Thurston Moore, frontman of seminal alternative rock group Sonic Youth, will be joining a group of visiting instructors at this year’s Summer Writing Program hosted by Naropa’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, which begins Monday.
“I’ve been asked to teach many times before, but I’ve never taken the bait,” said Moore. “This is the first time I’ve had time to do it. Normally, I spend my summers touring. I’ll be leaving for Chicago to keep touring as soon as I’m finished teaching.”
He will be teaching at Naropa from July 4-10, the final week of the program.
Trip-hop icon DJ Spooky and music producer Hal Willner will be among the guest teachers of the nearly 40-year-old summer series.
Moore, 52, also an accomplished rock critic, poet, writer and renown archivist of obscure writing ephemera (fanzines, concert flyers, album cover art etc.), recently released his fourth solo album, Demolished Thoughts, and founded Sonic Youth with wife Kim Gordon and Lee Ranaldo in 1981.
Originally part of the New York post-punk “No Wave” genre of the late 1970s, Sonic Youth became a bellwether of the indie/college rock scene, having been one of the first bands to find success in fusing a DIY/punk ethos with popular accessibility.
Sonic Youth’s first largely successful release, “Teenage Riot,” from their 1988 album Daydream Nation — one of 50 inductees into the Library of Congress’ National Recordings Registry in 2006 — has remained omnipresent across the globe and was included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.
Moore currently lives near Western Massachusetts’ Smith College and last year presented his “Dissertation on White Noise” to a group of elementary school students in New York.
“It was more an exercise in chaos and was all about the cupcakes,” said Moore, laughing.
Moore said it was ultimately Naropa’s unconventional approach to education that led him to agree to participae in the workshop: Economics of the Counter-Culture: Performance, Publishing, Collaboration.
“Being a student of poetry and poetry history myself,” said Moore, “Naropa is, to me, a kind of wonderland, being in such a blissful environment as Boulder, where there is more focus on the esoteric aspects of the art form.”
The only other time Moore remembers coming to Boulder was when he, Boulder native Jello Biafra (of Dead Kennedys fame) and Anne Waldman, Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics co-founder, performed at the Boulder Theater in 2006.
“It was the only time I really saw Boulder,” said Moore. “It was just this very cool place to be with an amazing literary campus and one of the best bookshops in the country.”
Moore said he prepared no syllabus or curriculum and “has no idea” what he’s getting into, but that “I sort of just trust the good nature of it. I’m looking forward to it; it will be a real enriching experience for me.
“I’m curious to see who the students are and the kind of scene it will be. There are a lot of surprises in store.”
“It’s a really, really intensive program,” said Lisa Birman, director of the Summer Writing Program and Naropa grad. “There’s so much happening in a given week, so if there’s a holiday like July 4th, we just have to plow ahead. We’ll still all get to watch the fireworks together.”
Each day, 220 students will take part in individual workshops, lectures, panels and faculty performances.
“It’s a very generative program,” said Birman. “Hopefully students will find beginnings here that will see them through their careers.
“It’s good timing that it worked out this year with Thurston. One of the things he’ll be bringing is the experience of living in the counterculture. I think it’s really interesting that he’s so invested in his continuing learning and is therefore a great model to our students.”
“We’ve been trying to get him for a while,” said Waldman who co-founded the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics in 1974, alongside fellow poet Allen Ginsberg.
“We need him.”
Waldman said she prefers retaining the edifying services of visitors who have life experience in lieu of traditional teaching credentials.
“It’s refreshing being taught by those who are brought in because of who they are, because of the work they do in the world.”