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Brain Music Ep. 30: Maya Rook

Brain Music Ep. 30: Maya Rook


There's no doubt that finding the perfect playlist can motivate and inspire you. Whether it's finishing the last mile of your run, tackling that laundry you've been putting off, or getting you through your workday, tunes can change everything. So let's motivate and inspire each other, shall we?

This is Brain Music: a selection of songs curated monthly by different members of the Rochester community that we hope will inspire you the same way it inspires its curator. Today we bring you a playlist curated by Maya Rook, History Happy Hour Teacher. Without further ado, here's Brain Music Episode 30.


Maya Rook Intro Photo by Julia Merrell

Hello! I’m Maya Rook, a cultural historian, artist, and writer. I moved to Rochester in October 2017, and I love exploring this city and meeting so many new people through the History Happy Hour classes I teach with Rochester Brainery. 

In my craft as a historian and educator, I strive to make the past fun, accessible, and relevant. I approach the study of history as a creative process rather than a catalog of dates, names, and events. I view the past not as something distant and disconnected, but as a space ripe with possibility for connection and communication. The History Happy Hour classes I offer provide an opportunity for that vision to manifest, merging the social aspect of drinks and mingling with intellectual investigations into the past.

Maya Rook At A Brainery DeskPhoto by Julia Merrell

For these classes, I apply my academic training to undertake deep and thorough research into whatever interesting topic we’re exploring for the evening – witches, cannibalism, mindfulness, psychedelics, amusement parks, etc. Then, I sift through and interpret the information I uncover to piece it back together in a way that is accessible. 

Humor and empathy are key aspects to this approach to the past. As we explore history we uncover infinite manifestations of human nature. We might witness the devastating realities of great pain, confusion, and harm alongside moments that highlight our capacity for love and compassion. The absurdity and beauty of life and existence arise simultaneously in these stories of our shared past. Being able to appreciate the nuances of such stories, see the world through other’s eyes, and laugh with these discoveries allows us to not become disheartened. Touching these moments of the past can provide connection with others across time and space.

Maya In Front Of St. Monci MuralPhoto by Julia Merrell

Similarly, music provides great opportunity for connection. The interplanetary traveler/jazz musician Sun Ra called music “the universal language” as it cuts across boundaries and serves as a means of communication. As he described it, “there is no other way to speak to everyone in language each can feel and understand except through the music.” We might hear and appreciate the sounds created by a person we’ve never met from another era or culture and still feel connection. There is magic that echoes through these musical vibrations of the universe and binds us together.

Music is incredibly important in my life, work, and creative endeavors, including crafting the History Happy Hour classes. The playlist I’ve curated, of course, reflects only a small fraction of music that I appreciate. I’ve brought together some songs that I might listen to while in the flow of researching and writing, creating a piece of art, or engaging in free-form movement and dance. I do hope you enjoy the music and these musings on history. Perhaps I’ll see you sometime around Rochester and have a chance to talk about all things interesting – past, present, and future!

Maya With Books In Rochester Brainery Green RoomPhoto by Julia Merrell

P.S. I attempted to keep this playlist to an hour and arranged in a way that flows together. There were quite a few songs I considered including that didn’t make it in the end. If you like these tracks and want more, I’ve saved all the extra songs in the public playlist More Brains on my Spotify account for your listening pleasure.



Listen to Maya's playlist here, or preview it below. 
Check out our schedule to join us for an upcoming History Happy Hour.


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