Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Code your name

Now that Kyle Gann has had his name encoded, perhaps I can provide a system to allow anyone to set their name in music:

A - G as is, except B is really Bb (blame the Germans).
H = B natural (again, those Krauts)
I = tonic triad (let's assume a generic C major)
J = Gb, if Jee is normal, Jay is flat.
K = B4 (1000 Hz approximately)
L = the Leading Tone Exchange of the previous chord, assuming a triad in the key of C if it was just a note (if it was a major triad drop the root of the chord by a step; if it was a minor triad raise the fifth by a step. So the C major triad would become an E minor triad, an A minor triad would become an F major triad).
N = Neapolitan chord (Db major in our chosen key)
P = the Parallel mode of the previous chord.
R = the Relative major/minor of the previous chord.
S = Eb (German Es) or the Subdominant chord (F major)
T = B natural ("Ti")
U = C ("Ut")
V = Dominant chord (G major)
W = C sharp (close to U)
Y = E major triad (Greek E, let's make it different)

I'm drawing a blank on the others. I think O could be from some European or Russian theory symbols, but not sure. Help me out, people.

Spiegelberg = F major (IV), F minor, C major, E, G, E (minor), C major, Bb, E (minor) G major, G
Starts ambivalently, but the chromatic line from A to Ab to G lends strength to the tonic chord, which is embellished with arpeggiation. A little neighbor motion in the bass (C - B - C) follows. Adding the Bb to the previous C major triad sounds like a V7/IV, but resolves like a German Augmented Sixth to the E minor triad (second inversion, natch), suggesting that the previous E minor triad was a foreshadowing of a modulation. However, the supposed cadential 6/4 in E minor is pulled back to the dominant of C, for an inconclusive ending.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Movie Clichés

Amanda Marcotte, substitute teacher at Michael Bérubé Online, has started something with a post on the most egregious movie clichés. The Little Professor followed up with some clichés specific to academics portrayed on film. So what are the worst ways in which musicians are shown on screen? My ideas include:
  • the shy person becomes a big hit singer, with nothing needed but confidence
  • the stuffy classical musican finds his/her true love for music with a good pop tune
  • drugs, drugs, drugs
  • a group of students pull together a complex show perfectly, while all of their time seems to be spent on vairous hijinx


Tonight we went to a concert in the Bloominton Early Music Festival. Chiaroscuro is a chamber group consisting of violin, cornetto, sackbut, dulcian, and organ. I was, of course, attracted to the cornetto, played by Kiri Tollaksen. Her playing was beautiful, so agile and delicate that even my wife was won over. I'm going to take some lessons with her next year, as she will be teaching at IU's Early Music Institute part-time. The concert, "Eavesdropping at the Collegium," featured music by 17th century German composers, especially Matthias Weckmann. The whole ensemble played with passion and nuance (Mary's word), though I wasn't crazy about the solo organ piece. There were also solo pieces for the violin, sackbut, dulcian, and one work that featured Kiri playing the mute cornetto. While I prefer the sound of the standard cornetto, I was very excited to hear the mute cornetto for the first time. The concert was very well attended, over 100 people at St. Mark's United Methodist Church, including three colleagues making the one-hour drive from DePauw. I was inspired enough to practice for over an hour when we got home, and now must go to bed before Mary kills me.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Aagh! Another addiction

Thanks, Patty. Now I find myself up at 12:30 doing Sidokus. (I finished the dodecaphonic one, and two other easier ones. I thought the 12-tone one would use a Second Viennese School piece for the hint, but I was wrong.) I think I will print out some of these for my Musicianship I students next semester. Perhaps some extra credit...

Thursday, May 25, 2006


I'm currently in a five-day workshop to become certified as a W-instructor. DePauw has three competencies required of all its students: W (writing), Q (quantitative reasoning), and S (oral communication). Various courses across the disciplines fulfill these competency requirements, based upon some basic course content and the certification of the professor. After this workshop I will be able to offer W courses. I plan to offer my Film Music course as a W in the future, probably in three years.

But I am also taking the workshop to get ideas for my First Year Seminar (Writing About Music). Thus far I have decided that the students should all read the same materials for the major writing projects, so they can discuss those readings better. I'm also going to have them blog about those readings before class, to make the in-class discussion more fruitful. And finally, I know that the capstone project must be changed. Previously, I've had the students construct a portfolio of their writings. I think I'm going to force them to take one writing project and expand it into a 6-8 page essay, with at least one draft turned in for feedback before the final product.

