Sunday, December 16, 2007

Compare and Contrast

The view from our porch on Thursday, 7:30pm:

vs. the View from our porch on Sunday, 7:30AM

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Time Out for the White Stuff

The view from our front porch 7:30pm EST.

Henry is not excited.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Not So Guilty Pleasures (Cross-Post)

I was invited to guest blog over at Musicology/Matters, and was given permission to cross post. So for those of you who may not frequent musicology blogs, but for various and sundry reasons visit this one, I give you:

Not So Guilty Pleasures

Phil and Kariann have offered astute and engaging ideas about this business of "guilty pleasures" and their place in musicology. I will try to offer something fresh and original as a musicologist who specializes in music that is considered by many to be a true guilty pleasure (witness the confessional Facebook group: "I listen to sacred choral/organ music...AND I LIKE IT!").

At my first meeting of the Society for American Music (mmph years ago), I remember a certain musicologist imploring at the business meeting: "Don't do pop music because it is trendy, do it because it is what you love." (That's a paraphrase, actually.). This statement was greeted with defensive grumbles and nasty whispers as if he had insinuated that pop music scholars were just in it for the trendiness aspect.

That's not it at all, but clearly he exposed some people sitting in that room. I am not a pop music scholar, but his comment made me think about the music that I love. Even though "choral music" can include Haydn's Die Schöpfung, Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, not to mention of a whole slew of medieval and Renaissance masterpieces, it also includes a plethora of short, two to three page cream puffs written for various church choirs and other choral ensembles. It is true that there is often little intellectual mileage to be found in Joe Smith's arrangement of Amazing Grace or Jane Brown's 16 measure introit written for the shoestring choir at St. Anne's-By-The-Lake.* Much of this is Gebrauchsmusik and the composers of said music couldn't care less what musicologists think of it (and rightfully so). Unfortunately, because the label "choral music" includes ALL of this, it often gets excluded from the list of acceptable areas for academic discourse. Medieval and Renaissance choral works get sheltered by the historical musicology crowd and the love for the old. Choral works of Bach, Mozart, and Haydn are extolled as works of Bach, Mozart and Haydn. Most of the choral music of the Romantic period is seen as an example of Romantic ideologies of excess (Berlioz, Verdi) or those occasional studies in harmonic adventure.

That brings us to my area of specialty: twentieth-century American sacred music. Truth be told, it is actually "twentieth and twenty-first- century," but when I tried the label "contemporary" I opened up a door I couldn't shut quickly enough. Rushing toward me came numerous requests to review "O Taste and See" for guitar and folk singer, or CDs by Jars of Clay, or questions about preferences for Amy Grant vs. Rebecca St. James. I could say "modern," but that also opens up its own can of worms. A rose is clearly not a rose when it comes to academic labels.

Not only do I specialize in such a loaded and quixotic category of music, I wrote my dissertation on the impact of the Second Vatican Council on the American Concert Mass. Sexy? No. Misunderstood? Yes. See the following dialogue:

Prof. X: Ah! So you do folk masses.
RM: No. I'm looking at traditional Latin Masses (or Latin-inspired masses) written for the concert hall as responses to Vatican II.
Prof: X: Oh. That's interesting. What composers? Any I might have heard of?
RM: Leonard Bernstein (a Jew), Paul Creston (a very eclectic Catholic) and Lou Harrison (a Buddhist)
Prof. X: (Stunned silence).

Which brings me to my point. We as musicologists need to define to what extent musicology involves musical advocacy. I thought it was important to show that there existed a strong aesthetic reaction to the post-Vatican II liturgical mass, by mainstream composers lying outside of the Church and its particular interests. Do I love sacred choral music? Yes. Do I feel at all guilty about it? No. Would I have been able to spend mmpph years working on a dissertation if I didn't love it? Absolutely not.

I don't think we should have to negotiate personal taste and intellectual duty to any degree that we might find ourselves writing about music for which we care little (either about the music itself or its historical context). Anyone who has ever taught music appreciation will tell you that half the trick is one's own enthusiasm for the music. What kind of artifice are we encouraging if we relegate entire categories of music to the musicological trash-heap? If I write about music, whether it be Steve Reich's Different Trains, Hildegard's Ordo Virtutum, or the Clash's album London Calling (to pull a few examples from the recent AMS conference), I had better believe that there's something there worth writing about and worth sharing with the community at large. That is both our personal duty and our intellectual duty. And while I'm not advocating a "Who Cares if you Listen?" approach to musicology, I am proposing that our own love for the music be enough, and the work we do will speak for itself.

Not everything we love as music listeners will have musicological value, and it is important to recognize that. (How we determine that value is worthy of a fresh round of blog posts.) However, as academicians, we should be defining academe, not the other way around. And in regard to this endeavor, I suggest that the sky be the limit. Let us welcome guilty pleasures and intellectual constructs alike, so that we can be true to what brought us here in the first place, rather than be enslaved to a limited canon.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Quick Plug: New Musicology Blog!

It is a concert weekend, so I'm running around, but I at the very least wanted to point out a new musicology blog!

Please visit and read the wonderful offerings at:

Musicology Matters

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Too Many Papers, Not Enough Time: AMS 2007 Wrap-Up

In the past, there have been AMS conferences where I was more of a tourist than a conference attendee. My first conference was "Musical Intersections" in Toronto back in 2000, and the convergence of fifteen musical societies was a bit more than my virgin musicological heart could handle. Toronto is a lovely city. I can particularly recommend the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Then there have been the times of musicological malaise, most noticeably during my dissertating years. I wandered through paper sessions more or less on automatic pilot. I was at those papers to see and be seen. "See me, Dr. X? I'm here listening to your paper. I'll expect a gold star." I'd converse at the receptions. "Oh, and what is your dissertation on?" Press "play." Followed by either a look of total incredulity or a sudden keen interest in the exquisite deviled eggs.

And then, there was this year. Freshly armed with a PhD, I realized I had more to talk about than just my dissertation. It was freeing to use the past tense when the subject came up. I could talk about my current projects and my adjunct teaching. I think I surprised a few people who had long been accustomed to hearing about The Document and only, The Document.

I found myself in sessions where I would have seldom tread in prior years. I no longer felt alien in a medieval session, or guilty about missing one or two papers in my area (especially when the conflict was another paper). AMS once again felt like a smorgasbord of opportunity, and it did not disappoint. I remembered a time, long ago, that I wanted to be a MedievalBaroqueRenaissanceTwentiethCentury Specialist. I felt the sweet disappointment of having too many options.

I saw a lot of phenomenal papers and some good ones. My attendance choices supported friends, former professors, and fed my general intellectual curiosity. And with all these choices, I missed quite a bit, including Ryan Banagale and Phil Ford's presentations, graciously reproduced on their respective blogs.

I'd like to thank everyone involved in this year's conference, from the organizers to the presenters. For the first time in many years, I did not muse about how different my life would be had I chosen International Relations.

For those of you who are interested, see also Phil Gentry's AMS Wrap-Up
and Jonathan Bellman's information on Disinformation.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Crack for Academics: AMS 2007 Post I

Greetings from Quebec City! This will be necessarily brief, as I hope to catch Margot Fassler's paper, "Hildegard's Ordo Virtutum: Theological Meanings and the Problem of Audience."

The highlight of the conference thus far (for me) was the Lecture-Demonstration: "Virtual Acoustics and the Recording of Joseph Haydn's Keyboard Music." While I had to miss the last half hour, I enjoyed the convergence of auditory and acoustic technology with musicology and aesthetics. The discussion brought up questions of authencity: Is it ok to be "inauthentic" yet strive for a different acoustic experience then what one would normally hear? Tom Beghin and his colleagues from McGill have tried to create recordings (through the recreation of original instruments and the virtual reproduction of acoustic environments) which emulate a historical listening experience. Yes, it is idealized and unmuddied by the realities that plagued Lobkowitz Palace and other such locations, but one does not buy a CD of Haydn keyboard sonatas so that they can hear the cook chasing the scullery maid in the background.

