Friday, September 26, 2008

On awards, books and the merits of You Tube

First off, I would like to add my congratulations to Alex Ross, for his well-deserved 2008 MacArthur Fellowship. I'm really leaning toward using his book for my non-music majors in next semester's course, Music of the Twentieth Century. If anyone has any other suggestions appropriate for the non-major, I'll be happy to consider them. I find that a lot of the standard textbooks are unsuitable as they get bogged down in musical details that will be meaningless to those without musical background, OR they make blatant (and erroneous) stylistic generalizations about the music of the 20th century. Nope, I'm not naming names.

Earlier this year, Ryan posted about the merits of YouTube as a research/teaching tool, and this resulted in a fascinating discussion. While I took sort of a hard line against the citation of YouTube clips as authoritative sources (since they can be heavily edited), I have found myself calling upon YouTube (in class) a whole lot this semester. We read a chapter in Stephen Marini's Sacred Song in America about the Sacred Harp tradition. Marini is wonderfully descriptive in his writing about the modern tradition, but I have a feeling this particular YouTube clip really helped my students "get it." Somehow, a homemade video of this Sacred Harp convention (they are singing from the Missouri Harmony) seemed appropriate...maybe even more than nuanced documentary footage.

Friday, September 05, 2008

On Journeys and Cacophony

Well, it has begun. Once again we mark our year by due dates, concerts and conferences. I'm in a new place, both literally and figuratively. I'm teaching at a new institution and I'm teaching "Music in the United States" for the first time. My students are smart and ready to go. We packed our suitcases full of "fundamentals" this week, and I assured them we'd be pulling them out again at appropriate places in the journey. We'll make an interesting bunch. I have one student who clearly knows more about the British Invasion than I ever will. Another is a Bob Dylan fan who sees Dylan as a distinctively "American" voice. One student wants to learn about sacred music and jazz. I played a clip of Run DMC and I think they were relatively insulted when I suggested they might not know Run DMC (HEY...I teach students who haven't seen E.T!!).

So, we loaded the bus and determined our windy path through Music in the United States. Well, actually, I guess I'm driving the bus, but I think I'll have a whole lot of back seat drivers. I'm looking forward to it. :-)


On an additional note, I teach in a very new music building. The classes all have internet/computer access, reasonably good pianos, etc. One thing everyone complains about is the lack of soundproofing (guess someone forgot that detail). However, as I sat in my office yesterday, hearing a trumpet on one side, a harp on the other, and a vocalist across the hall...I thought, yes. THIS is what a music department sounds like. I welcomed the cacophony. I have been at other institutions that have been all too silent.

Oh, and the photograph? Just a shot I took last weekend at a local pond. A little reminder that summer will end...soon.


Mostly Musicology, Teaching, and a bit of Miscellanea