Friday, September 23, 2005

Academic Blog Survey, or is it another damn meme?

The following survey is for bloggers who are actual or aspiring academics (thus including students). It takes the form of a go-meme to provide bloggers a strong incentive to join in: the 'Link List' means that you will receive links from all those who pick up the survey 'downstream' from you. The aim is to create open-source data about academic blogs that is publicly available for further analysis. Analysts can find the data by searching for the tracking identifier-code: "acb109m3m3". Further details, and eventual updates with results, can be found on the original posting:

Simply copy and paste this post to your own blog, replacing my survey answers with your own, as appropriate, and adding your blog to the Link List.

Important (1) Your post must include the four sections: Overview, Instructions, Link List, and Survey. (2) Remember to link to every blog in the Link List. (3) For tracking purposes, your post must include the following code: acb109m3m3

Link List (or 'extended hat-tip'):
1. Philosophy, et cetera
2. Pharyngula
3. Musical Perceptions
4. Your blog here.


Age - 35
Gender - Male
Location - Avon, Indiana, USA
Religion - Deist, attend Episcopal church regularly
Began blogging - May 2004
Academic field - Music Theory
Academic position [tenured?] - Assistant Professor [no]

Approximate blog stats
Rate of posting - once a day
Average no. hits - about 70/day
Average no. comments - 1/day
Blog content - Music, academics, politics, psychology.

Other Questions
1) Do you blog under your real name? Why / why not?
- Yes. I am not ashamed of my blog posts, and refrain from injecting academic politics into the blog. The latter subject is the only thing I regard as being detrimental to my career.

2) Do colleagues or others in your department know that you blog? If so, has anyone reacted positively or negatively?
- Yes. Positively, though they don't regard it as significant professional development.

3) Are you on the job market?
- Not actively.

4) Do you mention your blog on your CV or other job application material?
- Yes.

5) Has your blog been mentioned at all in interviews, tenure reviews, etc.? If so, provide details.
- I included my blog in my materials provided for my interim review last year.

6) Why do you blog?
- To advance conversations about music.
To yell into the silence my thoughts about politics.
To work on my writing skills.
To maintain my nerd status.
As a means of working out ideas that are rattling about in my head, and to get feedback from the interested public.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Lurkers, Unite!

I have been informed by Sean and PZ that today is Lurker Day, when any readers who never comment are welcomed to ... um ... comment. I think this is some kind of amnesty thing, that the lurkers are assured of retaining their lurker status despite the unlurking activity of commenting.

I encourage anyone who hasn't left comments at my blog to say whatever they want here. Heck, since I don't have any real regular commenters, anyone can leave a comment. It can be corrections, requests, rants, poetry, advice, or observations. Have at ye! (I missed talk like a pirate day on Monday, so I'm combining them.)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Musical Geniuses?

The MacArthur Foundation announced its genius grants Monday. The list of 25 awardees includes Marin Alsop, new conductor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra; Joseph Curtin, master violin maker; and Aaron Dworkin, founder of the Sphinx Organization, a group that exposes inner city children to music at early ages and provides instruments and educational opportunities.

This is a very good showing for music, though it is not too surprising. The foudnation has given grants to other musicians, including Osvaldo Golijov, Ken Vandermark, Susan McClary, Meredith Monk, Stanley Crouch, John Harbison and Gunther Schuller.

Speaking of Schuller, I just found out today that he arranged some of the rags used in The Sting, though you have to look at the liner notes of the soundtrack very carefully to find this out. Marvin Hamlisch seems to have hogged the limelight rather thoroughly for this film.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Here's your toaster!

I received my 20,000th visitor today, looking for dominant seventh blogspot. This visitor appears to be staying at a Hilton in Los Angeles, so seems to be doing well. I'm not sure if s/he was looking for a specific blog or a specific definition of dominant sevenths, but I hope s/he was edified nonetheless.

In other news, I'm hosting next week's Carnival of Music, so get those links to me.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Music and Emotion

Dave Munger has a good post up about a study on the effect of tempo and mode (major or minor) on the perception of emotion. I offer some criticism, however. Emotion was limited to happy and sad, which is far simpler than the most-used models of emotion in psychology. This will skew the results when multidimensional responses are forced into a two-choice response.

This study reminds me of a paper given at the Leipzig conference last spring. Emmanuel Bigand and his team decided to investigate how quickly people identify the emotion of a musical work. They made 27 musical excerpts one second in duration, and asked participants to group the works by their emotional similarity. There was a high degree of agreement between subjects and within subjects, even with this very short time period. In fact, the results even agreed with a similar experiment using 25-second excerpts, suggesting that 1 second is enough to convey emotional content. Emboldened by these results, Bigand's team had participants evaluate how emotionally moving a variety of excerpts were on a 10 point subjective scale. These excerpts started as only 250 milliseconds. Next, the participants judged the same excerpts, but they were extended to 500 ms, and then 1, 2, 5, and 20 seconds. Incredibly, some judgements were consistent from the 250 ms duration through the 20 second duration, meaning that the listeners made the judgments of emotional affect in very short time periods.

