Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Music Jokes for the Holidays

My parents gave me a T-shirt that says, "E = Fb, The Einstein Theory for Musicians" which is pretty damn funny. But being the theory geek that I am, I had to think of a way to more closely mimic the theory of relativity in music terms. And I came up with one, with the added bonus that it involves an operation that only graduate music theory students ever hear about:

E = M4(C#)

M is an operation in pitch class theory, usually only associated with 12-tone rows and only as M5 or M7. The operation is a multiplier, multiplying the pitch class(es) that follow it in parentheses by the subscripted number. M5 and M7 are particularly cool because they convert the chromatic scale to the circle of fifths and vice versa. M4 wouldn't be very useful as a 12-tone operator, as the results on a typical row would end up with only three pitch classes, (0 4 8). But it will convert a C# (pitch class 1) to an E (pitch class 4). In other words: 4 = 4 x 1. And people say that music theory is hard.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Caroling or Wassailing, you make the call!

Many bloggers have been writing about Winter Holiday songs. Kieran lists four he likes: "Baby It's Cold Outside," "Quoi, ma Voisine, Es-tu Fachée? (Neighbor, Neighbor)," "Watchman Tell Us of the Night," and "Fairytale of New York." Commenters offer their own choices of interesting holiday songs, including a Jewish "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen." John Scalzi asks what Christmas song you would expunge from the history of mankind if you had the power. His choice: "Feliz Navidad." Lynn Sislo lists her favorite Christmas songs, while Jaquandar lists both his favorite CDs and hated songs.

I like many Christmas songs, as long as they are only heard during the month of December. I used part of "O Little Town of Bethlehem" for a two-voice dictation in my theory final exam, I love "In the Bleak Midwinter" and "Lo, How a Rose is blooming," and every holiday we sing through about 20 carols in a single sitting. But just yesterday I heard the song I have decided is the worst Christmas song ever. On WFIU's daily jazz programming, many great jazzy holiday songs were being played, and some more questionable choices, including Jaquandar's despised "Two Front Teeth" as played by Spike Jones. But just as I was pulling into my son's daycare center, I heard something quite awful: "I Ain't Getting Nothing For Christmas." It's sung by a boy who has committed all sorts of horrible acts, and therefore will not be getting any presents from his parents. It combines horrible music, horrible lyrics, and an annoying child's voice. I submit this as the song that must be expunged from history.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Blogging minorities

A discussion started brewing over at Crooked Timber while I was on my hiatus, on gender and blogging. In the post, Kieran points out that bloggers may be more likely to link to people like themselves than to different people, an internet version of the old boy's club. Looking at my blogroll, I have 11 women and 28 men (and 7 group blogs). My percentage is rather higher than those mentioned in Kieran's post. I don't think this is due to my enlightened awareness of gender equity, but rather due to my field. In my first year at DePauw, I was at a new faculty workshop on teaching issues. We started discussing the issues of women as a minority in the classroom. But in music, women are usually the majority. I pointed this out, and said that the real issue in music classes was racial mixes. Black classical music students are very rare, despite significant efforts by universities, conservatories, and professional organizations. In my three years at DePauw, I've had only five black students out of about sixty different students in my classes. I never think about whether I'm treating female students differently from male students, but I have had qualms when correcting a black student in class or giving a black student a bad grade. I've never had a complaint, and I always base my grades and comments on objective criteria, but I still double-check myself sometimes.

I couldn't tell you what the racial makeup of my blogroll is, beyond a few bloggers who post their pictures. I had never even given it a thought until reading Kieran's post. However, I'm willing to bet that my blogroll is much more homogenous by race than by gender. The real question is, should I be more active in looking for differing perspectives on the world, whether they are female, black, hispanic, Republican, or Country-Western perspectives? How active are you in seeking the Other?

Monday, December 20, 2004

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

My apologies for the unexpected pause in blogging. Last week I gave my final exams and graded final projects, thinking I would still have plenty of time to blog. But then my kids got sick, I got sick, and my wife got pneumonia (she always has to one-up me). I suddenly had to nurse myself and everyone else in the family, while trying to continue some semblance of preparation for Christmas and finishing grades. I did not even look at blogs last week. The break was actually quite nice (other than the sickness stuff). But everyone is better now, and my grading is completed (well, I'm waiting for one set of grades from a co-teacher before submitting final grades for one class).

