Homer. Sophocles. Euripides. Jane Levin, who coordinates the Directed Studies Program, no figure is too lofty or tome too weighty to be a subject of educated discourse. But how does this esteemed member of the Yale community feel about a somewhat less-scholarly mainstay of western culture, rock and roll? “Well of course Bob Dylan’s the master, because Bob Dylan’s a poet,” she says enthusiastically. “My favorite music is Mozart, Bach, and Dylan.”

The Minnesota-born folk singer might sound a bit out of place next to the great pillars of classical music, but Levin (like many a well-cultured baby-boomer) knows that pop legends have their rightful place in the musical canon. “The Beatles were just transcendent,” she gushes. “The Grateful Dead and the Rolling Stones — we were constantly listening to them in college.”

But one rock mainstay that doesn’t have a place in Levin’s heart is “Dark Side of the Moon,” the seminal 1973 album by British rockers Pink Floyd. With its moody, textured atmosphere and groundbreaking style, “Dark Side” is a cultural zeitgeist for the generation that came of age under its influence, and their children alike. Yet for Professor Levin it’s a new experience, and not a good trip at all.


“My first impression is that it sounds very druggy and very psychedelic. It kind of reminds me of ‘Sgt. Pepper’s,’ which is one of my least favorite Beatles albums, with all these different noises that don’t sound like actual instruments, and all these waves of sound.”


“I like this one better, because it has more of a beat. You can hear the lyrics better, and you can hear the melody. But the melody is so flat, the singing is so flat, and then it has this very druggy background. I just don’t love that.”


“To me, it’s just sort of menacing. It’s interesting to listen to, but, you know … And then it ends with this explosion, and all these ominous sounds coming in and out of it.”


“Still, just very druggy. I liked the beat and melody much better, but there’s still this ominous psychedelic feeling to it. It reminds me of those videos where you see one form just merging into another. I like the guitar solo much better, but just get rid of that back-up!”


“It’s very strange. I like the piano part of it, I like the woman’s voice — some of it reminds me of Carole King — but sometimes it sounds like she’s making love, and that’s very weird. It’s druggy, it’s random, it doesn’t have enough form. I like to see pain in art to be wrought into something, some sort of shape, rather than just this primal scream and this noise that just comes out of nowhere.”


“I didn’t like that cash register and that clinking money. I suppose you could say it’s like a cubist pasting a newspaper or something into his painting, where you have a real found object that you insert into the work of art, and try to make the object fit the form. But in a song about money, I think you should be able to say that it’s about money without having a cash register in the song. I liked the middle better, it reminded me a little of the Dead.”


“There were moments where I thought this song was coming together and going somewhere, but it always veered off in other directions. I don’t like jazz, I don’t like Wagner, I don’t like things that are very free-form and unpredictable, and that’s what this sounds like to me — just drowning in oceans of sound. I’m sure it has some sort of structure of its own, but I don’t get it.”


“I would never go back and listen to this again, it is just too random. What’s the point of the sound jumping back and forth between the speakers? You know I just don’t get it.”


“I sort of feel like it’s trying to be weird. ‘The lunatic is on the grass’ — that’s just striving to be weird. ‘I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon’ — at least that’s an interesting idea. But that laughing at the end, and that moaning and groaning. We didn’t need any of that.”


“This music as a whole feels very derivative. Every once in a while it emerges in good classic rock changes and patterns, but they’ve overlaid it with all this weird stuff and weird sounds, cash registers and clinking coins and people screaming and people moaning, just this mess of sound that you can’t sort out. I think it ruins it.”