure to ska and jazz music (for example) when we only seemed to play big band songs in the school band. (I played trombone and never saw its potential beyond jollying along the bass in marching tunes).
Imagine if I’d seen the inspirational ‘final countdown’ cover by Gunhild Carling – singer and trombonist with Postmodern Jukebox (a bit before it’s time but something similar would have lit my musical heart on fire), I might still be riffing with my trombone.
Or imagine if we’d sung something more fun in choir or experimented more with a capella… these things could have been instantly more engaging. Choir could have been cooler if we’d even been able to write our own music or loop our own tracks. The 4 track tape technology was there, we just didn’t know about it.
The pink-tinted lens of nostalgia is clearly alive and well. Did the clubs feel cool then? No way, they were peripheral and a bit edgy. But the secret cool (I now realise) was that they brought the outside in. They gave us something interesting to talk about. They brought us together for hot milo and and biscuits. And they opened our minds pre-internet.
How can we harness more of that? How can we make kids’ lives more cool? Here are ten quick ideas:
1) explore a new random topic
2) expand ear vocabulary with a new genre of music
3) watch a movie in a different language
4) host a music appreciation moment
5) host a ‘draw/paint in the style of’ studio play session
6) watch a ted talk
7) go explore somewhere new
8) create a bring your own book club
9) spin the globe and explore recipes from wherever your finger lands
10) find guest speakers
This quick list has 10 ways to deliberately bring the outside world in. The internet should make it easier to emulate the cool clubs I still remember.
What cool new thing will you begin?