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Sunday, March 3, 2024
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Talkin’ Tunes with Professor Declan Fahy

Ireland native Professor Declan Fahy has been teaching science journalism and science in popular culture in AU’s Journalism Department for five years. His book “The New Celebrity Scientists” will be published next February. Fahy’s love for immersing himself in powerfully ambient music has drawn him to composers and bands like Interpol. In this week’s Talkin’ Tunes, columnist Lauren Hain chats with Professor Fahy about his music interests.

Eagle: Describe your music taste in three words.

Declan Fahy: Ambient, alt-rock, Beatles.

E: How would your students react to your taste in music?

DF: They’d probably laugh. I have two small kids, so right now my music diet consists of listening and half-heartedly singing along to “The Wheels on the Bus” about 10 times a day. The only interlude I get is before bed, when they want to sing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”

E: Who is your favorite artist?

DF: The composer Clint Mansell. He has scored a ton of films such as “The Fountain," “Moon, Smokin’ Aces," “Black Swan” – and “Requiem for a Dream," which is where I first heard his work. Often, his score is the best thing about the movie. I find music helps me concentrate when I write, as long as it’s a certain kind: ambient, melodic, repetitive, worldless. For the past year I’ve been writing a book on celebrity scientists, which meant I listened to his stuff a lot. I still am not tired of it – a true test of quality.

E: What is your current favorite album?

DF: “El Pintor” by Interpol. I love all their albums and this one shares the one characteristic that I’ve come to value more and more: each song grows on you and the entire album gets richer each time you listen to it. At the same time, the band is able to produce catchy singles like “All the Rage Back Home” and “My Desire” that work on their own, as well as fitting into the entire album. It’s a difficult task to produce good singles and a good album, and I think they get it right with “El Pintor."

E: What intrigues you most about a song?

DF: I don’t know the correct musical term, but it would be something like richness or texture. Essentially, it’s that you can listen to a song over and over, and, each time, you’ll notice something slightly new about it. And that gives the song more depth.

E: What is your favorite concert you've attended?

DF: Interpol (again). They played as support to Coldplay in Dublin [in] 2005. The outdoor gig was in a beautiful part of the city known as Marlay Park on a rare scorching weekend in May. I got a free ticket from a friend, but had never heard of Interpol (I am always late to new acts), but was blown away by their set. It was the first time I heard a band perform songs in such a tight and controlled way that they sounded the same as they did on their albums. They played at dusk and the set concluded as the sun set behind the stage. Hard to beat.

E: Name one song you think all AU students should listen to. Why this song?

DF: Let me name two. First, listen to The Beatles’s “Please Please Me,” first released in 1963. Then listen to “A Day in the Life” from 1967. Compare them both, reflecting on how much an artist can progress - in skill, style and image - in such a short time. Sorry, that’s such a professor’s answer, but I do genuinely find such rapid development inspiring.

 Hosts Sara Winick and Sydney Hsu introduce themselves and talk about their favorite TV shows. This episode includes fun facts, recommendations and personal connections. 

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