One of the better problems to have at a conference is wanting to be in three places at the same time. And while I was not "drinking at the opening-night reception" (or at least not at that moment), I did have to miss Phil Ford and friends during the Committee on Career-Related Issues. How lucky we are that Phil has reproduced his presentation over at Dial M, helping to make his point quite effectively. If blogging is "crack for academics" then I'm all for the addiction.

Monday, October 29, 2007

I so expected extra innings...

"The Red Sox are so becoming America's team," said Chris Daly, 32, who watched the game at the Brendan Behan Pub in Jamaica Plain. "The curse is done and we'll start seeing, for better or worse, what money does. The World Series will be less sweet because they'll be more frequent. It's less punk rock, a little more corporate." (1)

He may be right. But for now, we celebrate a fantastic sweep!


Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day: Credo

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

This post is my contribution to Blog Action Day. I am one of over 15,000 blogs participating in this year's action: the Environment.

Credo: Why I choose

I was struck by how difficult it was to come up with a topic on which to write for Blog Action Day. This is not because there is any lack of “environmental” issues that catch my interest, but because it seemed impossible to prioritize desertification over deforestation, pollution over procreation, or climate control over conservation. It is that sense of impossibility, of moral inclusiveness, that defines my own environmentalism.

At a party several weeks ago, a friend brought up his skepticism about global warming. His basic argument (and it was a good one) was to ask: Why is global warming any more important than fighting AIDS, or cancer, or working to make sure people have clean drinking water? The quick and easy answer? It’s not. If we are going to make the fight against climate change a moral endeavor, we can’t say it is more important than trying to fight hunger or poverty. But at the end of the day, we all have choices to make. And there are many. So why have I picked Global Warming?

First, a disclaimer. I’m operating under two assumptions. One: Global Warming exists and is a problem. Two: Only we can do something about it. Because I believe that the evidence overwhelmingly points to these truths, I make my choices accordingly. For this reason, I’m not interested in mudslinging, catfighting, or even bantering, with those that argue the veracity of climate change. Consider it a type of figurative energy conservation.

My approach is to consider the biggest picture possible. The truth is that many of us living in the US could likely adapt to some of the worst case scenarios of climate change. We have what I would call “the privilege of adaptation.”* But my own sense of morality obligates me to look at the rest of the world and consider it, to some extent, my responsibility. While I cannot simultaneously plant trees in Kenya and combat desertification in Sudan, I can embrace those regions of the world under a blanket of global humanity. I see the fight against global warming as a fight that will work from the top down. I’m not working against AIDS advocacy, or water purification, or the sustainability movement. I’m working for them. I’m making those efforts worthwhile by fighting to ensure that the better world they are trying to create will still be here when they reach their goals. I want to be a steward of the planet to honor the work of those who are stewards of humanity.

There are plenty of people who would take my “environmentalism” to task. I eat meat, for example. Those interested in running a hypocrisy check could probably find a few environmental no-nos in amongst my compact fluorescents, water-saving showerheads, and devotion to public transit. Most human beings are incapable of all-or-nothing, and I will not argue with zealots or purists. At the end of the day, my mere awareness of a horizon bigger than the Boston skyline entitles me to walk confidently amidst my own ideas of activism.

I will continue to advocate for better emissions standards, alternative forms of transportation, energy efficiency, etc. all to combat what I consider to be human-induced climate change. I have to do this for the people whose relationship with the earth is not buffered by layers of technology and man-made construction. I will endeavor to make my government listen and take the lead in promoting environmental responsibility. And in the end, if it turns out I was wrong and global warming really was just a hoax, I will have no regrets because the things for which I will have worked so hard have merit outside “An Inconvenient Truth” and IPCC reports. I will have sustained an idea of global citizenship, and for that, I will have no apologies.

*I’m indebted to HM for a discussion on this topic.

I will be including other interesting Blog Action Day posts in my "Posts of Note" box to the right. Check them out!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

October 15th: Blog Action Day

I know I've fallen behind in my posting, and I apologize for that. But stay tuned for my Oct. 15th post as I take part in Blog Action Day.

Friday, September 28, 2007


This has nothing to do with musicology, but it is important. If you haven't heard what's happening in Burma, the time is now. They've shut down internet access...

Blog (graphic pictures)

CNN article

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

How To Survive A Dissertation: Part II: COPING


While I had promised in my last post to regale you with tales of setting margins, choosing paper, adjusting styles in MS Word, and other fun tales, I received an IM this week that made me think this particular post is more important. Copyright permissions and the like will have to wait..


You may be halfway to two-thirds toward reaching your day of glory, or maybe you are working on a proposal, or maybe the dissertation seems like this huge obstacle you'll be tackling in a year or so from now. No matter where you are in the process, know that writing a dissertation can be one of the most emotionally dynamic experiences of your life. As Joan Bolker says: "Whether or not writing turns out to be your practice, writing your dissertation will still have changed you for all time" (Writing your Dissertation in 15 Minutes a Day, 150).

The following list contains just a sampling of emotions you may experience during the course of the diss: frustration, joy, depression, confusion, satisfaction, despair, wonderment, excitement...Like I said, dynamic! So how does one cope under the stress of such an emotional roller-coaster? Well, let's rephrase that questions: How does one TRY to cope?

I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends

You can and will receive support from family and friends, but it is important that you have reasonable expectations of them. When you need support because of dissertation-related stress, I suggest using the following "hierarchy." This hierarchy is NOT a statement about the quality of the people or the friendships (so I'm looking for a different word), but instead a strategy for success when seeking empathy.

GROUP A: They've Been There

Aside from being repositories of helpful advice and information, these people do know what it is like. Seek out people who have completed their dissertation within the last ten years, so a) they aren't too emotionally removed from the process and b) they can relate to the struggles of a modern dissertation. Occasionally you may run into someone who was so traumatized by their experience they "don't want to talk about it," but more often than not, people will want to help you by sharing their own hard-won wisdom. Ideally, you'll find someone willing to both listen and share. This is also why it is a good idea to have a junior faculty member on your committee.

GROUP B: Misery Loves Company

To some extent this is true, but you want to make this interaction productive. Getting together with fellow dissertators for a huge venting session can be satisfying and healthy. But venting only gets you so far. Try to form a support/writing group that meets weekly. Give yourselves a pre-determined amount of time to chat/vent then get down to work. If you are all at the writing stage, exchange a couple pages every week with a partner and give constructive feedback to each other.*

*Peer advice can be very helpful and doesn't come wrapped up with the same psychology of receiving comments from a mentor or advisor.

GROUP C: We Love You Anyway

These folks are likely to be the people closest to you...the ones who are still there after you've bitten their heads off for the fiftieth time, whom you've told they "just have no idea," and who have been willing to listen to hour-long pontifications about the finer points of liturgical theory as it relates to ritual and the concertized Latin Mass. Not surprisingly, it is this group of people who you will most likely find yourself pushing away. Try to be aware of this. They love you, and no, they may not "get" everything, but they'll be there at the end of the day and want to celebrate your success.


As far as dissertating goes, solitude can be both a blessing and a curse. Try to know when you need it and when you don't. I'm a people person, so I was much more comfortable working at a coffee shop, where the reminder of life was comforting and helped me focus. For others, holing up with a carrel at the library may be what they need. Sometimes you'll find yourself craving one or the other.

