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Thursday, May 30, 2024
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‘This is an art form’: How Jonathan Golove revived rock music at UB

In MUS 365, students analyze rock music and learn its historical background

<p>Jonathan Golove poses in his office with a Jimi Hendrix figurine gifted to him by students of MUS 365: "Rock Music".</p>

Jonathan Golove poses in his office with a Jimi Hendrix figurine gifted to him by students of MUS 365: "Rock Music".

Jonathan Golove was raised in a household that exclusively listened to rock ’n’ roll.

As the youngest in his family, Golove, an associate professor in the Department of Music, was introduced to the music genre by his three older siblings and his father, who worked in the music industry as an attorney.

“He was always bringing home sheet music for us, bringing home records for us, and he could get us tickets to concerts very often,” Golove said. “So because I had older brothers who could drive, we started going [to concerts] when I was very young… That’s the beginning of rock music for me.”

During his childhood, Golove grew up listening to ’70s rock artists like Elton John, John Denver and Gordon Lightfoot. Since Golove was born after the rise of Elvis Presley — the “King of Rock and Roll” — he was not as well-versed in his work.

“Elvis Presley was from the ‘50s — I wasn’t born yet,” Golove said. “So I had to learn about his music, and when I started listening to it, I fell in love with it. And so I try to repeat that experience for people — I try to introduce them to something they don’t know.”

Listening to rock music wasn’t enough. Golove wanted to turn his fascination into a profession. But the opportunity never presented itself — until he came to teach at UB. 

Around 2000, Golove was asked by David Felder, the Birge-Cary Chair in Music Composition, if he wanted to create a new rock music course at UB. The instructor of a preexisting rock music course had retired years prior. Golove agreed to teach the course, marking the beginning of MUS 365: “Rock Music.”

Running the course wasn’t easy at first. When Golove started teaching the course, he found himself rebuilding the school’s rock music scene with limited resources.

“I really built the course from scratch because I didn’t have anything from the previous instructor,” Golove said. “The only thing I had were LP records in the Music Library that he had asked [UB] to buy for his course and then ones of my own that I had.”

Despite the setbacks, Golove used cassette tapes and his own CDs to give students the listening experience he envisioned. He eventually started making playlists on Spotify.

Initially, only a few students signed up for the course. But as word of the class spread in its first few years, the number of students enrolled in the course grew and grew. Golove typically has over 150 MUS 365 students per semester. 

“[Of] the people who take it, everybody really loves the subject matter,” Golove said. “That’s nice because you don’t have to convince people to like rock music — they already do.”

The class is divided into a series of units covering chronological periods of rock music, from the prehistory of rock to heavy metal in the ’90s. Each week is devoted to analyzing songs from renowned rock musicians like Elvis Presley, Little Richard, The Beatles, Black Sabbath and more.

Golove chooses which songs to teach based on their representation of different musical styles, rather than solely on popularity or personal preference. He avoids covering recent rock music, as students are closer to it and may not be interested in hearing about it from an older perspective.

“I think too often [rock music] gets neglected as an art form,” Golove said. “People talk about it as though it were just a throwaway… But I don’t believe that. I believe that the best of the rock musicians are really good artists. They take what they do very seriously, and what they make is of real quality, so it’s worthy of study.”

After teaching MUS 365 every spring for over 20 years, Golove decided to take a brief pause from the course to pursue other subjects in his career. He plans to return to the course in the near future.

Golove hopes his students are able to gain a greater appreciation for the rock genre and learn the ability to actively listen to music.

“The class is really about learning to listen attentively, carefully and interpretively,” Golove said. “I think the highest level really is that you form an interpretation instead of just being a passive consumer.”

Jason Tsoi is an assistant features editor and can be reached at


Jason Tsoi is an assistant features editor at The Spectrum. He is an English major with a certificate in journalism. During his free time, he can be found listening to music and watching films. 



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