Professor Todd: Pop’s Maverick Rocks Campus Gig

Having ricocheted from pure pop to prog rock and everywhere in between, Todd Rundgren has taken another unexpected turn—into the academic world.

Todd Rundgren in concert

Photo: archive photo

Todd Rundgren on stage during a 1970s performance.

Event Information

Todd Rundgren Offers Public Lecture and Recital

"LONGHAIR: Todd Rundgren on the Beatles Effect" @ 7 pm, 10/28, Ballantine Hall 013. "CLUSTER: The Birth of the T Chord" @ 8 pm, 10/31, Auer Hall.


Ballantine Hall 013 (lecture); Auer Hall (recital)

"LONGHAIR: Todd Rundgren on the Beatles Effect" @ 7 pm, 10/28, Ballantine Hall 013. "CLUSTER: The Birth of the T Chord" @ 8 pm, 10/31, Auer Hall.

free

Having just returned from a string of dates across Asia and Australia, legendary rocker-producer Todd Rundgren has landed in Bloomington for a two-week teaching gig.

A Prestigious Post For A Rock Legend…

Selected as the Class of 1963 Wells Scholars Professor at Indiana University Bloomington for the Fall 2010 semester, Rundgren is the ninth person to hold the post. His predecessors include the artist Robert Colescott and Holocaust scholar Christopher Browning.

At IU, Rundgren is teaching part of a four-week honors seminar designed for 22 Wells Scholars and Hutton Honors students. But the academic setting is not without precedent for Rundgren. In April 2009, the 70s chart-topper and A-list record producer gave DePauw University’s Timothy and Sharon Ubben Lecture, previously presented by luminaries like Margaret Thatcher and Benazir Bhutto.

…With Many Musical Arrows In His Quiver

To say that Rundgren is a rock star might be shorthand. A multi-instrumentalist who first experienced success as a high schooler in the late ’60s with his post-psychedelic band The Nazz, Rundgren went on to score a string of hit singles, and became the most highly-paid producer of his day. He made records for Meatloaf, Patti Smith, Badfinger, Grand Funk Railroad, Hall and Oates, and XTC.

An early computer aficionado, Rundgren was also a pioneer in the development and application of audio and video software. Rundgren’s video for his song “Time Heals” premiered on MTV in 1981, the very evening that the channel went on the air.

Keeping Music Meaningful

Indiana University Jacobs School of Music professor Glenn Gass, who will be co-teaching the seminar, compares Rundgren to Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder. “He was the go-to guy of the Seventies,” Gass explains. “I think there’s a sense that he could have been as big as he wanted to be.”

But continually drawing from that seemingly bottomless well of pop perfection that produced such hits as “Hello It’s Me”, “I Saw the Light” and “Can We Still Be Friends” was not what Rundgren wanted to do. “By the time I got to Something/Anything,” Rundgren has explained, “I was getting formulaic. I wrote ‘I Saw the Light’ in 15 minutes. I was trying not to fall into that Elton John thing. I want my material to at least mean something to me.”

Searching for meaning after tossing off a string of radio staples resulted in the experimental album, A Wizard a True Star, a move that was interpreted, Rundgren joked, as “a blatant act of career suicide.” A Wizard a True Star couldn’t have been less accessible. Rundgren attempted to effect a paradigm shift not only in the structure of the song, but the concept of the album. Seen as a series, Rundgren’s shifts from album to album, and even from song to song within a single album have charted a mercurial path from progressive, experimental rock to blue-eyed soul to cabaret to bossa nova and techno.

For More Todd Rundgren

Watch Rundgren’s 1981 video, “Time Heals”:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0G78pS2jNI&feature=related

During his stay on the IU campus, Rundgren gives a public lecture titled “LONGHAIR: Todd Rundgren on the Beatles Effect” at 7 p.m., Thursday, October 28th in Ballantine Hall 013. He also presents a Halloween-night recital titled “CLUSTER: The Birth of the T Chord” at 8 p.m., Sunday, October 31st in Auer Hall.

Yaël Ksander

WFIU's Arts Desk Editor, Yaël seeks out and shepherds the stories of artists, musicians, writers, and other creative people. In addition, Yaël co-hosts A Moment of Science, writes essays for A Moment of Indiana History, produces Speak Your Mind (WFIU's guest editorial segment), hosts music and news hours throughout the week, and lends her voice to everything from accounting courses to nature documentaries. Yaël holds a MFA in painting from Indiana University, an MA in art history from Columbia University, and a BA from the University of Virginia, where she studied languages and literature.

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