If you start thinking "I'm all alone," amber lights should start flashing. At best, it may just be periodic self-pity. More importantly, this can often be an indication of depression (even a minor form), because the truth is, you are NOT alone. Even if you don't have the flesh-and-blood colleagues around you to form a writing group, the internet has expanded our professional and social resources. Find an on-line dissertation support group (or start one!). Call and email your PhD and ABD friends. One helpful resource: The All-But-Dissertation Survival Guide (I recommend their newsletters).

Note on photo: I'm considering this fair-use, but I'll be happy to give credit, so if you took this photo, let me know.

Friday, September 14, 2007

How to Survive a Dissertation: Part I

Now that I am a bonafide PhD, I do not claim to know anything and everything about writing dissertations. (Nor do I resemble anything close to the above figure). I do know what helped me. Writing it here does NOT mean I always followed my own advice, but when I did, I reaped the rewards. I decided to consolidate my dissertation experiences into a helpful guide (I hope) and this idea has already received an enthusiastic endorsement from several friends who are dissertators. This post will offer some general advice that is applicable to any long writing project, not just a dissertation. I hope you find it useful!

1. Carry a moleskine, small notebook, whatever suits your purpose. Have another one on your bedside table, and another at your home work station.

Ideas have a bad habit of appearing at the most inconvenient times. As any good GTDer knows, the Ubiquitous Capture Tool (UCT) is of the utmost import. This is especially true for the dissertator. If you think you'll remember to write it down, you probably won't. Don't take chances. (Moleskines or a notebook with a pocket are especially helpful if you run into a dissertation contact who hands you their card). While PDAs can be good UCTs, generally they get a little overloaded if you have a flurry of inspiration and your idea translates into an entire paragraph or two of workable material.

2. Envision the end. Use your imagination.

When gravity is seemingly pulling you toward the molten core of the earth, stop what you are doing and allow yourself to daydream. For me, it helped to think about calling my college mentor and introducing myself as "Dr." For you, it might be something else: telling your parents, eating that pint of Ben & Jerry's you promised yourself, whatever. Allow yourself to fantasize. There is a whole lot of data out there about the positive effects of envisioning your goal. Close your eyes and let yourself really feel whatever emotions you'd like. This may sound cheesy, but it really does help when you feel isolated and like no one really cares if you finish.

3. Beware the Vices and the Stress

Watch the drinking, smoking, caffeine, (insert your own vice). Life will continue after the dissertation and you'll want to be healthy enough to enjoy it. Graduate School takes enough of a toll on your health without you helping! That said, I am not suggesting you become an ascetic. Just watch yourself. If you notice that you are using alcohol (for instance) as a crutch, something has to change. I promise that your dissertation won't get written any faster if you drink a martini, or two, or three. I can attest to this (lest you think I'm a hypocrite).

Make time to exercise. You've got to. Even if it is only a half hour of stretching, working on a Liszt piano concerto, whatever. While I didn't graph it, I'm fairly sure there was a direct correlation between the days I exercised and the days I was most productive.

Meditate. I don't mean that you have to sit on a mat in the lotus position and hum. That is an option, however. Just take some quiet time alone to concentrate on your breathing. This can be in your house, or in some nice outside locale. I recommend this especially before you sit down to write.

Take breaks and take them often. Do not even attempt to do three hours of uninterrupted dissertation work. If you have three hours of work in you, it will happen on its own. Set a more reasonable goal, even if it is only fifteen minutes (see book recommendation below). USE A TIMER. A general rule, however, is that the break should be shorter than the work time.

Posture. While this may seem like a no-brainer, most people who sit at the computer all day have terrible posture (myself included). This really will affect your emotional/psychological well-being and your ability to focus. Make sure you have a good chair with good lumbar support. Your abdominal muscles should be supporting your spine. Your arms should be supported on your desk when you type. Better carriage gives you more energy. I forget my posture at almost an hourly rate, so I have a post-it on my computer that says "POSTURE." Your chiropractor will thank you.

4. Fifteen Minutes a Day

I've read quite a few books on how to write a dissertation and I'll be reviewing them here. One of the best, in my opinion, is Joan Bolker's Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes A Day: A Guide to Starting, Revising, and Finishing Your Doctoral Thesis. Bolker has numerous worthy suggestions and excellent practical advice, but what I'd like to focus on is the "fifteen minute" idea. EVERYONE has fifteen minutes.

The hardest part to writing (anything) is getting started. Sitting down to "draft a chapter" is a far more daunting task than sitting down to write fifteen minutes of material. More often than not, 15 minutes will turn into an hour without you thinking about it. But, on the days it doesn't, the likelihood is that you will have at least a couple sentences of usable material. If you are feeling really unmotivated, I suggest what I call "barfing it out" (elegant, yes?). Don't worry if it isn't pretty or doesn't even make logical sense...just get it out of your head and on to the paper. Leave it be, then return to it the next day to see what you can extract from the gobbeldygook. You may be surprised.

The next installment will feature more practical advice on maintaining bibliographies, MS Word strategies, backups and exciting topics like that! I look forward to comments and helpful tips from my readers!!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Dora says it best...

I'll let you figure out who the troll was. :-)

PHEW! Guess I've got to change my blog blurb now!

EXTRA-CREDIT to anyone who can tell me what the lyrics say (I've got as far as "Lo Hicimos, the bridge and the troll... but she goes up the mountain and does WHAT? And it just goes downhill from there.)

I woke up this morning...

...and Pavarotti was dead.

Back in the day, when I loathed opera, when I associated opera with Saturday house-cleaning, when I didn't know how to listen to music, I knew Pavarotti. He was the emblem of opera. Word-association: opera = Pavarotti.

An icon.

And now, he's gone. May he rest in peace. I hope he is singing with Beverly, Jerry, and Regine. What a year.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Practicing self-control

I managed not to bite through my tongue, rip my hair out or dig my nails into my own flesh as the nice woman at Fed-Ex explained that the plane broke down and that is why my dissertation is sitting in the Fed-Ex in Memphis, TN instead of on the West Coast. She assures me that it will get to the final destination by TOMORROW morning at 10:30am PST. I even remembered to thank her for the information.

I think I will now go run around the block several hundred times.

I've Fed-Exed probably twenty packages in my short life. THIS had to be the one not to arrive on time? At least I gave myself a little bit of a cushion...very little.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

A true Laborious Labor Day Weekend

They go out on Tuesday via Fed-Ex (after a quick jaunt to the post office to get a postal money order--grrr.)

Then, we wait. No premature congrats, please. It ain't over til its over, but I've done my part. :-) I'll keep you posted.

Prayers, good thoughts, positive energy, etc...all gratefully accepted. :-)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

50 Book Challenge #14: City of Ladies

50 Book Challenge #14: The City of Ladies by Christine de Pizan (trans. Rosalind Brown-Grant, Penguin Classics, 1999).

Christine de Pizan, writing in the year 1405, writes a treatise on feminist equality by way of a dialogue with personifications of Reason, Rectitude and Justice. These three "sisters" help Christine to edify and fortify her "City of Ladies" wherein women are able to celebrate their full potential, unhindered by the malevolent misogyny so prevalent to the time.

While Reason, Rectitude and Justice rattle off a laundry list of historical female exemplars, the real value of the treatise lies with Christine herself. While the Christine in the book plays the part of the virtuous, but naive, young woman, the subtext makes clear that Christine de Pizan is an intellectual force with which to be reckoned. She demonstrates a knowledge of literature, philosophy, and rhetoric that was inaccessible to many women of the time. If her argument fails in any sense, it is only in that she fails to address how women might rise above their station.