As a tangent, Emmanuel Bigand has an interesting Shockwave animation of Chopin's Prelude in E major. While it is a serious explication of the cognitive significances of Fred Lerdahl's Tonal Pitch Space, it's also plain old fun to watch. Zoom out to get the big picture, or zoom in to watch the movement among the "moons".

E. Bigand, "The Time course of emotional responses to music," paper presented at The Neurosciences and Music - II conference in Leipzig, Germany on May 7, 2005.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Swing it, Schultze!

Speaking of film music, last night we watched Schultze Gets the Blues, a very quiet movie in more ways than one. The action progresses very slowly through the whole movie, though I found it interesting. But what also makes this movie so quiet is the decision by director Michael Schorr to use only source music. That is, the only time the viewer hears music is when the movie characters hear music. That music is a primary focus of the film, contrasting traditional German folk music with Zydeco, with poor Schultze caught between these two worlds. The lack of background music emphasizes how often music is part of Schultze's life, from the sparse quiet of his time as a salt miner to the ubiquitous sounds during his travels in the United States.

Do any of you know of other modern movies that use only source music? This almost felt like a documentary, though most modern documentaries use background music as much as commercial films.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Film Music

Next semester I will be offering a course on Film Music appreciation, a 200-level class for both music majors and non-majors. I expect that the proportions will swing to the non-major side, though I did set a prerequisite of having the ability to read music notation, which could discourage some non-majors. I haven't taught nor taken a course on film music before, but I have a friend from grad school who has lots of experience in the subject and has imparted some of his wisdom over the years. I also have an active Film Studies program on campus to consult, which has already resulted in a contact with a film composer from a local university.

I'm trying to decide how difficult to make the course. I have a textbook, The Soul of Cinema by Larry Timm, that is okay but rather basic. It deals with historical developments and a very rudimentary theory of aesthetic function, with little analysis and no real theories about the interaction of the music and the visual. I have checked out several other books to examine: Film Music - a neglected art; Film Music - Critical Approaches; Overtones and Undertones; The Invisible Art of Film Music; and Movie Music, the Film Reader. I may inject some readings from these books as reserve material, but I need to explore all of them, including the Timm book, more thoroughly before making decisions.

If any of you have taught or taken a course on film music, I'd love to hear from you. Likewise with any advice about the textbooks or film soundtracks that have to be included. I may have to make a limit in Jaquandar's case. (However, looking at his blog just now I see two things the university library absolutely must get. Unfortunately, one of them won't be available until after I teach this class, but it should be ready for that Winter Term course on Music of the Ring that I am planning to teach in January of 2007.)

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Tomness at DePauw

Two nights ago I took my daughter to see Tom Meglioranza perform on campus. You can read about his accompanist issues here at his blog. Despite this major problem, he gave a helluva recital. Tom was dramatic without going overboard. He made physical gestures when appropriate, and his facial expressions were communicative without being distracting. But what I really liked was his musicality. Tom has an absolutely gorgeous voice, the kind that could tempt a singer to wallow in timbre at the expense of phrasing and narrative. But Tom did not yield to sin. The stories were evoked masterfully, and the subtleties of dynamics, rhythm, and color were beautiful.

I'd also like to give a shout-out to DPU's own Meeyoun Park, who was incredibly poised and musical as the stand-in. Our students are quite fortunate to work with talented accompanists like her.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Things Opera Has Taught Me

As always, the comments at Making Light are the best part of that blog. Besides many addenda to Jim's ballad lessons, they have branched out into lessons from opera:

Ajay: A very small mask is an impenetrable disguise. That could be anyone under there. Even your spouse.

Invariably, women (and men) from the following ethnic groups: Spanish, Italian, Wild Romantic Gypsy Pirate Smuggler: carry knives and will use them. If you must give them bad news, be tactful. Otherwise, if you are lucky, they will probably stab themselves (if unlucky, you, then themselves). Ideally, deliver such news by letter. If not practical, stand a safe distance away and shout.

The worst possible answer to the question "Guess who's coming to dinner?" is not "Sidney Poitier". Believe me, Sidney Poitier is good compared to some of the possible alternatives. DO NOT ACCEPT RETURN INVITATIONS.

Hunchbacks: bad news. Invariably they will have a bitter grudge against you. Avoid them, and certainly don't employ them. It seems harsh, but it will save you a lot of trouble.

While on the subject: your servants, however craven, smelly, and generally lower-class they may be, are more intelligent than you. Take their advice (and for heaven's sake don't annoy them) and you stand a decent chance of not being a) humiliated b) killed or c) dragged down to hell by hordes of demons.

Do not become an artist. Or a singer. Or a dancer. Or, for that matter, a courtesan. Such persons rarely live long.

