Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Music 101: Day 1

I taught my FIRST MUSIC 101 CLASS yesterday.

It was a two-hour long class period.  I'm fairly certain I had about 50 students in there, although now as I look at the current registrar I've noticed now I only have 43 students signed up.  *sigh*  It's like Dr. Johnson always says.  You can't help it if some kids just can't take your class.  It may not be by choice, but it may be.  Your job is not to take it personally and keep teaching.  Which I intend to do.

I do think that most of my students really enjoyed our class.  I have lots of energy and enthusiasm, so it's hard to fall asleep, I suspect.  I have discovered some things about the room that I don't love.  Lighting is an issue.  My darker power-points couldn't be seen very well in the bleary light.  The pianos are both Steinways (good) that are pushed onto the far side of the room and can't be moved (bad).  So I found myself running back and forth from my computer to the piano to play examples.

I made a few jokes, and my students giggled.

Some students are pretty witty.  During our first discussion about music, what it is, and how we define it, I presented them with the Webster's 1828 definition of music, which is sounds that "please the ear."  I asked my students, "Does music have to please the ear?"
"No," one kid said, fairly loudly.
"Why not?" I ask.
"Nickleback," was his answer.

It was brilliant.

We also talked about melody, harmony, texture, and dynamics that day.  My favorite part of the class was teaching them about polyphonic texture.  We sang "A Child's Prayer" together.  One half of the class sang one part, and the other sang the second part.  Afterward, I mentioned that the reason why polyphony is so effective is because there are often two very distinct messages in a song, and both deserve to be heard.  But when they're played together, you get this whole NEW interpretation of both messages.  In "A Child's Prayer" we have the innocent questioning of a child, while on the other side we have a parent's assurance that yes, Heavenly Father is actually there.  And when they're played together, it's like this dialogue between parent and child that many people relate to and understand.  It's not just some unknown narrator telling you to "Speak, he is listening."  It's a parent, hovering over her/his child's shoulder as that child is praying for the first time.  It's beautiful.  I choked up as I talked about it with my students.

My other favorite part of the class was talking about harmony, and how things like tonic and dominant work.  I used the example of "Heart and Soul," a song everyone is so tired of, but it's PERFECT for explaining how harmonic progressions work. I likened it unto a baseball diamond, where you have a home plate, but you can't just STAY on home plate.  You have to take a journey around different bases (sub-dominant and dominant chords) before you can feel satisfied about coming back home.  I thought it was clever.  Perhaps my students didn't.  Who knows.

My fear is that my students will get to the test and they won't be able to merge what I say in class with what's written in the exam.  I want my students to succeed SO BADLY, but I must remember that in order for them to TRULY succeed, I must challenge them.  The baseball analogy works here, too.  If I gave them a bunch of freebies and easy answers, they'd never get past home plate to start.  They need to take the effort and head round those bases themselves before they can really feel accomplished.

I'm learning some great stuff!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Daily Log: November 9, 2015

Today I went to lunch with contestant #1 in the Great Quest for a New Faculty Member (from now on called simply Great Quest, or GQ).
He seemed like a very smart fellow, studying Rachmaninov and other Russian composers and their reception in historiography through time.  But the cool thing was I totally could keep up with him in a conversation.  He asked lots of questions about my thesis and it was awesome.

I didn't do much else today, research- or musicology-wise.

I did finish my project for 410 on Female DJs.  I won't have to present until Wednesday, though.  Which means I wasted a lot of stress and energy for nothing.  I'll probably share some of my thoughts on that project in a later post (or not...).

I'm also reading part of a new book that features Pauline.  The book is about earth and its relationship with art.  I'll tell you more once I get into it.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Daily Log: 2 November, 2015

Discussed music alteration software like audacity, spek, and SPEAR.  I downloaded Spek and Spear and I hope to do some work with spectrography in the near future.

Taught SS -- Starting on the 3rd today.  Trying to figure out how I'm going to survive November with all of my comings and goings.

Read more of Bernstein's SFTMC book, including interviews and thoughts from William Miginnis and Terry Riley.  I found out that Riley actually performed at a composer's workshop with La Monte Young HERE in PROVO!  That's cool.  I'm getting out of the realm of Oliveros with some of these articles -- especially the ones about the Buchla 100 Series.  It's a cool thing, and Pauline did write a couple of pieces with it, but it never became her favorite compositional tool and I likely won't need to know too much about it.

Also finished correcting all of the unit 2 tests for 301.  Now I just have to enter grades.

Listening to lots of David Guetta today.  I think I know what House Music looks like.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Update: October 28, 2015

So it's been a while...

I won't belabor you with details, but I HAVE A THESIS TOPIC:

Pauline Oliveros and the Quest for Musical Utopia

Gotta get into more Oliveros literature, some Utopian novels, and some research on other socialist/utopian musical movements; Dada, Futurism, Russian socialism, Cowell, Cage...

It's going to be a long, long year.

On top of that, I have to learn more German.  I think I'll make it through the BYU translation test well enough, but will I have what it takes to pass a test from another PhD program that I would wish to apply to?

