Glass Wave is a Bay Area rock band formed in 2008 by Robert Pogue Harrison and Dan Edelstein, both professors of literature at Stanford University. The band was conceived originally as a literary musical collaboration for their team-taught Introduction to the Humanities course entitled Epic Journeys, sponsored by the university's Department of French and Italian. At the end of the academic quarter in winter 2008, Harrison and Edelstein staged a surprise live musical performance for approximately 100 freshmen in their course. The performance consisted of classic rock adaptations of great epic works of the western canon including The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Divine Comedy, and The Odyssey. Their initial name for the group was Arma Virumque, the first line of Virgil's Aeneid, which reads "Arma virumque cano" ("I sing of arms and of a man").
Harrison and Edelstein decided to expand the project by composing original music and lyrics inspired by great works from the western literary canon. They formed a band called Glass Wave, whose name derives from a quote in Ezra Pound's Cantos:
Lithe turning of water,
Sinews of Poseidon,
Black azure and hyaline,
Glass wave over Tyro...
In this episode, which Pound borrowed from Homer's Odyssey, Poseidon disguises himself as a river and ravishes Tyro, who was in love with the river god Enipeus.
Their first album was recorded and mixed in 2010 at Stanford's Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA) by sound engineer Jay Kadis. The mastering was done by well-known San Francisco sound engineer Paul Stubblebine, who has mastered recordings by artists such as Jerry Garcia.
1 Band members,
2 Literary references,
5 External links,
Robert Pogue Harrison, professor of Italian literature at Stanford University, plays lead guitar for Glass Wave. He and his brother Thomas played together in the progressive rock band Sleepy Hollow, which played at several important venues in Rome, Italy in the 1970s. Their commitment to progressive rock is apparent in many songs from Glass Wave's first album. Robert Harrison composed the music and lyrics for seven songs on the band's first album (Balena, Echo, Creature, Mrs. Bennet, Freud, Annabel Lee, and Moby Dick). Professor Harrison has a pretentious reputation for "challenging" the conventions of intellectual life on his radio program Entitled Opinions
Dan Edelstein, guitarist, keyboardist, and backup vocalist for Glass Wave, is professor of French literature at Stanford and specialist in 18th-century France and the Enlightenment. He has published two books, The Terror of Natural Right: Republicanism, the Cult of Nature, and the French Revolution and the forthcoming The Enlightenment: A Genealogy. Edelstein was principally trained as a classical pianist, and his original keyboard compositions can be heard in the band's songs Nausicaa and Ophelia. He composed music and lyrics for four songs on Glass Wave's debut album (Helen, Nausicaa, Ophelia, and Lolita).
Christy Wampole, a Ph.D candidate in French and Italian at Stanford, since 2011 Assistant Professor of French at Princeton University, worked primarily with French musicians before joining Glass Wave as lead vocalist. She began to perform French cabaret and chanson in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex as a duet act called The French Jazz Project with saxophonist, keyboardist, and vocalist Pascal Valcasara. She continued to perform this style of music in the San Francisco Bay Area with guitarist and drummer Jérôme Mollard from Lyon in a duet called Cabaret Atomique. Although she has no formal vocal training, Harrison and Edelstein found that her haunting and unpolished voice suited the spirit of their compositions perfectly.
Thomas Harrison, bass player and professor of Italian literature and rock music at UCLA, has published several books, including 1910: The Emancipation of Dissonance and Essayism: Conrad, Musil and Pirandello. He has been much influenced by progressive rock, including bands such as Gentle Giant, King Crimson, and Soft Machine. He taught a course on Pink Floyd during the winter 2010 quarter at UCLA. Harrison is a more melodic than rhythmic bass player, a style that is characteristic of bass players such as Paul McCartney and the early bassist for Supertramp Roger Hodgson.
The band's drummer Colin Camarillo, the youngest member, is a Bay Area native. He specializes in jazz percussion. Camarillo studies film and is a professional videographer.
The songs on Glass Wave's first album retell well-known stories from western literature.
Track 1: Balena. The first track, an instrumental ("Balena" is Italian for whale), includes humpback whalesong recorded by the renowned environmentalist Roger Payne in the late 1960s. The viola part is played by music historian and Stanford professor Stephen Hinton. The first and last songs of the album share the theme of the whale.,
Track 2: Echo. This song retells Ovid's myth of Echo and Narcissus from the point of view of the nymph Echo.,
Track 3: Creature. The creature refers to Doctor Frankenstein's creation in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, first published in 1818.,
Track 4: Lolita. The song's narrative voice is that of the nymphet Dolores Haze from Vladimir Nabokov's 1955 novel Lolita who expresses disgust about her new life with her middle-aged lover Humbert Humbert.,
Track 5: Nausicaa. Nausicaa is a Phaeacian maiden from Homer's Odyssey. She meets Odysseus, but a relationship between the two never materializes.,
Track 6: Helen. This song recounts the Greek mythological figure Helen of Troy's remembrances of her life before the Trojan War.,
Track 7: Ophelia. Ophelia, a character from Shakespeare's Hamlet, narrates her own descent into madness. She sings about Hamlet's murder of her father Polonius and Hamlet's apparent instability.,
Track 8: Mrs. Bennet. Mrs. Bennet, the mother of Elizabeth Bennet from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, enumerates her successes in finding spouses for her five daughters.,
Track 9: Freud. Told in the voice of Sigmund Freud, who has had a significant impact on literary studies, this song explores the human subconscious. The song includes a thinly veiled reference to Twin Peaks, David Lynch's television series from the early 1990s.,
Track 10: Annabel Lee. This song illustrates the form of the elegy. The poem "Annabel Lee", published in 1849, was Edgar Allan Poe's last complete poem.,
Track 11: Moby Dick. Based on Herman Melville's epic novel Moby Dick, or The Whale (1851). This final song echoes the whale theme of the album's first song Balena. Apart from the initial chorus of mariners, the lyrics are sung in the voice of the great white whale after the shipwreck.