And while Christine focuses on negating the misogynistic assertions of other writers, her own feminist thought has its limits. She admits, through the voice of Reason, that it would "not be right for [women] to abandon their customary modesty and to go about bringing cases before a court." It is, however, necessary for Christine to abandon her own modesty, which she does in several instances, particularly through self-referencing her earlier related works. The dialogue style enables her to do this without too much self-aggrandizement.

While none of the ideas contained within The City of Ladies will shock the 21st century western mind, the larger lesson on the power of the word is invaluable.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Another Quiz from Soho the Dog

Matthew Guerrieri offers another musically-minded quiz to aid me in my procrastination.

1. What's the best quotation of a piece of music within another piece of music?
Quote from Haydn Symphony no. 94 in Die Jahreszeiten. It certainly isn't the "best" but it happened to just come up on the iPod.

2. Name the best classical crossover album ever made.
I don't know about best, but I'll cast another vote for Yo-Yo Ma's Soul of the Tango (sorry, Elaine). Also a big fan of the Swingle Singers.

3. Great piece with a terrible title.
This is a tough one. I'll have to modify it to great piece with terrible text. I'll go with Kirke Mechem's Five Centuries of Spring which requires singing the following text: "not only underground are the brains of men, eaten by maggots" courtesy of Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Ah...I know! Marais' Le Tableau de l'Opération de la Taille.

4. If you had to choose: Benjamin Britten or Michael Tippett?

5. Who's your favorite spouse of a composer/performer? (Besides your own.)
It is a pity Alma is taken. I'll say Felicia Montealegre.

6. Terrible piece with a great title.
decline to state

7. What's the best use of a classical warhorse in a Hollywood movie?
Again, "best" is perhaps not the word I'm looking for. Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra in 2001: A Space Odyssey deserves mention since most of the world knows it as "the 2001 theme."

8. Name the worst classical crossover album ever made.
Worst? Probably something by Il Divo. I'll also submit Vanessa Mae's Storm.

9. If you had to choose: Sam Cooke or Marvin Gaye?
Sam Cooke

10. Name a creative type in a non-musical medium who would have been a great composer.
Milan Kundera (I'm still hoping). I don't know if he counts though, since he formally studied composition.


For early-music nerds: Name a completely and hopelessly historically uninformed recording that you nevertheless love.

I don't "love" this, but it is worthy of mention...the "lounge-chant" version of Haec Dies on the eighth edition of the Norton Recordings.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Sound vs. Sight

Roger Bourland posits, "Music has to be SEEN nowadays, and not just heard." He is understandably frustrated that people more readily click on YouTube video clips than mp3 examples. I also find myself discouraged by our increasingly visual culture.
While there is nothing wrong with visual arts, there does seem to be an unfair emphasis on the visual over the aural. I assert to my music appreciation students that while they are good hearers, they are not necessarily good listeners. Hearing is a sense, but listening is a cultivated skill. A parallel might be made between looking vs. seeing. With the increasing amount of input in today's world, I think listening and seeing are both falling by the wayside (bedfellows with critical thinking). However, a typical non-music major, when given the option between the two, will chose seeing over listening. I would also submit, that when an aural element is paired with a visual element, it is usually the former that gets short-changed. It is easier for most people to focus on the visual element and put the aural in the background. Perhaps this is because the aural (in particular music) is so often the background of our daily existence.
There have been many times I have had to close my eyes to remove a visual distraction in order to focus fully on my listening. I often have my students close their eyes (always an interesting exercise in self-consciousness) and nine times out of ten, they report being able to "hear" better. While I'm not sure wearing earplugs would necessarily enhance the visual experience (at least not immediately), this business of sensory isolation is important. It has long been agreed that people who are blind, deaf, etc...often have other enhanced senses to compensate. I wonder if those of us with all our senses compensate by dulling all of them. We couldn't possibly give priority to our smelling, tasting, touching, seeing, and listening all at the same time. So, we are forced to make choices.
More evidence that we prefer the visual over the aural is presented by the absence of those elements. More people will readily choose silence (some crave it, actually) over darkness. Not that absolute silence OR darkness are easy to come by, but it is relative. Silence in contrast to sound is discernible. Some film makers have inserted blank screens as sort of visual "grand pauses." But even then, the darkness is confined to the screen.
In the end, there has to be room for both seeing and listening. But until people become more practiced listeners, the visual will often overcome the aural. So what does this mean for music?
In the case of film music, I don't think the relationship is exactly symbiotic, even if it is meant to be. If I show a student a film and ask him/her to describe it (outside of a music class context), rarely do I hear anything about the music. Sometimes, when asked about the music directly, students will have something to say, but most often they tell me they've got to "watch it" again. Many composers (of operas, of films, etc...) wind up writing suites of their scores. Ostensibly, this is because it gives the music some sort of form and context outside of the film or opera. But does it then become something different? I think about Corigliano's Red Violin for instance. I wish I could erase my memory of the movie (just once) so that I could listen to the suite without superimposing images from the movie. I feel enslaved to the visual. While I recognize that the original material was composed to accompany the visual, it seems that the visual is forever bound to the aural, even when presented in isolation (as with a concert suite). Maybe that isn't necessarily a bad thing (in the case of film music), but I for one, would like the option.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Ketchup (or "On the Value of Blogging")

Ok, so that should be "catch-up" but I'm sure you will forgive my jet-lagged version of wit.

While I deleted a few of my blog feeds, I still came home to over 200 posts and was reluctant to delete them indiscriminately. This was a concern I had voiced before I left and it proved to be true. I have a feeling my reluctance to delete without reading is akin to the need I had, as a child, to stay awake all hours whenever my parents had a dinner party. I would creep out into the upstairs hallway, with my face pressed against the staircase railing, and strain my ears to hear conversations which I never understood in the first place. In the case of blogging, comprehension is not an issue, but I do wonder why I am so scared to "miss out."

One of the more relevant discussions to take place while I was busy working on my German Latin and eating healthy dishes like Somlauer Nockerl and Eispalatschinken, was the discourse about the value of the blogosphere. Drew started it (at least this round) over at Amusicology, and Phil Ford (Dial M) and Barnet Bound picked it up. I posted a response over at Dial M, but realized the converse of my argument also applies.

My general advocacy of the blogosphere is based on the lack of censure and the speed at which information can be relayed. I realize now, that my general complaint about the blogosphere is based on the lack of censure and the speed at which information can be relayed. Occasionally, ignorance may be bliss. Of the several hundred blog posts I've sorted upon my return, I'm fairly certain my life would continue in its generally positive direction without them. I am, however, still plagued by the fear of being a Johnny-Come-Lately. Just as I wouldn't dream of attending a AMS conference without having read the latest issue of JAMS (well...I might dream of it), I'm reticent to jump back in to blogging without knowing what has happened while I was gaining umpteen pounds singing in the Haydnsaal.

All the same, like various other projects that have been on hold for the last two weeks (dissertation, articles, job-hunting), I'm diving back in. I'm going to be giving a lot of thought to the value/dangers/benefits of blogging (thanks to the aforementioned blog authors) and look forward to your thoughts.

Ah, yes...and one more link for those of you who are GTD-minded: Why GTD will allow you not to use GTD on your summer vacation (my title).

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Blogging Hiatus!

I'll be singing (in the Chorus) for Haydn's Harmoniemesse and Die Schöpfung here.
Back in mid-August!


Saturday, July 28, 2007

50 Book Challenge #11 & #12: HP No. 7 and What is the What

No. 11
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling (Scholastic, 2007)

In order to be "spoiler-free" this will be necessarily brief. Suffice to say, I felt this was one of the better books in the series. Rowling did a very good job of tying up most of the loose ends. I did feel she moved too quickly through the last parts of the book, breezing through points where I wished to linger. My harshest criticism of the book is the Epilogue--I found it incredibly juvenile (it brought Harry Potter back to the level of mundane chidren's literature) and unnecessary.