To bring some music into this post, I'm currently enjoying the 30 years at the Lincoln Center special on PBS. Beverly Sills is showing what a real coloratura sounds like, and looking simply adorable while doing so (The Barber of Seville from about 1965). Wynton Marsalis, however, should stick to the trumpet. His phrasing is good, but his voice is missing that body which would give it real character.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


All the grades have been tabulated and submitted. I am a free man! Untill tomorrow afternoon when I start a five-day workshop on teaching writing-intensive courses.

Here are the pieces that my Theory IV students analyzed for their final papers (no particular order):
Beethoven - Piano Sonata no. 15, "Pastoral"
Mozart - Flute Concerto in G major, K 313
Quantz - Flute Concerto in G, QV 5:174
Berlioz - Les Nuits d'Été
Grieg - Piano Sonata in E minor, Op. 7
Haydn - Symphony No. 48 in C major, "Maria Theresia"
Beethoven - An die ferne Geliebte
Haydn - Trumpet Concerto in Eb
Schumann - Dichterliebe
Vivaldi - "The Four Seasons" violin concerti, Op. 8
Mozart - Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major, K 216
Dragonetti - Bass Concerto in A major
Dvo˘rák - Symphony no. 9 in E minor, "From the New World"
Mozart - Piano Sonata No. 6 in D major, K 284
Beethoven - Piano Sonata op. 81a in Eb major, "Das Lebewohl"
Mozart - Piano Sonata No. 2 in F major, K 280
Schubert - String Quartet in D minor, "Death and the Maiden"
Dvo˘rák - String Quartet No. 12 in F major, "The American"
Schumann - Frauenliebe und Leben
Beethoven - Symphony No. 7 in A major, Op. 92
Mozart - Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K 550
Mozart - Sinfonia Concertante in Eb major, K 297b

The assignment was to analyze a multi-movement piece, showing how each movement/song works by itself and as part of the entire piece.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The news in music

Teresa Nielsen Hayden tells us about the Aural Times, a website/podast that sings the news. This reminds me of Jonathan Lethem's Gun With Occasional Music where the news is broadcast indirectly as music rather than with direct words. Of course, I am reading Lethem's The Fortress of Solitude, so it isn't surprising that his work is on my mind.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Making all Double Degree students look good

Jean Rohe, a new double degree (B.A./B.F.A) recipient from the New School, was chosen as a commencement speaker, with the dubious honor of appearing before Senator John McCain. She took the opportunity to preemptively respond to McCain's speech, as he gave the exact same one at Liberty U. (smooches to Jerry Falwell) and Columbia U. Read the speech here, as well as the political situation at the New School that convinced Jean to change her speech. It is a very impressive speech, balancing passion with discipline as only a musician could.

(via Darcy James Argue)

Updated list

I've added and subtracted from the music sites and blogroll on the left. Of particular note, I'd like to point out Empirical Musicology Review. This is a new online journal that
publishes original research articles, commentaries, editorials, book reviews, interviews, letters, and data sets. Suitable topics include music history, performance, theory, education, and composition -- with an emphasis on systematic methods, such as hypothesis-testing, modeling, and controlled observation. Submissions pertaining to social, political, cultural and economic phenomena are welcome. Theoretical and speculative articles are welcome provided they contribute to the forming of empirically testable hypotheses, models or theories, or they provide critiques of methodology.
Unique to this journal is the public peer review system. Comments by reviewers are published along with the accepted article, allowing the public to see authentic academic debate.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Timeless entertainment

How long has juggling been a form of entertainment? A long time, according to Wikipedia. It is a great demonstration of dexterity, which can also be artistic, as the first link shows. It struck me as I watched that video that a gleeman from a thousand years ago would have recognized this act, even if he was quite confused by the clothes and the style of music (A Knight's Tale not withstanding). And many standard juggling acts would be the same as the gleeman's. How many forms of entertainment can make that claim, and still please audiences?

The Schoenberg Code

Yesterday I found out that one of my students wants to become a theorist. One of my colleagues warned him that theorists are the ultimate geeks. I offer Exhibit A: Pulp fiction for music theorists! (via NewMusicBox)

Those Musicians might take over Politics!

A composer as president?

A pop star as internet savior?

Next thing you know, actors will be elected to office.

(Sign the internet neutrality petition if you want to continue finding everything you want on the internet.)