Teresa: If you find yourself in an opera, whatever you do, don't sing soprano. Demote yourself to a spear-carrier if necessary, but don't sing soprano. Altos aren't guaranteed to survive, but they have a much better chance of making it through the end of the final act.

PJ Evans: Don't sing baritone: baritones are almost always the villains. Tenor and bass are better ranges for survival.

John M. Ford
: And regardless of what you may have heard elsewhere, prowling the city by night dressed in a bat suit will not make you look cool.

Dave Bell: Despite the general warning against operatic pirates, should you be presented with a pretty paradox involvin indentures, birthdays, and leap-years-day, you may yet find happiness, unless you are a sworn law-enforcement officer, in which case you should put Mr. Keith Wald on a retainer.

Me: Don't let the gypsy girl out of jail, no matter how hot she is. Don't get involved with painters, it never ends well. Foreswearing love can make the whole world end. Foreign soldiers are always married, affairs always end in death, and you should never trust a queen who sings a lot of high notes.

Vassalissa: The baritone never gets the girl in the end. Only one exception to date, and he wasn't in competition with the tenor. If he's very good, the baritone may instead heroically sacrifice himself so that the tenor may get the girl.

If you're a married woman, your husband will cheat on you. Your only choice here is what to do about it.

If you decide to get your revenge in kind, then the, er, subject of your revenge may turn out to be the same person as the object.

On the other hand, if you're a man trying to entice married women into adultery, you could end up in a navigable waterway with a basket of laundry. At best.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Just say no to Bonny Brae

Over at Making Light, Jim Macdonald illustrates the educational value of folksongs with "Things I've learned from British folk ballads." For example, on sex education:

If you are an unmarried lady and have sex, you will get pregnant. No good will come of it.

If you are physically unable to get pregnant due to being male, the girl you had sex with will get pregnant. No good will come of it. You'll either kill her, or she'll kill herself, or her husband/brother/father/uncle/cousin will kill you both. In any case her Doleful Ghost will make sure everyone finds out. You will either get hanged, kill yourself, or be carried off bodily by Satan. Your last words will begin "Come all ye."

Going to sea to avoid marrying your sweetie is an option, but if she hangs herself after your departure (and it's even money that she's going to) her Doleful Ghost will arrive on board your ship and the last three stanzas of your life will purely suck.

If you are a young gentleman who had sex it is possible the girl won't get pregnant. In those rare instances you will either get Saint Cynthia's Fire or the Great Pox instead. No good will have come of it.

New York Girls, like Liverpool Judies, like the ladies of Limehouse, Yarmouth, Portsmouth, Gosport, and/or Baltimore, know how to show sailors a good time, if by "good time" you mean losing all your money, your clothes, and your dignity. Note: All of these places are near navigable waterways. In practical terms this means that if you're a sailor you're screwed (and so are any young ladies you happen to meet). See also: Great Pox; Doleful Ghost.

For a hearing of these educational tidbits, you can start with this recording of arrangements by Benjamin Britten. Just avoid the wee folk!

Friday, September 02, 2005

Mozart, Schmozart

Dave Munger has been writing some interesting posts about the Mozart Effect. When I am at my office Monday, I will write about some recent research on music and intelligence that I saw in Leipzig this spring. Until then, read Dave's good descriptions of the issues and some slightly older research.

P.S. This is my 301st post. Huzzah!)

Keep on Truckin'

Today's Indy Star stole has an article from the Washington Post about Carl Tanner, trucker/bounty hunter-turned-opera star. Mr. Tanner's story is an interesting one, but the article is also intriguing for the singer's critique of the Met's hiring practices.

"The Metropolitan Opera should be developing American singers, looking for them," Tanner continues. "But in my case, they waited until I was famous to give me my first chance. It's an American house, but they keep giving the big contracts to these Europeans."

I tend to view musicians as individuals, rather than representatives of their countries. The best individuals should be hired, regardless of their nationality. Plus, I think the Met has been developing American singers with its regional contests and Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, which surprisingly develops young American singers. Perhaps Mr. Tanner was just unaware of these programs, or he has some sour grapes at being premiered at the ripe age of 44, or maybe he ate too many of those truck stop breakfast burritos.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Looking for a few good ears

Richard Parncutt of the University of Graz is looking for musicians with good aural skills to complete an online questionnaire. The questionnaire attempts to collect data on the origins of aural skills as a means of developing new teaching strategies. I have to warn you, I started filling the questionnaire, but found several of the questions to be confusing. They want a list of experiences before I started practicing music regularly, but then ask if any accompanists inspired me! Quite confusing. Also, what is regular practice? I started on Suzuki violin when I was 6, continuing until I was 10, but I didn't practice nearly enough. I started singing in a high-level boys choir when I was 9, but never practiced at home. I started piano lessons when I was 9, and practiced rather sporadically. I learned how to play the trumpet when I was 11, but didn't start to practice that regularly until I was 13.

But you musicians out there may want to give the questionnaire a try. I will revisit this test later, maybe I just need a good night's sleep!