Thursday, January 31, 2008

What You Never Learned in School

Today members of eighth blackbird graced my three musicianship classes to talk about their education and how it affects their professional lives. The students were dismayed to hear that ear training was important. In two of the classes the importance of sight singing was particularly stressed, bringing a smile to this solfège meister (as I heal the wounds of World War I). All six members (two each came to the three classes) said they wished they had done more improvisation as undergraduates. Other skills on this wish list were score reading, transposition, and keyboard skills, eliciting more grins on my part and groans from my beloved pupils.

So, what things do you wish you had learned in school? I'd put computer programming on my list. I did learn in grad school, and even wrote some programs for my dissertation research, but learning as an undergrad would have made my life much easier later on. Other wished-for skills or knowledge are interpersonal communication, self-marketing, and weight training.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Pay it Forward

Tonight I encountered a pleasant surprise. Wednesday afternoons my daughter has choir practice in Indianapolis, ending at 5:45. Thus we often eat dinner at a restaurant on the way home, otherwise we are dining at around 7 pm. And that is not a good eating time for kids in the midwest. Tonight we decided to stop at a Cracker Barrel for dinner, right next to our more usual haunt, Steak-n-Shake. Dinner was as expected for Cracker Barrel, with fine service and good homestyle-ish food. But when the server came for the last time, she announced that she was afraid she couldn't give me a check, as someone else had already paid it and left the restaurant. This food-financier picked us, I suspect randomly, to pay forward a good deed. The guy at the table behind me was insanely jealous, even complaining to his own server about it. I still left a tip, and do plan to pay forward someone else's meal at some point, when I have time to scope the dining room to pick a table that looks worthy.

Monday, January 28, 2008

They're Heere!

That's right, all of the students are back, bursting with tales of their trips to China or to the Quik-E-Mart. I'm trying to use Moodle for all of my classes this semester, along with a spiffy new tablet PC so I can draw on scanned scores with the handy-dandy electronic pen and save the files onto Moodle for my diligent students to study slavishly. I'm also leading the School of Music's senior seminar for the first time, which should be interesting. And finally, class blogs are back! My Theory IV students will be posting weekly to Form and Analysis. This year their assignment is to write a weekly essay describing the implications of the current theory topic on the performance and appreciation of the assigned musical piece or excerpt. The first topic is modal mixture. I'll be asking you loyal readers to go bug the students with questions and comments, pointing out problems and complimenting amazing insights. In other words, to do my job for me!

Friday, January 25, 2008

FriPod: I am

1. "I'm a Man" by J. Miller and Steve Winwood, performed by the Spencer Davis Group.
I can't help but love you so.

2. "I'm Coming Virginia" by Will Marion Cook, performed by Benny Goodman on Live at Carnegie Hall.

3. "I'm Crazy 'bout My Baby" by Fats Waller, performed with Ted Lewis & His Orchestra on Jazz: The Singers 1930.
There's love, really love, on my mind.

4. "I'm Fer It Too" by Wells, performed by Lester Young on Classic Tenors.

5. "I'm Gonna Gitcha" by Lilian Armstrong, performed by Louis Armstrong on The Hot Fives and Sevens, Vol 1
You can't get away.

6. "I'm Keeping Him" by John Williams on the E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial soundtrack.

7. "I'm Old Fashioned" by Jerome Kern and Johnny Mercer, performed by John Coltrane on Blue Train.

8. "I'm Puttin' All My Eggs In One Basket" by Irving Berlin, performed by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong on Jazz Masters 24.
I've got a great big amount, saved up in my love account.

9. "I'm Ready" by Tracy Chapman on New Beginning.
I'm ready to let the rivers wash over me.

10. "I'm Sitting On Top of the World" by Sam Lewis, Joe Young, and Ray Henderson; performed by Mary Ford and Les Paul on Les Paul with Mary Ford: The Best of the Capitol Masters.
Like Humpty Dumpty, I'm ready to fall.

11. "I'm Thru With Love" by Jimmy McHugh, performed by Chet Baker on Chet Baker With Strings.

12. "(I'm Your) Hoochie Coochie Man" by Willie Dixon, performed by Muddy Waters.
I got a mojo too.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Are those rolls fresh?