No. 12
What Is The What by Dave Eggers (McSweeney's, 2006).

To call this a "novel" might underestimate its truth and urgency. This is very much a work of non-fiction. The life of Valentino Achak Deng is representative of thousands upon thousands of lives in Sudan in its tales of struggle and oppression. While the book sensitively addresses a topic that is hurendous and heartbreaking in and of itself, the narration is not overly sentimentalized. Eggers and Deng weave in humor, joy, and small victories through the tragedies of the Lost Boys of Sudan.

Valentino Achak Deng is both evidence of the resiliency of the human spirit and a beacon of hope for the future. There are moments in the book that call us out of our comfortable existence, and there are moments when we recognize that from which we also seek refuge. It is a compelling read about the human condition and should be compulsory reading for anyone wishing to remain ignorant about the struggles of Africa. To ignore Sudan is to ignore humankind.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Edward Hopper at the MFA

Edward Hopper has to be one of my all time favorite artists. The current exhibition at the Boston MFA is fantastic. In addition to what is arguably his most famous painting (Nighthawks, 1942), the museum hosts some of his very early works and some of his prints. Hopper was admired as a printmaker before he became known as a painter.

I was struck by the obvious maturation of Hopper's work. In music, we speak of the "mature style" and I sometimes feel this is unfair, as maturity, in both music and life, is a subjective concept. However, in spite of the subjectivity, we can usually agree that self-confidence is a sign of maturation. In Hopper's early work there is a sense that he is following a model, a pattern...he's painting how he is supposed to paint. As one moves into his works of the later twenties, he seems less afraid to admit shape...using watercolors almost as if they were oils, exploiting their capabilities for the opaque. In these paintings, the natural elements (such as background foliage) are given a more watery texture, whereas the solidity of man-made elements is emphasized.

I respect Hopper's eye. He isn't afraid to let tall edifices soar out of frame. While Uncle Jack's snapshots of the Eiffel Tower without its top don't quite cut it, Hopper manages to extend the idea beyond the page. We don't have to see all of the chimney in order to understand the roof.

The exhibit cited Hopper's interest in "vernacular architecture" as opposed to someone like Charles Sheeler, who, while somewhat similar stylistically, amplified the industrial (factories and the like). His paintings of lighthouses are especially exquisite...extraordinary, but not overly-romanticized.

Hopper's most intriguing paintings are those of women and couples (see Room in New York, 1932 pictured above). The sense of isolation is tangible, but not hopeless. In his famous New York Movie (1939), the usherette becomes the focus, not the movie or even those watching. Dimly illuminated by the aisle lights, we are pulled into her pensive daydreaming...the movie in her mind.

The very last painting in the exhibition chilled me for some reason...all the more ironic given that it is a painting of sunlight. Sun in an Empty Room, painted four years before he died, gave me such pause. Gone are the contemplative nudes and the estranged couples...only two elements remain...the room and light. There is a strong sense of geometry here. The three-dimensionality is subdued in favor of the demarcation of roles: shadow vs. light. The absent figures could occupy either type of space. It makes me want to seek out all of Hopper's figures to note where they stand, sit, or lounge. In the end, when we leave our rooms, the light and shadow remain. We are but visitors, with our hopes, dreams and burdens.

Monday, July 23, 2007

For Exceptional Theses Only...

For those of you out there with mediocre and substandard theses...I'm afraid I don't know where to buy the paper. Do let us know if you find the very least it should be cheaper.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

In Memoriam: Jerry Hadley (1952-2007)

Death is always sad. And sometimes it is tragic.
Sometimes we mourn the personal connection.
Sometimes we mourn the talent, and the fact we didn't know.
Sometimes we mourn an idea, a symbol.

But we always do mourn.

Jerry Hadley
Requiescat in pace.

Thank you for sharing your voice with me through hours and hours of dissertation work on Leonard Bernstein's Mass. You always helped me reconnect with the love of my labor. Thank you for your "Simple Song."

Now Listening: Leonard Bernstein's Mass--Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, dir. Kent Nagano, with Jerry Hadley as Celebrant. (Harmonia Mundi, 2004)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Because you never have a second chance...

I've decided to start a weekly (maybe more) feature called First Impressions in New Listening (FINL*).

Ideally, every day I'd like to hear a piece of music I've never heard before. At the present time, that is probably not practical.

The music can be recently composed, relatively "new," or an older piece with which I'm unfamiliar. I'm going to write down my first impressions. Keep in mind they are exactly that--FIRST impressions, based on a single hearing, without a score. My commentary will reflect that which "jumps" out at me (if anything).

If you are familiar with the piece, feel free to leave your own impressions (first or otherwise) in the comments.

This week, we start off with something relatively local:

Pozzi Escot, Concerto for Piano and Orchestra or Chamber Orchestra (1982)
Peformers: New England Conservatory Chamber Orchestra, cond. Tamara Brooks, with Randall Hodgkinson, piano.

More of a "concerto" in the sense of Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra, this mini-concerto (just under six minutes) of three movements could be a single movement.
The opening movement is the yin to the yang of the closing movement. The first movement draws out a motive in the trumpet, like musical taffy. The final movement takes a related motive, but squeezes it and condenses it in a rush to the finish. The piano makes rather abrupt statements, but at no time is there ever a sense that there is one soloist.
These outer movements flank an inner movement of a more obligatory inward nature...atmospheric strings (recalling Ligeti) punctuated by the piano. This slower middle movement is most revealing of the concerto conception.

I enjoyed this piece and will listen to it several times. The texture is dense, so there is much to be unearthed.
*The irony of the acronym is unintentional.

Friday, July 13, 2007

I've been tagged to ponder...

Well, I consider myself tagged, for a meme, that is. Normally i wouldn't engage in such frivolity (stop laughing--all of you!), but because this one came from Barnet Bound, I feel I must oblige. Of course the fact that I've taken this long to do so is a clear indication of my inner struggle (sure, it is).

Like BB, I'll be limiting my selections to four. The first one is something I have pondered, and I suppose I still am. The other three are more current.

1. When Terminator is dubbed in Spanish, what happens to the line "Hasta la vista, baby"? Answer: Allegedly, the line becomes "Sayonara..." Can anyone confirm or deny?

2. Why does chocolate taste so vastly different in the UK (and Canada too!) than in the US? Answer: I've got my own ideas and opinions, of course, but here's what the NY Times had to say (just in case you tire of reading about the state of the world).

3. Why now, after moving thousands of miles away, do I have this incredible urge to visit The Presidio? Answer: Pure nostalgia.

4. Do they grant PhDs in Endurance? Leave your answer in the comments.

If you read this blog, consider yourself tagged and do what you will. (Yes, I break chain letters too...I know, I know.)

Sunday, July 08, 2007

On Teaching (Part I)

As someone who has taught and wants to continue to teach, when I read things like THIS it makes me terribly sad. While I know that particular example was meant as satire, it is not without a grain of truth. Academia seems to have a love-hate relationship with teaching. At some universities there is definitely more hate than love.

While I do not have vast years of experience, I do have a good sampling of different teaching a teaching assistant, as an instructor of my peers, as a lecturer for 300 students, as an instructor of record for 7 music majors at a small Christian liberal arts institution, and as an instructor for 25 non-music majors at the same institution. I have looked upon each of these opportunities as a learning experience. I hope that this does not change even when I have tenure somewhere.

