Published: Mon Jan 30, 2006English Professor Mike Burduck faces a different kind of audience next week when he stands on stage under hot lights, electric bass in hand, wailing out the heavily amplified blues of 1960s Great Britain.
Accustomed to lecturing on American literature, the former Fulbright Scholar is equally at home exploring the hard-driving chords of British rock and blues in his new band, The Offended, which makes its Upper Cumberland debut Feb. 9 in the Backdoor Playhouse on the Tennessee Tech University campus.
Navigating from the classic British rock of Cream, The Who and Humble Pie to the Gothic literature stylings of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe isn't that complicated a journey, says Burduck. It's all about the performance.
"There's not that much of a difference between performing on the stage and in the classroom," he says. "I'm passionate about both literature and music. Poe talked about how poetry and music are kindred spirits, explorations of beauty. Music has the beauty of words, of course, but also the beauty of rhythm. Literature and music celebrate beauty in all its forms, its frustrations and sadnesses and joys -- all the parts of life. Music accentuates that mix of life."
Burduck, who recently turned 50, has played electric bass since he was 14. Over the years, both during and after his college days in New York, Kentucky and Mississippi, he's performed in a number of bands. But The Offended, a trio formed in 2005, is his first electric blues outing in Tennessee.
In the classroom, Burduck is known for his booming voice and dramatic readings; his heartfelt passion for literature is contagious, and his upper-division Gothic lit class has been a sell-out since he created it soon after joining the TTU faculty in 1985.
So it's no surprise that he's most strongly drawn to pop music's most dramatic era: The 1960s, when bands were as known for their outrageous behavior as their chart toppers, when the guitar-driven rock bands of England filtered the Mississippi delta blues through enormous amplifiers.
"It's the feeling of power in the music -- technically, emotionally," he says. "The big amps, the big emotions. It's very satisfying to play. As a boy, the lyrics influenced me, but most of it was really the music: big powerful loud stuff that's well played. When done properly, there's nothing quite like it."
Burduck, who won a 1994-95 Fulbright Award to Norway and has published widely on the literature and life of Edgar Allan Poe, is the author of Grim Phantasms: Fear in Poe's Short Fiction (Garland Publishing 1992), as well as a monograph on Poe's relationship with Catholicism.
The Offended, which features Jeff Bowman on guitar and Steve Harvey on drums, plays the Backdoor Playhouse at 8 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 9. There's no admission charge for the trio's debut appearance, although contributions to the playhouse are always welcome. The Backdoor Playhouse is located at the rear of the Jere Whitson Building on the Tennessee Tech campus.