"Harvard Blues" is a 30-second sound collage by Rivers Cuomo and the fifth track on Alone II: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo.
"Harvard Blues" was recorded in 1997 while Rivers Cuomo was attending Harvard University. The track is composed of a phone message from Cuomo's answering machine played at two different speeds, one out of each speaker. The message was left by Cuomo's classmate, Lucia Brawley, who explains an essay assigned by Cuomo's professor, Nancy Yousef, using extensive literary jargon. The track concludes with a frustrated scream from Cuomo. On Alone II, the track segues into "My Brain Is Working Overtime" to extend the frustrated theme of the song. A slightly longer version of the collage was released as part of the digital compilation Alone IV: The Blue-Pinkerton Years in 2020.
|In February, 1997, I went back to Harvard to finish my Junior Year. I decided to take all English classes as if I were an English major, leaving open the option to formally switch to English (from Music) at the end of the semester. I had become disillusioned with my goal of becoming a classical composer. That was because, firstly, with Harvard's emphasis on scholarship, as a music student I was mostly writing papers anyway. I might as well be an English major. Secondly, the music being created at Harvard and at other contemporary music schools was not the kind of classical music that I liked. Harvard music, to my ears, was modern, 20th century, atonal, serial, non-catchy, and non-emotional. The music I liked was Romantic, heart-stirring, with Puccini and Tchaikovsky-esque melodies, and of course the even older music of Bach and Beethoven. Thirdly, I now blamed my love for classical music and large scale composition for the failure of Weezer's second record. I perceived my interest in this field as egotistical and pompous. What, was I too good for simple three minute pop songs that everyone loved? Then I deserved to fail. And lastly, now that my career as musician was in doubt, English seemed like the more practical choice in the event of a necessitated career change.
I felt quite at home in my English classes. Out of all the subjects in school, this was what I had always been best at–reading a story or poem and then writing a critical essay about it. But the super-academic milieu of Ivy League English wore me down just as the Music department had. By April, I was fried from hearing academic language every day. When one of my classmates, Lucia Brawley, left a message for me on my home answering machine relaying an assignment I had missed, I couldn't believe how obtuse the language of my world had become. I snapped mentally and made a sound collage of Lucia's message, calling it "Harvard Blues" (Track 5). Yet I persisted with my schoolwork. At the end of the semester, on the last possible day, as Weezer was about to embark on what would be its last tour for three years, I changed my major to English.
- Rivers Cuomo, Alone II: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo liner notes