I must say, I love the seminar model. While I have witnessed many wonderful lectures, my preference is for interaction...among the students and the professor. One of the best seminars I ever had was one where the professor gave an angle to the course with which he wasn't totally familiar. While "Women in Music of the Italian Renaissance" was a topic near and dear to his heart, we investigated some feminist theory which he admitted was a "stretch" for him. In the end, I think we ALL came out of it with more than if he had merely regurgitated the same syllabus of "standards" with which he was familiar.

I'm struck at how often a TAship has very little to do with merit and everything to do with financial aid. This is a huge disservice to the students and to the TA. I happen to think I've become a pretty great teacher, but I certainly didn't start out that way. When I was given my first TAship, I didn't even know what a TA was! I had never had a TA in undergrad. And there I was, expected to guide students who, in some cases, were merely a year behind me. I understand that first year TAships can't exactly be based on experience, so I'd revise my statement to say that continued TAships should be merit based. And merit? What does that mean?

The "merit" of teaching
Here are my top 5 indications of good teaching:

1. Never claiming perfection (but no self-deprecation either)
2. Willingness to learn
3. Seeing each class, no matter the subject, no matter how many times the course has been taught, as a new experience.
4. A student-centered model (as much as possible--difficult in large lecture classes).
5. A desire to teach in the first place (!) not just viewing it as an obligatory side-effect of being paid to do research.

So while it might be easy to fall into the cynicism expressed by the folks over at Rate Your Students (see first link), I'd much rather go the way of Barnet Bound.

Part II coming soon!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

50 Book Challenge #10: Audacity of Hope

50 Book Challenge #10: The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama (Crown Publishers, 2006) 362 pp.

This book demonstrates eloquence, understanding, and an intense passion for this country and what it should stand for. Obama writes beautifully, with focus, but with the intensity of someone who is anticipating the arguments before they've been made. And that isn't such a bad thing, particularly for someone who is running for President. He does, however, need a better editor. Obama relies too heavily on anecdotes and sometimes gets a tad formulaic in his presentation of each chapter. The points are made, but then at times, run into the ground by an overabundance of examples.

That aside, the book is very well-structured. He wisely ends with "Family" to leave the reader with the best impression of a man who isn't afraid to extol his wife's domestic and professional abilities, but without the sense of hero worship. He's not afraid to express his love in real terms or to admit the struggles in their marriage. It is in this final chapter than the anecdotes ring most true.

However, for those that believe Obama is too "green" to be President, I'd hold off until you read this book. He has a better understanding of history, law, politics and social justice than most people on Capitol Hill. He's managed to move forward (up?) in his career, but has always had one foot firmly planted in the neighborhoods of his constituents.

It is a shame that those who do not support Obama are unlikely to read this book, as it is a revealing portrait...not set on changing political views, but opening up an honest dialogue...a dialogue very much absent from current American politics.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Zen Habits

Recently, I've started following Zen Habits and have found it to be a wonderful resource. Leo has started a new forum for us Zen Habits readers and I've signed up--specifically to participate in the monthly challenge.

For the month of July, you pick ONE goal you'd like to maintain (daily exercise, reading, eating right, etc...) and there is a thread where you can check in daily with the other folks participating in the challenge.

My goal for July? An hour of German every day. Starts today.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Teach to Learn

Sir Peter Maxwell Davies offers a three-part work* with an extended coda. I can't say I agreedwith everything, but I am grateful that someone is speaking out in defense of classical music. While I think his speech meanders a bit (it seems to cover a lot in one sitting), there are some true pearls of wisdom. This one was buried in "Part I":

Teaching is an education for the teacher, too, for you learn far more than you teach.

Good. Someone gets it. Unfortunately, I think there are far too many teachers who believe they have stopped learning (aack--what reason to live then??). When I tell people I'm getting a PhD in Musicology, the next question is usually: "So, are you going to teach?" asked in a way that insinuates "Well, what else would you do?" It just so happens that yes, I am going to teach. And yes, I WANT to teach....not just as a means to finance my research, but because I'm not done learning.

*three-part, I believe, courtesy of the Guardian.
Thanks to Elaine Fine for the original notice.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

More Dissertation Fun

This blogpost will be short and perhaps completely boring to most people who read this blog.
You've been warned.

As I go through the task of pulling together the bits and pieces of minutiae in my dissertation, I think I can safely say this is my least favorite part. Checking citations, moving margins, and searching for typos is the most painful part of the whole process, even though it is "easy."

I'm proofreading, basically, and have discovered the following to be most helpful: reading aloud. I find, even though it is a document to be read, and not heard, not only do I catch typos and punctuation errors, but it is much easier to revise sentences that are either dull or overly lengthy. I imagine that it is the narration for a documentary, accompanied by pictures, interviews and soundclips. It makes total sense that the paper needs to sound right...I am, after all, a musician.

Of course, this is best practiced in solitude. I thankfully had a few hours of that today. Hey, at the very least, it is good practice should I need to seek employment doing voice-overs.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Nessun Dorma--Paul Potts

How absurd is it that the most mythical, magical moment of this is Simon Cowell's smile?
I want to be skeptical and dismiss it all as hype, but I'd be lying. I got "goosepimples" too.
Thanks to Alex Ross for the original post!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A big hole in MassCore

This is bad news for the Commonwealth, as far as I'm concerned. Why, in a state that is host to numerous conservatories and music schools, would there be no arts component in the core curriculum (MassCore)?

I get frustrated that we are still defending the value of the arts. It isn't as though the statistics don't exist--it is that no one wants to accept them. To accept them would mean changing the status quo and taking risks. It means throwing money in the direction of those forlorn painters, those stoned musicians, and those spacey actors!

Of course, I'm referring to stereotypes, but in a place where their contributions are valued so little, can we really blame them for being forlorn, stoned and spacey?

UPDATE: Some people get it.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Finale

Alex Ross provides a conclusion to the recent rigamarole regarding the AJC and its "reorganization." Mistakes were clearly made--evidently Robert Spano's letter to the editor slipped through, thereby instigating the perception that the AJC was doing away with arts criticism.

Klibanoff takes aim at the Arts community for screaming "fire" when it was merely smoke from a candle. While I can see his point, I do understand why the arts community is on the defensive. It isn't as though support for the arts has been a huge priority for the government. Often "reorganization" means "reprioritization" and that can mean that the arts end up on the bottom of the list. But the AJC is not the federal government. Time will tell what this reorganization will mean. But I think we should watch very carefully. Healthy skepticism is important in a world where we all struggle for legitimacy--newspaper editors and musicians alike.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Diapasonic shopping!

Wow! This has to beat the lazy showtunes on out-of-tune pianos I hear at Nordstrom's.

Many thanks to Lisa Hirsch for posting about it first!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Adding some GO to GTD :-)

As most of you know, I'm always looking for ways to be better organized. For the most part, I subscribe to the Gettings Things Done (GTD) method. Unfortunately, I never took the time to sit down and think about how I might apply GTD to our move. As a result, I am sitting in the midst of chaos.

A recent post by awesome organizational/workflow consultant Matt Cornell gave me some more food for thought. In his wonderful review and summary of Getting Organized by Chris Crouch, Matt highlights several interesting features of the book.

My new personal favorite is the "MIT": The Most Important Thing (the term is courtesy of Gina Trapani at Lifehacker). The general idea is to determine what the MOST important thing is to accomplish for that day and do it first, even before an e-mail check (gasp!). Yes, yes, yes....I know. Blogging is not my MIT, but I figured I'd lay out the idea first. My MIT for today will be my inbox processing because it has simply become a huge burden. I can't focus and I cringe every time the mail comes because the stack is beginning to lean.