What I would have blogged about last week:

  • I listened to A.C. Clarke's Hammer of God (inspired by Kate Nepveu's review of audio books I checked my first book-on-CD out from the public library) in the same week that The West Wing has an asteroid hurtling toward the earth. That's just too weird.
  • Barnes and Noble has a big Thomas the Train setup in their children's area. This is a huge help when I need to get the kids away from their sick mother, yet I'm not up to strenuous activities. I sit and read, they play.
  • What did I read? I used birthday money to get Terry Pratchett's Monstrous Regiment, Carpe Jugulum, and Wyrd Sisters; and Steven Brust's Issola. Entertainment reading, highly enjoyable and highly amusing while not being trite.
  • Political stuff, seen at Left2right and my brother's blog. I really like Left2right, for the thoughtful posts and for the intelligent comments from quite varied political perspectives. And I had to mention my brother since he actually posted again after a three-week hiatus!
  • That my blog is #6 in Yahoo for "Historical Mexican musical stars and their music." Who knew?

So, what did I miss?

Sunday, December 12, 2004

iTunes Troubles

I've been ripping my CD collection into iTunes, and I've come up with two concerns. First, it seems that every classical disc has a different format for presenting information. The iTunes categories of Song Name, Time, Artist, Album, and Genre are designed for pop/rock/jazz, not classical. Classical recordings usually have both performers and composers that you want to list, and iTunes only gives one category for both. Some classical CDs have the composer in the album name, but that doesn't work with a multi-composer album. Most pieces are multimovement works , so how to indicate both the name of the larger work and the individual movement or song is an issue. Some list the large work: movement under Song Name, some put the larger work in Song Name and the individual movement in Artist, and the worst ones put the larger name just for the first movement and then just give the movement names in Artist. This is a problem when playing individual movements rather than whole works.

That leads to the second issue, whether to join multi-movement works into single tracks for iTunes. iTunes allows you to join tracks together when ripping mp3s, so tracks 1-4 would be recorded as a single mp3 file. I think I'm at the stage of ripping separate tracks for each movement. I would like to have recitatives joined with their subsequent arias, but identifying those on each opera and oratorio CD will make the process much longer. While I would like to have a whole symphony show up when I listen to party shuffle mode, I also want to be able to access separate movements for teaching purposes (see Kyle Gann's plans for that.)

How have you dealt with these issues?

Perfect Pop

John Scalzi wondered how many perfect pop songs he had in iTunes that were exactly 3 minutes long. Chad Orzel listed his 3:00 songs, but suggested the need for a control list to compare the 3:00 list to. He chose 4:33 (or should I write 4'33"?) and still found a significant number of good pop songs. Scalzi responds with a new duration determined by starting with the most perfect pop song, "There She Goes" by The La's.
For my money, "There She Goes" is nearly impossible to beat in its pop perfection: from the tips of its chiming guitars to the bottom of its blissful lyrics, it simply doesn't get any better than this. If aliens came down and said that we had just shade under three minutes to justify our existence or we'd be evaporated -- well, I wouldn't necessarily suggest playing this song, but I might suggest someone put it on in the background while we boot up Stephen Hawking's voice synthesizer.

This song is 2:42, so John takes this as the duration to check, and finds it to be the winner. Chad agrees and everyone had fun sorting their iTunes list by duration (it makes for some interesting shuffle listening). I'm not a big pop collector, but in comments I did offer some pop tunes from the 20's through 40's, otherwise known as swing.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Dueling analysts

Scott Strader has taken up my challenge to analyze Chopin's 2nd Prelude in A minor. Okay, he actually answered this challenge several weeks ago, but for some reason I never heard about it. (Has anyone else noticed that Technorati misses a lot of links?) The analysis is found here, with reactions from me in the comments. Scott has a very nice score uploaded, so following the discussion is very easy. I've also added his blog, Message from the Ether, to my blogroll.

