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Press Release

Jonathan Potts

For immediate release:
June 16, 2006

At Carnegie Mellon, the Beat (and Beats) Go On; Summer Course Explores Counterculture, Past and Present

PITTSBURGH—From Allen Ginsberg to 50 Cent, Jack Kerouac to Sid Vicious, Pittsburgh-area high school students will learn about the past 50 years of American counterculture in an innovative course taught this summer at Carnegie Mellon University by Michael D. Rectenwald, a postdoctoral teaching associate in the Department of English.

"Counter/Mass Culture: The Beats to Hip-Hop" will explore radical or countercultural forms from the mid-20th century to the present, including the Beats, punk rock and hip-hop. Through readings, recordings and performances, the class will consider the subversive themes of counterculture, as well as how those themes are appropriated and commercialized by the mainstream. Rectenwald offers the unique perspective of having studied under the late Allen Ginsberg at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colo.

"I grew up in the era of punk and my children grew up in the age of hip-hop. My oldest son, John-Michael, is a hip-hop artist. I wanted to understand what my kid and his friends and others saw in hip-hop rap," Rectenwald said.

"I began listening to the music and recognized in it some of the feelings, ideas and concerns that drew me to study the Beats when I was 19 years old. These concerns have to do with countercultural possibilities, subaltern public voices that cannot be heard in either mainstream media or the 'high art' cultures," he said.

The course begins June 26 and is open to high school juniors and seniors in the Advanced Placement Early Action program. For more information, contact Rectenwald at 412-268-8375 or


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