I quote from Matt's summary of Crouch here and interpolate my comments:

# His reasons we feel overwhelmed:

* You are setting unrealistic time frames for what you are trying to do.
I find my time frames are fine if I use them effectively (therein lies the problem)
* You are procrastinating too long.
* You are spending too much time working on things that do not matter.
Only occasionally, as a form of procrastination.
* You are over-promising what you can do for someone.
No. I think I've finally conquered that one.
* You do not have the profound knowledge needed to do the task.
OH! That explains why my complete 6 volume history of the Mass isn't published yet!
* You do not know when and how to say No.
Again, getting better at that one. Graduate school is all about saying yes, yes, yes, so I am enjoying the freedom now to say no, no, no. At least for the time being. :-)

# He lists these causes of procrastination:

* Perfectionism - the paralyzing need to get it right the first time
Big, big problem for me. I hate drafts even though I know how necessary they are.
* Impulsiveness - taking on too many things to do and overloading yourself
* Fear of failure - rather be seen as lacking in effort than ability
I do have a fear of failure, but it isn't that I'd rather be seen as lacking in effort.
* Perception of task - seems too hard or too boring
* Uncertainty - not sure what to do
I tend to err on the other side. I make hasty decisions just to move forward but then have to go back because it was the wrong choice. to process that inbox!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Journal-Constitution responds...

This is a fair response to Robert Spano, but as Alex Ross points out it isn't exactly crystal clear if the newspaper is downsizing or, as they say, refocusing "staff resources on coverage of local rather than national arts." I'm all for the latter, but not at the sacrifice of good music criticism. Sometimes newspaper writers find themselves spread too thin, critics especially. It is, after all, hard to attend several concerts in a week, profile a local string quartet, and report on what's ahead.

It will be interesting to follow what happens with the AJC and to watch whether other newspapers go the same route.

Music-centered curriculum

Malcolm adds: "Sometimes I use music to do my math. I'll think of adding quarter-notes, half-notes. I put my notes together as math."
Here is an article about a remarkable charter school in Boston that centers its curriculum around music. The children are learning how to play the violin, yes, but also discipline, social engagement, listening skills, etc. Yet, in many public schools around the country, music programs are being slashed and burned. That's because you can't measure what one learns from music in a standardized test. Sure, you could have them identify chord progressions and define musical terms, but you certainly can't measure the skills they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

I wonder what would happen if we handed a violin to every child in every elementary school. I'm not naive enough to consider this a plan to save the world, but I do think it is time to invest in our children with renewed vigor...not by worrying about creating standards by which they should measure their achievement, but by helping them desire to achieve in the first place.

Monday, May 28, 2007

More on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Hopefully, the increased attention in the blogosphere will help convince the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to save their arts reviews.

See Jonathan Bellman and Elaine Fine's blogs for more.

Arts criticism (good arts criticism, that is) has always had a symbiotic relationship with the arts themselves. Critics are important for feedback, yes, but they also represent something even more important: critical thinking. This is a mode of mental operation that is becoming outdated in American classrooms. Many children are fed through a system that rewards them for memorizing state capitals rather than creative problem-solving. If our society begins to throw away the best examples of criticism, we condone the spoon-feeding model of education. Indeed, the arts are emblems of individual expression and criticism too, so one might wonder if we are not headed toward disaster here. If an orchestra is no longer worth writing about...why is it worth paying for a ticket? My point isn't to formulate great apocalyptic scenarious, but to offer that this is a very slippery slope.

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Economic Impact of the Arts

In a study released on May 22nd, Americans for the Arts made a case for the economic contribution of the non-profit arts and culture industry. This is important as many of the arguments for maintaining art and music programs in schools have been philosophical, not financial. The concept of "quality of life," while a noble thought, does not seem to resonate with a large segment of the American populace and many members of the government. If it did, global warming would be less of a battle, we'd be focused on the health and well-being of the children who are living as a priority over those unborn, and health care and poverty would be top priorities of any administration.

So, now we must speak in "important" terms.

• 5.7 million full-time equivalent jobs
• $104.2 billion in resident household income
• $7.9 billion in local government tax revenues
• $9.1 billion in state government tax revenues
• $12.6 billion in federal government tax revenues

The study can be found here. While quality of life is important to me, we best start translating our needs into economic terms for those who see the world spinning on a dollar.

Maybe someone should send it to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution which has already killed the staff book reviews and supposedly has plans to kill the staff positions for arts and music reviews. Read Robert Spano's letter at the website for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and sign the petition.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Administrative Note

As of today, I am making a distinction between my two blogs. My Live Journal blog will be for more personal, fluffy (and dare I say sometimes even frivolous) posts while this blog will be more substantive, focusing primarily on Music and Mayhem and not so much Miscellanea. For those of you who visit enough to care, you may want to adjust your RSS feeds accordingly.

Oh, and I reserve the right to cross-post whenever it so moves. :-)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Hope really DOES spring eternal...

Maybe I'm getting more sentimental to counteract the effects of the weather here on the East Coast, but this particular blog post gave me the best kind of goosebumps. I've been following the trials of the OES after the terrible fire and I tell you, this is a true phoenix, risen from the ashes. I can't wait to hear them.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Well, THAT's unpacked!

Four boxes marked: "Unpack quickly! Dissertation!" I'm just grateful I turned in all the library books before I left. Good times ahead. Probably means less blogging for a bit, but who knows?

On the Street Where You Live???

Here in Boston and surrounding areas, there seems to be a city ordinance against street signs. Even our own street is unmarked which has already befuddled the Verizon repairman and the pizza delivery guy. It doesn't help that there is a sign for the street as it continues across the intersection--under a different name! I'm thinking one of my first little projects will be to make a nice little sign to replace the old one and then get a letter off to the Somerville City Council. At least they'll know I'm proactive.

So, as helpful as it is to have a Google Map with all the street names, it doesn't really help you at all once you are in the car. Even major intersections will be missing street signs. This brings me to my great idea:

I think there needs to be a Google Landmark Map...where navigation is done simply by landmarks and is updated frequently. While I know you can find various hotels, grocery stores, donut shops, etc on Google Maps, I'm suggesting that they be the primary indicators (the street names could stay just on the off chance they might be helpful to someone). So, if you needed to get to Whole Foods, lets say, the map would tell you to go around Union Square, pass one Dunkin' Donuts on your right, pass Inman Square and the All-Star Sandwich Shop, etc. I know they sell those touristy maps where all the historical landmarks, big shops, etc are drawn in, but those tend to have accuracy problems. That is why it would be so great to have an online version--especially with the way Dunkin' Donuts sprouts up out here!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Bigger is not always better...

WARNING: Fluff post!

While I'm certainly not going to complain about having a bigger kitchen (and truth be told, I'll take it over our old one any day), I have to mention the design of this kitchen makes me think the cabinetry and drawers were a mere afterthought.

We have three drawers (four, if you count the one you can't open unless you open the oven first). Each of these drawers is fairly large (meaning: no real silverware drawer). Presently we have them categorized 1) big pots and stuff 2) baking ware, small mixing bowls, and my favorite, 3)scary utensils drawer. And the latter is scary in that there are knives facing every which way mixed in with our everyday silverware and salad tongs and carrot peelers and bag clips get the picture. Some of the problem will be alleviated once we are able to hang our silverware again.

As for the cabinetry? Well, I can reach them (an improvement), but they are very deep, rendering the back of the cabinet somewhat useless. We also have two corner cabinets which will only be useful with multi-tiered turntables. In the rare instance we were able to find a tiered turntable, the diameter was way too small. We currently have two entirely too small turntables sitting in there with a bunch of stuff crammed around them. If you are going to build a corner a turntable that goes with it!

That, is the end of my kitchen rant for the day. Truly, I am excited about the dishwasher and the increased counter space. I just think it is funny that I actually miss something about my old kitchen (I never thought that would happen!)