I've updated my blogrolls, after admitting that they were woefully stale. I deleted any blogs that weren't updated in 2007, corrected some incorrect links, and added some blogs that I had been reading or saw recommended by other bloggers. Look through the list and enjoy the smell of baked bread.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

It's an honor to be nominated

The Academy Award nominations have been announced. I won't try to make predictions, since I've only seen two of the films nominated for the music categories (Enchanted and Ratatouille (yes, I have young children, why do you ask?)). For original score: Atonement by Dario Marianelli, The Kite Runner by Alberto Iglesias, Michael Clayton by James Newton Howard, Ratatouille by Michael Giacchino, and 3:10 to Yuma by Marco Beltrami. This is the second nomination for Marianelli (Pride & Prejudice) and Iglesias (The Constant Gardener), whereas Newton Howard is an old hand with four other Original Score nominations (The Village, My Best Friend's Wedding, The Fugitive, The Prince of Tides) and two Original Song nominations ("For the First Time" and "Look What Love Has Done"). Alex Ross has lauded Giacchino's work on "Lost" and "Alias", and Giacchino has won honors for his video game compositions (Call of Duty, Medal of Honor). He's also experienced at composing for animated films, having scored The Incredibles. Likewise Beltrami has plenty of experience with action films (Live Free or Die Hard, XXX State of the Union, Cursed, I Robot, Hellboy, Terminator 3, Blade II, Resident Evil, etc.).

For original song: "Falling Slowly" from Once, Music and Lyric by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova; "Raise It Up" from August Rush, Nominees to be determined; and three songs from Enchanted by Alan Menken (music) and Stephen Schwartz (lyrics) "Happy Working Song," "So Close,” and "That’s How You Know." Of the three Enchanted songs, I like "Thats How You Know" best. But it is weird, since I felt all the songs in that movie were meant to be parodies of conventional Disney songs, with "That's How You Know" as a pastiche of Menken's Caribbean-flavored songs in The Little Mermaid and "Happy Working Song" poking fun at the songs of Cinderella. Thus I don't feel comfortable with the idea of this music being awarded as a best original song. (Sidebar: DePauw is doing a production of Schwartz's Children of Eden musical right now.) "Falling Slowly" is rather simple and veers perilously close to being overly sentimental, but has some good lyrics and Glen Hansard is very witty.

Here is a list of all the songs submitted for consideration.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I Dream of Tuesdays

I meant to write a MLK post yesterday, but got distracted by other things. Last Friday in class we had a really good discussion on rap music. The all-white class first described things they didn't like about rap music, mostly the lyrics with violence, materialism and female objectification. Then they came up with reasons why the music has those features (not all rap has these features, of course). Rap, like British punk music, was born out of crippling poverty. Hence a focus on material goods makes sense, as being poor places an emphasis on material needs. Resentment about being poor and being subjected to racial discrimination (two things that MLK understood very well to being tied together), leads naturally to expressions of violence. It was great to see these mostly privileged white students gain a greater appreciation for both the art form of rap and the affects of economic status on their own aesthetics. I went through the same journey myself, and in fact am still making realizations about it.

I also have a dream about two Korean rap songs that sample Pachelbel's Kanon in D played on gayageum (via Making Light).

Saturday, January 19, 2008


Bernard Chazelle of A Tiny Revolution has written a love ode to the Allegretto from Beethoven's Seventh Symphony (via Making Light). Deeming it the "Greatest. Music. Ever." Bernard goes through a brief analysis before deciding that he loves it so much because "[i]f you listen to the Allegretto a lot and let it sing in your head, you'll begin to hear not just the harmony provided by the composer but a million others you anticipate subconsciously. Like sea waves crashing upon the shore and interfering among one another in unpredictable ways. Somehow, it seems that Beethoven engineered the most fabulous interferences ever." One thing Bernard doesn't mention that I find so perplexing and attention-grabbing is the opening and closing chord. The A minor chord is played in second inversion, so the fifth of the chord is in the bass. This is a very unstable voicing, creating tension at the beginning like the musical equivalent of a dark and foggy waterfront. We know something will happen, but what? The same chord at the ending has two functions. First, it leads us to the rollicking Presto that resolves that unstable E in the bass up to an F for the tonic of the third movement. Second, the unstable final chord makes us question what we've heard and where we've been for the 8+ minutes of that second movement. Was it a complete thought, did we witness the complete solemn ceremony? Or is there more that we will miss as we are whisked away to the country dance of the Presto? The starting and ending chord lends an air of mystery in a subtle and insidious way, making the whole movement and the whole symphony that much more beautiful.

