Professor’s Playlist: Michael Singer
Associate Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies Michael Singer knows a lot about caterpillars. Wooly bear caterpillars, specifically. Recently, Singer and a small team of researchers discovered that the species purposefully feeds on toxic plants to protect itself from parasitic flies. Outside of these larval creatures, Singer, whose research focuses on “the ecological and evolutionary processes driving trophic interactions between terrestrial plants, insect herbivores, and carnivores that eat insect herbivores,” is known for teaching about biodiversity, leading sumptuous nature walks around campus, and delving into his rich knowledge of soul and funk music when reminiscing on his college days as a radio DJ under the name “Dyn-o-mike.”
On spring days, when I walk past Shanklin 107 (note: this happens rarely), I still reminisce about sitting in Biodiversity lectures, gazing down on Powerpoints of Saki monkeys and composing haikus about Biophilia (not the Bjork album) from afar. So I asked Professor Singer what he’s been listening to lately, and—alas!—the answer isn’t quite funk.
“Despite my self-described passion for funk and soul music, my most recent musical cravings have been more on the mellow side,” the professor writes. “Maybe it’s an effect of winter, maybe I’ve just been too busy to dance lately (sad state of affairs).”
Too busy to dance? Whatever, at least he included Van Morrison. You might notice this playlist is in the form of albums rather than songs—Singer prefers the “fuller artistic vision,” which provides more musical context, if you can dig that. Here is a list of those albums—with Singer’s commentary.
Neil Young, Harvest: “Especially feeling it when ‘Alabama’ comes on.”
Leonard Cohen, Live in London: “Impeccable recording and delivery of great, great songs.”
Miles Davis, Kind of Blue: “Sometimes this is the only music that calms my mind and grounds me so I can think straight.”
Van Morrison, The Philosopher’s Stone: “Disc one is Van at his most sensitive and soulful with beautiful, bluesy accompaniment from his bands.”
Donny Hathaway, Donny Hathaway Live: “Soul classic with emotional vibrancy and musical chops that still stand out after 40 years.”