What I'm reading:  The San Francisco Tape Music Center:  1960s Countercuture and the Avant-Garde, edited by David Bernstein, from Mills College.  I hope to have a chat with him about Pauline soon.  I've been in communication with him via email.

I've also been in communication with Michael Lee from Oklahoma.  He has some interview material that he thinks would be useful for me.

Classes:  Not many.  Falls are unusually quiet at BYU.  I'm technically only signed up for 2 classes:  One is GEM, which I happen to ALSO be TA-ing for (yay, money!).  The other is a Special Topics class on Electronic Music.  It's engaging, not that much of a stress, but it has helped me a ton in figuring out what Pauline's electronic music language is.  Currently we are looking at DJ and EDM music and culture, which is cool but not that inspiring for me.

ON TOP OF THAT, I am also:
1.  Teaching a Sight-Singing Section
2.  TA-ing for Dr. Howard, Music 301
3.  Auditing Dr. Harker's Music 101 class...

This leads me to announce that I will be TEACHING Music 101 THIS SUMMER.  MY OWN CLASS.  My own syllabus, my own choice of text, my own tests...  WOW.  Surprised that Dr. Johnson trusts me with that.  I should be getting a move-on in that area soon.

Since I last wrote, I have visited both the Oliveros Archives at the Houston Public Library and the Oliveros Archives at UCSD.  I have yet to visit Oliveros or her archives in New York, but I'm getting on it soon.  I hope to go out there in April or May.

Seems like a lot to do in only a year, but I'm thinking back on how much I have done this past year, and it seems like the harder stuff is actually over.  All I have to do now is just READ READ READ, STUDY STUDY STUDY, and WRITE WRITE WRITE and I'll be there!

Part of why I want to re-introduce this blog is to keep track of what I am learning everyday so that I'll be able to better study for my oral exams at the end of my time here.  This semester is not that much, but NEXT semester I am taking....

Baroque Seminar
Contemporary Seminar
Schenker Analysis
Philosophy of Music

I'll be a TA for both 303 AND 302 under Dr. Johnson next semester.  Fortunately, I won't have to do too much in regards to office hours.  I'm thinking I'm going to just have it be a by-appointment thing.

PLUS I'm teaching GEM (!) and Sight-singing.  I'll probably be visiting some other 101 classes (besides Harker's) from time to time just to get a feel for the different approaches.  I've already asked for all of the 101 syllabi that are out there, so that should also be useful.

Dr. Asplund has invited me to consider getting a second master's degree in performance art or sound art.  It is intriguing, but I think I'm going to stick to Musicology.  That will more likely ensure me a job, and it will allow me to do more teaching and more writing, which are things I am really good at.  Performing is a wonderful hobby that I don't wish to lose, but I think that's all it ever will be.  I'm not willing to devote enough time to putting programs and performances on, and I am not good at self-promotion in that way.  I'm more of an appreciator than a creator of original music.  But maybe that will change.  I don't have to worry about applications for another year, so I've got time to consider it.

I think that brings you all up to speed about what I'm doing with my life right now.  I'm about to go up and grade lots of tests for 301.

Missed Me?

Cuz I'm Bach, baby.


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Daily Log: March 4, 2015

I wrote three pages of my Haydn paper! I am on a ROLL!

The bad news:  It looks nothing like my outline.  However, part of this has to do with the fact that I completely changed my thesis.  So it's alright, I guess.  I should probably chat with Harker and present him a NEW outline.

I decided to just buy the Mockus book. I also finally bought Deep Listening. I figure I should actually own books by or about Pauline Oliveros.  They're going to become a big part of me the next three years, and I'd like to be able to mark up the books and keep the bibliographies.

I'm also curious about attending one of Oliveros's Deep Listening Workshops.  It doesn't look like they had any since early 2014, so I wonder if I've missed my opportunity.  I'll probably have to (*shudder*) call the guy in charge and figure out how I could possibly get a personal one here at BYU (with school funding, of course).

There's actually a lot of funding and such that I should be considering.  I can probably do a lot of the travelling at my own expense.  A drive down to San Diego or a plane ticket to Houston isn't bad.  But I'd like to have stuff paid for by the school if I can get it.  I'd also like to work on having Pauline Oliveros come out HERE to BYU.  Wouldn't that be cool?  I've got about a year and a half to make stuff happen.  Better get down to it.

I was the only one to show up for class today in Classical Seminar, so it was cancelled.

We discussed Anthony Braxton's use of symbols as notation for improvisation in 20th-Century Counterpoint today, and were given the assignment to write a piece using this notation.  I am excited, because I want to extend the technique one step further using colors.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

What I'm Reading: Sounding Out

Today I begin a new book:

Mockus, Martha.  Sounding Out: Pauline Oliveros and Lesbian Musicality.  New York and London: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2008.

This oughta be good.

It's due back on March 16, which gives me 13 days or so to read it.  5 chapters (excluding the introduction) means I need to read about half a chapter a day.  172 pages means about 13 pages a day.

This is going to be an intense regimen. But I'll be reading about lesbians, which means it'll go by quickly, I hope.