I blog this to spare anyone from having to actually listen to me talk about kitchen cabinets.
(Cross-posted at LJ...those lucky folks)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

New Meaning for the Boston "Pops"

As I'm sure everyone knows by now, this past Wednesday's Boston Pops concert featured a brawl between a talker and a shusher in the second balcony. While most news features have capitalized on the incongruity between a brawl and a symphony concert, Jeremy Eichler's thoughtful review in the Globe asks some more important questions.

The audience that night was a mixed bag of Pops subscribers, benefit concert-goers, and Ben Folds fans--not the normal Symphony Hall makeup. In Eichler's opinion, the Pops could have better seized upon the opportunity with their programming of the first half. Instead of the ubiquitous Dvorak "Carnival" Overture, Eichler suggests:

"...a short, gnarly, and exhilarating work of 20th-century music, offering a quick glimpse of, say, the ecstatic washes of color in Messiaen, or the quivering extraterrestrial sound worlds of a Ligeti score?"

As an advocate of contemporary music, I give Eichler's suggestion a resounding "right on!" As a practical observer of concert audiences, however, I'm forced to note that the inclusion of such a piece would probably kill the "pops" ethos. But maybe therein lies the problem.

We tend to categorize and pigeonhole repertoire to such an extent there is little to no flexibility, even when the audience might afford the opportunity. We have "Early Music" concerts, "New Music" concerts, "Pops" concerts (that's where all the film music goes, folks!), and "Classics" concerts. In a recent article in the New Yorker, Alex Ross discusses how Esa-Pekka Salonen has tried valiantly to usher in contemporary music as part of the LA Phil's standard repertoire (with varying levels of success). Maybe the element of surprise should be more standard for concerts nowadays. Sure, reel the regulars in with a big seller, but have a couple of "TBAs" on the program. Vary it: a newly commissioned work (short), a film music suite, an oldie-but-a-goodie. I wonder what would happen if you had audiences coming to see one or two works, and being stretched just a little tiny bit.

It is truly hard to stand outside myself and speculate as to my reaction as a non-music specializing concertgoer. But I think that I'd be quite okay with hearing one or two of the Ligeti piano etudes, even if I came to hear the 1812 Overture or a medley of the best of John Williams. Idealistic? Maybe. Optimistic? Assuredly.

(Cross-posted at LiveJournal)

Saturday, May 12, 2007

We're here!

Well, our lack of DSL means no pictures for another couple of days, but I thought I'd post a little bit of our Boston experiences thus far.

Our phone jack was not working when we arrived, and this of course spelled disaster for me--not for the phone, but for the computer (of course). So we called Verizon (and I mean "we" as it took several calls) and the repairman came out to look at it (we already tested the connection in the Network Internface Device (NID) on the side of the house).

No, I don't plan to detail the excitement of having a phone jack tested, but I did have an interesting exchange with Mr. Verizon Man. After asking about where we had moved from, I replied "California." Response: "Hmm. Whereabouts in California?" I told him Santa Barbara. "Is that near San Diego, like Southern California?" I told him we are considered "Central Coast" (as if that would save me from some sort of disparaging comment).

What was tremendously funny and tender to me was that he looked me straight in the eye and said, with all sincerity ,"It's a whole different ballpark with the people out here, eh? Don't make it nothing personal. They're just like that." I'm not sure where he was from, but I thought I detected a southern inflection to his speech. But I think he was genuinely concerned that my happy-go-lucky California self might be offended by all the cranky Bostonians.

So that brings me to stereotypes. Clearly this man had an idea that all Californians act like Shirley Temple on the Good Ship Lollypop while all Bostonians make Severus Snape look downright ecstatic. While we have run into a few Snapes, most of the Bostonians we've met have been, while not cheery, friendly enough and "no b.s." I think places with harsh weather conditions give birth to a practicality about life that we don't see so often in "Paradise." There is a economy of energy for social niceties. That said, we've run into plenty of folks willing to spare a "hello" as we pass through the neighborhood.

So, so far so good. We successfully visited our Trader Joe's, local supermarket and local KMart, so life can go on.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Picture Post

So, I know I didn't blog about the rest of our trip, so I thought I'd quickly summarize with this picture post. Yes, those blurry spots you see are dead insects on the windshield, of course.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Denver 5-2 to 5-4

Ok, well technically, Thornton, but close enough. Our drive to Colorado was absolutely spectacular. While I'm sure the residents of the area take those Rocky Mts. for granted, I couldn't snap enough photos of their majesty.
Rocky Mountain High

The drive from Utah gave me the opportunity to practice my mountain driving at a 6% grade...not something I had the chance to do in Santa Barbara. I'm actually ok with not doing it very often.

I almost wish we had stopped at this particular rest stop...very tempting:

Thanks for the gracious hospitality of my college roomate and her husband, we stayed in a lovely house with lovely people in Thornton, CO. Happy to have a break from driving, we spent a good portion of the day in Boulder at the Pearl Street Mall. I could not stop photographing the tulips. Spring had most definitely sprung!

We had such a nice visit with K and G and their cutie-pie of a son! (Shout-out to Bixby! ;-))

Now, we are in our second time zone change. The drive to Kansas City, MO was, well...mind-numbingly boring. Even throwing in some more cows would have helped...but the topography was...non-existent. I wasn't expecting much, so I guess I wasn't that disappointed. I was hoping to be pleasantly surprised as I was with my first visit to Kansas City, MO. We are staying in the same hotel I stayed in for last year's visit to the Creston archive. It's a quick stay because we are out of here tomorrow and on our way to someplace near Chicago! After tomorrow, most of our drives will be 8 hours or less I believe. This makes me happy.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Zion National Park 5-1-07

Although it might seem glib to say that Zion National Park is the Grand Canyon turned upside down, those of you who know what the Grand Canyon means to me, will understand that this is not just a comment about the topography.

While we saw amazing rock facings at the GC last summer, they pale in comparison to Zion. My pictures won't do it justice, but I've selected a few. Like at the GC, I felt dwarfed, but this time, the huge walls of Navajo sandstone were almost if we were simply nestled in the canyon.

But the neatest element of our Zion experience was the contrast of water with the semi-arid climate. Life was so very abundant. Even the rocks seem to be alive. It makes perfect sense why native American mythology is filled with stories about living mountains.

Springdale, which lies just at the foot of the park, runs a shuttle up to the park which is amazingly convenient and so much better than the situation prior to 2000, when cars and trucks could drive all the way up. Being a weekday, the park was very quiet and for the first couple of hours we saw very few people. We got up to the park about 8:30 and decided to tackle the Emerald Pools (a far more elegant name than the Algae Pools, which would be more accurate). The "hike" was rather moderate and even paved in some areas. The lowest of the three pools was the most beautiful, and the largest. The springline from the mountains create temporary waterfalls which sprinkle down and create these gorgeous and calming pools. On our way back down, we began to see more people which made us grateful that we had hit this most popular trail very early on.

After a brief snack and a visit to a gift shop, we went on the "Riverwalk." It was fairly clear that we were tuckered out from the last few weeks and it was starting to catch up with us. The "River Walk" is a very easy pleasant walk along the Virgin River toward the place where the canyon narrows. One of the highlights was having this guy close enough to touch:

We watched a fairly cheesy but informative 22 minute film on Zion NP and then took the shuttle back to the hotel. There is so much more we'd like to do, but it is going to have to wait for another trip. I'm assuming I'll find my energy again sometime in September.

I seem to have this knack for visiting national parks immediately after a significant loss. And I always find the experience incredibly healing. I know this must mean something. Hopefully I'm not missing my true calling as a park ranger...


Mostly Musicology, Teaching, and a bit of Miscellanea