Friday, January 18, 2008

FriPod: Princes and Princesses

1. "The appearance of the thirteen enchanted princesses", "Dialogue between Kashchei and Prince Ivan", "The Firebird appears, pursued by Prince Ivan", etc. from The Firebird by Igor Stravinsky, performed by a) the Philharmonia Orchestra with Esa-Pekka Salonen, b) Stravinsky conducting a French orchestra.

2. "Dance of The Polovtsian Maidens" from Prince Igor by Alexander Borodin, performed by Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic.

3. "Polovetsian Dances" from Prince Igor, performed by a) von Karajan and Berlin, b) Empire Brass.

4. "Ni sna ni otdycha izmucennoj duše" from Prince Igor, performed by Bryn Terfel on Opera Arias.

5. "Gentil Prince" (anonymous) and Piva on "Gentile Prince" arranged by Tom Zajac, performed by Piffaro on Music from the Odhecaton.

6. "Air Du Prince Sou-Chong: 'Je T'Ai Donne'" from Le Pays Du Sourire by Franz Lehar, performed by Maurice Andre.

7. "The Story Of The Kalender Prince" and "The Young Prince & The Young Princess" from Scheherazade by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov, performed by Yuri Temirkanov and the New York Philharmonic.

8. "Singing Princess" by Harry Gregson-Williams & John Powell on the Shrek soundtrack.

9. "Someday My Prince Will Come" by Frank Churchill and Larry Morey, performed by a) Chick Corea Akoustic Band, b) John Coltrane, c) Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble.

10. " Le Prince et la Princesse" from The Love For Three Oranges Suite by Sergei Prokofiev, performed by Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra.

11. Suite in D: 4. Rondeau (The Prince of Denmark's March) by Jeremiah Clarke, performed by Hakan Hardenberger.

Bon Jovi, Britney and Blogging

First, a thank you to John Scalzi for hosting the symposium on the semiotics of hair bands. If only it had been held a day earlier, I could've used it in my class when we discussed the different types of heavy metal. I particularly like the reaction against short hair of punk music theory.

Second, today we wrapped up the 90's and 00's in class, including a look at Britney Spears' "...Baby One More Time". All of my students had grown up with this song, since it came out when they were in 4th or 5th grade. They had heard it hundreds or thousands of times. Yet none of them knew that it was about boyfriend-on-girlfriend abuse. Once I pointed it out, they could all hear the references in the lyrics. "How was I supposed to know that something wasn't right... Give me a sign/Hit me baby one more time." They still couldn't hear the edge in her voice created by the electronic manipulation and parallel chords in the backing vocals, showing her conflicted tension at wanting to please her abusive boyfriend. How about you?

Third, a question on blogging etiquette: I received an offer to list my blog on this other person's blogroll in exchange for listing his blog on my blogroll. While that was normal behavior a few years ago at the start of blogging, I have the slight suspicion that it isn't as kosher today. Blogrolls can be regarded as indicating different things. It could be a complete list of blogs the blogger reads regularly. It could be a list of the most important blogs on that topic. It could be a comprehensive list of all blogs on that topic. Or it could be a circular community of compensatory linking blogs. For social blogs, I can see the appropriateness of the last type, but for more professional, topic-oriented, or academic blogs, I think one of the first three types is better. I've been striving for a comprehensive list, though I admit I have slacked on adding new blogs recently or checking the list for dead links. What do you see as appropriate blogrolling behavior?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Bagels, Beats, and Beatles

Last Friday we ended up not going to the Doors tribute band, because the venue was 21+. So the last minute replacement was Little Voice, a local indie trio playing at Strange Brew Cafe in Greenwood (an Indianapolis suburb). This was their last gig until after the lead singer has her baby. Though there were a few issues with tuning, they were very entertaining and had some thought-provoking lyrics.

On Monday Phil Ford came to give a guest lecture on teen exploitation films, particularly Beat Girl, and how it demonstrates the gulf between adults and the new youth culture of the late 1950's. This was great, exposing my students to academic theories of culture that I don't know well.

Today Phil's colleague, Glenn Gass, gave a guest lecture on the Beatles' High Art period ('65-'67). Glenn, a Greencastle native, is incredibly enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the Beatles. He went from Rubber Soul to Sgt. Pepper's in 1.5 hours for an enthralled audience.

And to ice the cake, I finished planning the whole semester for one of my upcoming classes. I feel very good about the pedagogy, and think I can apply to one of my other classes.

Friday, January 11, 2008

We're taking over!

I just discovered that we have been outed to the wide world: Classical Music Blogs. Commence editing!

