Graduation Music

I detest “Pomp and Circumstance.” It has to be the worst processional music ever conceived. It has no grandeur, no life or playfulness, and almost no rhythm. It shuffles people down an aisle in solemnity on an occasion when no one feels solemn–graduation. I’m not sure why this ceremony of all the rituals we go through in life seems to be the one that puts on this patina of dour grandeur. It is indeed a grand occasion and an important ritual, but between the music and the typical exhortation to go out into the world and change it, it seems like the people who plan graduation ceremonies assume that actual joy is some how not part of the equation. It’s like some left over medieval vestige, like the sleeve length of the robes or the kind of hat you can wear based on what degree you’ve earned. Of course, everyone else wants to cheer and celebrate. Clearly, this tension is not easily resolvable. I think we need dance music not “Pomp and Circumstance.”

Today is my university’s graduation day. Normally I don’t get too upset about this particular song, but some students I’ve worked closely with since I’ve begun here are graduating today. Plus, my friend April just received her PhD hood and diploma a few hours ago. “Pomp and Circumstance” seems all wrong for such happy, momentous occasions. So, I’ve put together a few of the songs I was listening to when I graduated with my doctorate in May 2008. Not a single one of these is a graduation songs. Yet, they got me through my dissertation defense and were part of my personal soundtrack when I walked across that stage. One or two are “Song of the Day” repeats, but I think they’re important.

Outkast, “Morris Brown”

Kate Nash, “Mouthwash”

Vampire Weekend, “Walcott”

The Shins, “Australia”

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