Every Uni student who has taken World History their sophomore year with history teacher Chris Butler has seen his slideshows. Each one is centered around an event or subject and consists of images and texts accompanied by a playlist of lively background music.
“I love his entire playlist. It’s lit,” commented Nhan, a sophomore.
While Butler didn’t work on the slideshows at the same time at which he wrote The Flow of History, it was something he’d always dreamed of doing but wasn’t able to until projectors and speakers were installed in the tech rooms at Uni around the 2000s.
“I’d watch a movie, and there’d be this emotional scene and music and I wish I could use that on a history class, get people involved. So the idea was something that came from watching movies and see how I can apply that to history, as oppose to what I do with you guys, where i’m using history, making it seem like a movie,” said Butler.
The songs that accompany these slideshows are meant to add emotional impact. He generally “tries to avoid songs that are too lyric-centered” and instead chooses the songs more based on their musical mood–a well-made playlist, he believes, shouldn’t take the viewer’s attention away from the slideshow.
“The Mercy of the Living” by Bear McCreary, for example, is a song that exemplifies this. Butler discovered it in an episode of The Walking Dead. It has no lyrics, but Butler finds the mournful feel very fitting to describe “after a war, when there is nothing left.” “Stand By Me” by Ki Theory is another song he discovered through The Walking Dead. “It’s got a rhythm to it,” he said, which elicits a certain vibe. His goal is for people to associate the songs and the emotions with a certain event.
Butler discovers new music through the radio as well as watching movies and TV shows. He mentions that Shazam has proven to be useful in identifying the songs that catches his ear, such as “Abraham’s Daughter” by Arcade Fire.
“It is a song that blew me away and I couldn’t let go of it for the longest time,” he commented. “It was at the end of the hunger games, during the credits.” The lyrics tell the biblical story of Abraham sacrificing his son Isaac, told from the point of view of his apocryphal daughter trying to stop him. “There’s an awful lot in the lyrics of this song. Arcade fire is probably the band that I align to the most,” he concluded.
Here is a link to Mr. Butler’s Spotify account with his complete music library for your enjoyment. https://open.spotify.com/user/cbutler1871