Thursday, May 18, 2006

More Grading Done

I have finished the grading for the two sections of Musicianship IV. Check out the final posts in the Listening Journal. There are some very touching thoughts on senior recitals, among other various responses to music.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Gradin' Papers

I've finished the grading for my film music class. Here are the titles of the final research papers (in no particular order and with a few grammar mistakes corrected):

"Furry Situations: The Fulfillment of the Musical Functions Coupled with Innovations of Source Music in Disney Films as Seen in Lady and the Tramp and The Lion King"

"It's Still Rock and Roll to Me" [on the use of rock in movies]

"Compositional Signatures in Film Music: Chameleons Versus Individualists"

"The Good, the Bad, and the Cliché: Music within Spaghetti Westerns"

"The Effects of Music and Film of MTV on Teenage Relationships in America"

"Postmodernist Film Music and Back to the Future"

"The Music of A Knight's Tale: Out of Place or Placed Purposefully?"

"Popular Music and Film: Resolving the Tension" [Heavy emphasis on Highlander]

"The Evolution of Film Music: The Impact of Technology and Popular Music on Film Scoring"

"The Effect of Popular Music in Film"

"The Soundtrack Business: Destined for Success or Failure?"

"Hindi Film Music"

"So Wrong, It's Right: The Juxtaposition of Visual and Audio Elements in Film" [Heavy emphasis on Sergei Eisenstein]

"The Golden Era of Hollywood Musicals"

I just noticed how many students used complex titles. The most popular [heh!] topic was popular music, just as likely among the music majors as the other students.

Now, 23 music analysis papers, and 43 final exams.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Music and Politics, Part 57

Condaleeza Rice has revealed her top 10 list of music (see below). I wonder how much of this is truly in her top 10, and how much was chosen for political reasons.

1. Mozart
Piano Concerto in D minor
"I won my first piano competition at the age of 15, playing this work."

2. Cream
'Sunshine of Your Love'
"I love to work out to this song," says Rice. "Believe it or not, I loved acid rock in college - and I still do."

3. Aretha Franklin

4. Kool and the Gang
"It's just such a great song."

5. Brahms
Piano Concerto No 2

6 Brahms
Piano Quintet in F minor

7. U2
Rice, a big fan, is happy to listen to any of their tunes.

8. Elton John
'Rocket Man'
"It brings back memories of college, friends, my first boyfriend."

9. Beethoven
Symphony No 7
"Quite simply the greatest symphony of all time," is how Rice describes Beethoven's Seventh.

10. Mussorgsky
Boris Godunov

This CD is labeled 'S' for Scary

Can music be too scary? According to a profile of film composer Hans Zimmer in today's Wall Street Journal (alas, accessible only to subscribers), the British Board of Film Classification threatened to put "The Da Vinci Code" off-limits to children under 15 if Sony didn't agree to tone down Zimmer's score, which it deemed "too tense."

Marsalis blues

Wynton Marsalis is canceling all of his summer gigs.
He has dropped his entire summer schedule because of lip problems, said Helen Small, president and CEO of the sponsoring American Pianists Association.
"We were told he's been playing too much, and his lip is blown," she said Monday.

This sounds quite serious. A professional like Marsalis would not be hindered by tired chops, so a more serious injury must be the cause. Get better, Wynton.

Strike up the Band

The city of Indianapolis has started their own brass band, INergy.
The band, a joint effort of the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association and Indianapolis-based Bands of America, is scheduled to perform at events across the state to promote Indianapolis as a destination for tourists and conventions. They'll hit a number of small-town festivals.
I have mixed feelings about this. The commercialism is unsettling, especially as the band is meant to advertise Indianapolis attractions, yet it will disband at the end of the summer. But then again, it is a nice gig for college musicians. Their only danger is becoming very sick of "Back Home Again (in Indiana)" by August.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Music in the Blogs

Over at Uncertain Principles, a nice discussion has broken out about classical music, leading Chad to ask for recommendations. It also lead to Chad being accused of cultural barbarity, a strange accusation of a person willing to listen with an open mind. Also, Chad is freaking huge and used to play rugby, so it is also an unwise accusation.

Proving that the internet is tiny, a similar discussion emerged at John Scalzi's Whatever. This discussion is more specific to contemporary art music, based on a throw-away line John has in comments: "I personally point to the lack of musical appreciation courses in schools as a major portion of that problem, along with (and here my biases show through) so much of orchestral composition of the last 40 years being aggressively unlistenable."

Over at Crooked Timber, Harry asks whether the Smiths were famous because of the tortured-poet act, or because they were funny. And Fred demonstrates why repeated listenings are a good thing.

Friday, May 12, 2006

For love or culture

AC Douglas sounds off a furious* retort to my post on open discussion. But not only does he "take me behind the woodshed," as Henry Holland writes in comments here**, he does so in a highly dogmatic way to rub my face in it. [Damn, mixed metaphors again.] Yet I will pick my argument up proudly, ignoring the stinging sensation in the nether regions (the footnotes), and continue the debate through my streaming tears.

