As class is slowly filing in, Ross Hagen, assistant professor of music studies, is setting up for the day’s class. He’s put up a PowerPoint presentation titled Disco and Its Discontents and begins the lecture with a scene from Saturday Night Fever. He then asks why rock-n-rollers might dislike disco, setting the tone for the rest of the class.
His lecture is incredibly interesting because it weaves discussion of rockers’ hatred for disco into a lesson on how disco influenced 1970’s music and culture. Ross has a way of tying culture and music together that makes you want to know more. Personally, I could have listened to him lecture about it all day. It is during this class that I begin to see his research interests peek through because he has a subtle, inadvertent way of tying almost anything into metal music.
He compared his method to that of a literary theorist. “Musicology and ethnomusicology … is more of a cultural studies kind of view of [metal music]. … It’s more about the method than the subject,” said Ross.
His research centers on musicology with special interests in metal music, specifically Norwegian black metal, fan fiction and noise domination. “There’s a special academic society that kind of focuses on heavy metal music and things like that. It’s interdisciplinary like from sociology and music industry professionals who are sort of involved in it,” said Ross. “I would say that this sort of experimental music and noise-music has been my favorite times.”
During class, students were eager to participate and seemed to enjoy Ross’ engaging approach to teaching. Not only did they answer questions posed to them, many added to the discussion with their own knowledge and experience.
“I really like his class. He knows what he’s talking about and knows a lot about music. He can play almost all the instruments,” said Regan Farnsworth, a student in Ross’ Music 1030 class.
“I think he’s kind of goofy in class in a way that the students really like. He’s always got a dad-joke ready, and he’s really good at presenting big questions and helping students find their way in. He always has compelling, unique examples. He always knows how to plug into what the students are listening to and thinking because he knows how all of that relates. There’s no example too obscure,” said Lisa Hagen, associate professor of theatre and wife to Ross.
When Ross is not teaching, or rocking out with his music research, he’s at home being a doting father and husband. Love fills Lisa’s face and voice as she speaks about Ross’ relationship with their kids.
“He has this kind of quiet, stable calm about him that our kids really respond to, especially our daughter. She’s crazy about her dad. They can just hang out together. He knows. He just gets her. They both have this beautiful appreciation for the outdoors. I think he is a natural dad,” said Lisa.