FriPod: Babies

I realized the other day that "baby" returned a good number of songs on my iTunes.  Hence this FriPod.

1.  "The Arrival of Baby Harry" by John Williams, on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone soundtrack.  Starts with a creepy/magical celesta sound, followed by swirling strings.  Now the english horn introduces more strings with bell towers, some wordless chorus, all anticipatory of the arrival.  Ah, now Harry's theme comes in, that's the arrival we've been waiting for.  The second part is happier, but very brief.  Harry has a hard life ahead.

2.  "Baby, Don't Tell on Me" by Lester Young, Count Basie, and Jimmy Rushing; performed by the Count Basie Orchestra on The Essential Count Basie, Volume 1.  Nice muted trumpet solo for this blues.  Jimmy sings, apparently on his criminal activities that his lover shouldn't squeal about.

3.  "Babyface" by U2 on Zooropa.  Interesting fusion of Bono's lower register with someone (Bono?) singing falsetto an octave higher.  

4.  "Didn't Leave Nobody But the Baby", traditional tune arranged by Gillian Welch and T Bone Burnett, sung by Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack.  Beautiful three-part harmony with a haunting bowed saw (or theremin?) and a guitar that seems off on its own world.

5.  "I Found a New Baby" by J. Palmer and S. Williams, performed by the Benny Goodman Sextet on Charlie Christian: Genius of Electric Guitar.  One of the first integrated jazz combos, this showcases Charlie's great blues feel.  The piano and Benny trade comical little licks, very flighty.

6.  "I'm Crazy 'bout my Baby" by Fats Waller, performed by Fats Waller with Ted Lewis & his orchestra, on Jazz: The Singers 1930s.  Fortunately, Fats' baby is crazy about him as well, since Cupid is their teacher.

7.  "I'm Nobody's Baby" by Ager, Davis, and Santly; performed by Mildred Bailey & her orchestra, on Little Jazz.  A great trumpet solo by Roy Eldridge, such a fat yet mellow sound.  And his bends seem like trombone glissandi, they are so clear.

8.  "There Goes My Baby" by Nelson, Patterson, and Treadwell, performed by The Drifters on The Best of the Drifters.  Heavily produced, with strings and strong reverb on the drums and voices to give a very spacial feel.  In the fourth verse producers Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber put a cello line that they claim resembles Rimsky-Korsakov.  

9.  "Hush Little Baby" traditional melody, performed by Yo-Yo Ma and Bobby McFerrin on Hush.  Very upbeat, not a lullaby.  

10.  "When My Baby Smiles at Me" by Bill Munro and Harry von Tilzer, performed by Benny Goodman on Live at Carnegie Hall.  A great little number (50 seconds), it sounds like a cross between Dixieland and klezmer.  

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Tribute bands

Tomorrow I'm taking my class to a Doors tribute band, called Strange Daze. How do you feel about tribute bands? Are they a vital part of rock culture, or sad museum exhibits?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Look Ma, I'm on TV!

Well, I'm not physically on TV, and it's blog-TV rather than real TV, but Jason Heath has recorded about 5 minutes of ruminations on my top 50 lists (see links over on the left). Other than misspelling my name (hey, my own wife misspelled it after we had been dating for a year) and announcing the wrong URL (it's okay, since he provides working links), it was a nice little thrill to hear my name mentioned several times. So go watch, and get the popularity of that video post up beyond a paltry 5%.

Who is this "I" of which you speak?

Today in History of R&R we were discussing the Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand," and the subject of Lennon and McCartney's unison singing came up. The lyrics are about the singer wanting to hold the hand of his/her love. What does it mean that two men are singing the lyrics at the same time? One student said he assumed the two people were singing to each other, that they had idyllically identical emotions for each other. Thus John and Paul want to hold each others hands for a charming tribute to homosexual relationships. (The emphasis on "hand" in each refrain through the split to separate notes takes on an interesting light with this interpretation.) Another interpretation is that the two men are vying for the affection of a woman, both of them wanting to hold her hand. And yet another is that the blending of two voices together represents an ideal Everyman who wants to hold Everywoman's (or another Everyman's) hand in a celebration of romantic love. Thus the listener can place his/her love as the singer, since a specific identity has been hidden through the fusing of John's and Paul's voices.

Then again, it could just be because it sounds nice.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Day for the King

I'd be remiss in my History of Rock&Roll duties if I didn't acknowledge Elvis Presley's birthday today. Born in 1935, he'd be 73 today if still alive (insert conspiracy theory here). Curl a lip in honor of the king.

