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A Musical Evolution Guides IB Students' Lesson on Intertextuality

Tanya Olander

Walking into a room blaring the 1985 hit song “Shout” by the group Tears for Fears, IB Language & Literature may not be the first thing that springs to mind. But that’s exactly what greeted students upon arrival to their class on “intertextuality.”

Intertextuality is the sometimes intentional, sometimes unintentional, inspiration gained from the works of other artists - authors, poets, screenwriters, etc. It is the idea that everything is influenced to some extent by past works. 

In collaboration with IB English teachers Sara Refai and Ambre Bosko, Thomas Galvez, our High School Instructional Coach for Technology, ECHO Music Performance Club advisor, and a lifelong music lover, recently brought the concept of intertextuality to life for our students

IB Language & Literature teacher Ambre Bosko listens as students reflect on how intertextual themes can evolve.

Taking IB Language & Literature students on a journey through his personal musical evolution, Mr. Galvez illustrated how the groups and songs he’s loved since he was a teenager led him to works of fiction and nonfiction that shaped his academic interests, philosophy on life, and the person he is today. 

Students analyzing lyrics during their IB Language & Literature class on "intertextuality." Mr. Galvez is pictured in the background, in black.

Students learned that British band Tears for Fears, perhaps remembered by most as a hit synth-pop duo, were profoundly influenced by the books of psychologist and celebrated author Arthur Janov, making multiple references to his writing across their albums.

“In what ways can diverse texts share points of similarity?” Mr. Galvez prompted students as he introduced a song by The Smiths with intertextual references to author Jack Kerouac. In small groups, students analyzed the lyrics from this and other pieces, found themes that carried over, and reflected on whether or not the themes evolved.

After this creative lesson on intertextuality, students now know how it can be used to raise consciousness and transform people intellectually, even allowing for new audiences to be reached. And now, the music emanating from the classroom speakers upon arrival will likely carry an entirely new meaning, offering a broadened perspective of its context, and hopefully, the world. 

Thank you to Thomas Galvez and Sara Refai, who contributed to this story!

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