My position is based on the fact that I love music. I want to learn as much about music as I can, which means that I have to be open to learning new things. The approach that ACD espouses is by definition close-minded. He knows that his musical tastes are superior, thus he has nothing to learn from other people. I do not question ACD's love of music, and if his dogmatic approach to canon makes him happy, bravo. It does make any conversations with ACD unsatisfying. I can still learn from him, but I always feel that he is not really listening to me. And that feeling is what occurs anytime a participant in a discussion is treated as inferior. But I want to share my love of music with others, and to learn about other views of music. This is why I teach, why I blog, how I live.

*Insert joke-killing explanation that this intro is a play on ACD's blog name here.

** As ACD doesn't care to engage in dialogue, he doesn't need comments.

The Dangers of Research

A biology graduate student went to Borneo to take some samples for her thesis work. She flew there, found a guide with a canoe to take her up the river to the remote site where she would make her collections. About noon on the second day of travel up the river they began to hear drums. Being a city girl by nature, the biologist was disturbed by the noise of the drums. She asked the guide, "What are those drums?" The guide turned to her and said, "Drums OK, but VERY BAD when stop."

Many hours passed but the drumming did not cease. As the sun was about to set, suddenly the drum beats stopped... With an expression of fear on her face the biologist turned to her guide and said, "The Drums have stopped, what happens now?"

The guide crouched down, covered his head with both hands and said,

"Viola Solo."

[passed along from a colleague]

Thursday, May 11, 2006

But you're supposed to like it!

This post should have been written during TAFTO month, but I am quite late. Nevertheless, I have things to say, and promised to say them. One reason why lay people are resistant to attending classical concerts is from fear of appearing uncultured. What can be criticized, what must be worshipped, what is horrendous to admire? Classical music fans and practitioners can be snobbish, expressing horror when someone expresses a dislike for Beethoven's Emperor Concerto or Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante. I myself have felt knee-jerk reactions when people tell me they hate a particular contemporary work. I have been working on respecting these people's opinions, and in engaging in a dialogue about the music rather than a lecture.

I think it is okay to challenge the opinions of neophytes, but said challenges should not be based on the weight of authority, and always with the philosophy of chacun à son goût. If your friend doesn't like Beethoven's piano concerto, ask why. It may be too long, too much of the same, no lyrics, etc. Address any of those concerns with your own feelings and with suggested listening strategies that could counteract those negative vibes. But also accept that the person may never like Beethoven, and is not a lesser person for feeling that way. I can respect someone who feels strongly in opposition to me, as long as that person is open to hearing my opinions and can express their own opinions respectfully and cogently.

Neophytes usually do not know the technical language of music, but that does not prevent a full discussion. Terms can be defined, descriptions can be clarified. And that comes around to my own opinion on how to increase audiences at classical concerts: two-sided conversations and non-dogmatic attitudes.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Great works I have seen

I read two books during my blog silence, Neverwhere and A Tenured Professor. I was strolling through the library aisles, looking for more science fiction to read. I grabbed the Gaiman and Lethem's Fortress of Solitude (not yet read) with this intention, when the title of the Galbraith perked my curiosity. Coincidentally, I picked this book one day before he died. Neverwhere is a great exploration of culture and desire, with some good Beast-slaying thrown in. A Tenured Professor is beguiling in its quiet presentation of political bombshells. It subtlely skewers Ivy League academia, economics, high finance, the media, and (most subtlely of all) personal relationships. I need to think about it more before I can describe my interpretation, but I'd be happy to hear other opinions.

I re-watched Lola Rennt with my students last week, reminding myself what a fabulous film this is. The music is captivating, from the techno to the pseudo-Honegger synthed strings to Billy Holiday. The actors are great, and the cinematography is spectacular. The week before, we watched The Mission. I've realized that while I love the music Ennio Morricone composes, I feel that it sometimes misconnects with the film. The entirety of Mission to Mars is an example of this, but so are some parts of The Mission. When the natives first start to pursue the Portugese soldiers' canoes, Morricone provides some victorious music that seems completely out of place. It suggests that the natives are attacking for the pure pleasure of winning, rather than to save their lives and freedoms. I also think the "Ave Maria" sung by the Guarani is made overly nasal, suggesting a primitivism that is unjust.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Night of the Living Blog

So first I got sick, then I got better, then I got caught up on grading and lecture prepping that I had fallen behind on because I was sick, then I built a playset for the kids, and now I can start blogging again, just in time for the end of semester crunch. I will have a series of posts that I've been pondering, but I'll include one bit of shameless self-promotion here. The book review I've mentioned previously is now available online, at Empirical Musicology.