Music for coping

Blogging on Peer-Reviewed ResearchWhen children are being treated for cancer, they usually need help to cope with all of the stress and emotions that are engendered. A study by Indiana University's School of Nursing (along with many contributing institutions/authors) investigated three environmental conditions on cancer patients ages 4-7: active music engagement (AME), music listening (ML), and audio storybooks (ASB). Active Music Engagement is a program that involves playing hand held instruments and singing action songs like "Five Little Monkeys" to allow the patients to work out stress and pain. It's been used as music therapy for burn patients and pain management, and relationships between patients with dementia and their spousal caregivers. This study found that the patients who received the AME had significantly higher coping behaviors than the other two conditions (ML and ASB). These coping behaviors were positive facial effect, active engagement with others, and initiation of activities. Initiation of activities was about equal for both music conditions, significantly greater than the storybook listeners.

Sherri L. Robb, et al. "Randomized controlled trial of the active music engagement (AME) intervention on children with cancer." Psycho-Oncology (Nov. 21, 2007 online).

IUPUI article, TherapyTimes article.

Monday, January 07, 2008


Phil Ford is back from vacation with a very thorough listing of presidential campaign music. It's both less judgmental and more complete than Wonkette's rant (no grade higher than a C?) New York Times reporter Ben Werschkul had a series of reports almost a year ago, including some almost candidates at the Democratic National Committee winter meetings. And breaking it Old School is a listing of campaign music from 1840 to 1920, provided by Parlor Songs.

Additions to Phil's list:
Joe Biden: "Centerfield"
Wesley Clark: "Waiting on the World to Change"
Hillary Clinton: "Right Here, Right Now" "Blue Sky"
Chris Dodd: "Get Ready"
John Edwards: "This is Our Country"
Rudy Guiliani: "Life is a Highway"
Mike Gravel: "Power to the People"
Mike Huckabee: "Free Bird"
Dennis Kucinich: "America the Beautiful"
Bill Richardson: "Lean on Me" "Baby I Love Your Way" "Mess We're In"
Tom Vilsack: "Reach Out I'll Be There"
George Washington: "God Save George Washington"
George McClellan: "Little Mac! Little Mac! You're the Very Man" (by Stephen Foster!)

Friday, January 04, 2008

FriPod: Rock-n-Roll never dies

I'm back from the holidays, and just finished the second day of my Winter Term course, the History of Rock and Roll. It's fun so far, though the students are still getting back into classroom mode.

1. "Big Rock Candy Mountain" by Harry McClintock on the O Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack. Not really rock, but it is part of the rock-n-roll genealogy as we discussed yesterday and today.

2. "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me" by Billy Joel on Glass Houses. I had a friend in high school who made a karaoke tape of this, which haunts me to this day.

3. "Jailhouse Rock" by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, performed by Elvis Presley. Written by two white guys who thought they were black, performed by the first white guy to sing rhythm-n-blues.

4. "Rock 'n Roll Music" by Chuck Berry. I'm getting slightly tired of this music, since it is used as the title music for the History of Rock and Roll Video series I'm screening for class.

5. "Rock Around the Clock" by Max Freedman and Jimmy DeKnight, performed by Bill Haley and the Comets. I'd like to hear more accordion on this. Happy Days anyone?

6. "Rock-a-Bye Basic" by Shad Collins, Lester Young, Count Basie, Arranged by Jimmy Mundy for the Count Basie Orchestra. Another ancestor of R&R.

7. "Rocker" by Gerry Mulligan, performed by Miles Davis on Birth of the Cool.

8. "Rocket 88" by Ike Turner, performed by Jackie Brenston and the Delta Cats. Jackie is credited with this song, but Ike really wrote it.

9. "Rockin' In Rhythm" by Harry Carney, Duke Ellington, And Irving Mills, performed by the Duke Ellington Orchestra.

10. "The Rocky Road to Dublin" performed by The Chieftains & The Rolling Stones on The Long Black Veil.

11. "Jelly Roll Blues" by Jelly Roll Morton, performed by Louis Armstrong.

12. "Let the Good Times Roll" by Sam Theard and Fleecie Moore, performed by Ray Charles on Ray!

13. "Roll 'Em Pete" by Joe Turner and Pete Johnson, performed by Joe Turner.

14. "Shake, Rattle and Roll" by C. Calhoun, performed by Joe Turner. Today we looked at the changes between Turner's version and Bill Haley's cover.