Journal Club: Farewell to the Crematorium

My students have made their last posts to The Musical Crematorium, scripts for presentations of scientific research on music. They each picked a journal article to present, and were required to completely script their presentation, accounting for necessary language shifts from a written format to an oral presentation. They gave their presentations on Wednesday and today, and turned in their final portfolios. Now I need to read and grade them! I will turn the administration of The Musical Crematorium over to interested students, who may want to keep blogging. I am quite happy with the maiden voyage of class blogging (for me), and plan to use this quite often in the future.

To make this post a double whammy of seminar stuff and Journal Club stuff, I will fill in some gaps of a few presentations.

"Speech Patterns Heard Early in Life Influence Later Perception of the Tritone Paradox" examines one of Diana Deutsch's main research topics, the tritone paradox. There is a musical sound called the Shepard's tone, which is designed to be registerally ambiguous. A listener can tell that a C was played, but not which octave placement of that C. It sounds much like an organ stop, with lots of different registers involved in a big bell curved amplitude arrangement. Deutsch found an interesting phenomenon when using Shepard's tones to examine the perception of musical intervals. When the two notes of the interval were spaced a tritone apart, exactly one half of an octave, listeners disagreed whether the first note was higher than the second note. With any other melodic interval there was complete agreement on ascending or descending sounds. But at the tritone, some listeners would judge the interval as ascending and others as descending. This particular article shows that the language learned as a child biases a person towards a particular frequency range, and thus affects how the tritone is perceived. This is a very interesting link between music and language.

"Music in everyday life" doesn't have any gaps, but it does describe an interesting experiment that many of you will find interesting, so I am pointing it out. People were surveyed via cell phone texting to find out what role music has in the span of a normal day. Many of the results are predictable, but one was quite surprising: most people listen to music in the company of others, rather than alone. I still wonder if listening to one's iPod while standing near other people counts as social listening, since the others can't hear the same music.

"Vowel Modification Revisited" is a less scientific article, and the presentation misses most of the science that is present. First a brief explanation of formants. All pitched sounds are made up of many frequencies, even if we only hear one frequency/pitch. The difference in the amplitude of upper frequencies cause the difference in tone quality that makes a clarinet sound different from a flute, a cello different from a trombone. When speaking or singing, a person changes the shape of his/her mouth, nasal passages, and throat to favor various ranges of frequencies. These ranges are the formants, which determine the vowel sound we hear. An 'o' has lower formants (usually only the first two are considered) than 'ah' or 'ee'. The article shows how singers alter the formants from typical positions as associated with a given vowel. Bright vowels, like 'ee' are made darker when singing higher notes. An article from Nature is a better scientific take on this subject, "Tuning of vocal tract resonances by sopranos". The authors have made an online page with sound files demonstrating the vowel shifts, and some additional definitions of formants and the physics of singing. Note the challenge to sopranos in the middle of the page, to make clearly perceived differences in vowel sounds at high registers. It is really a challenge to anyone with access to a willing soprano, to see if you can perceive vowel differences at high registers.

The other posts are on emotional intelligence and musical performance, the spatial perception of music, and absolute pitch (the technical name for perfect pitch). Thanks to everyone who did make comments on the blog. It meant a lot to the students to get feedback from "outsiders."

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

New part of the blogroll

I did it. I added a bunch of book blogs and author blogs to my blogrolls. I decided to listen to my rant about living life rather than career, throw caution to the wind, etc. I'm going to stop watching any TV other than West Wing and Scrubs. I'm going to try to limit my blogging, including getting rid of the Blogshares stuff. It was eating up time playing at "stocks" without any financial or intellectual gains. I'd rather read and write, and play the trumpet and piano. Of course, any way that I could go from $1000 to $10,000,000 in two months in real life would be welcomed!

Scholars for Social Responsibility

At the November joint meeting of the American Musicological Society and the Society for Music Theory, a group of music scholars met to discuss social responsibility, ending up with a document that was signed by the participants. This is a similar document to the one signed by participants at a similar meeting within the International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition in August. The AMS/SMT group has called themselves Scholars for Social Responsibility. They have a website that describes the agenda and the results of the meeting, and provides an opportunity for people who were not at the meeting to electronically sign the declaration. You do not need to be a member of SMT or AMS to sign, though you probably should be a professional scholar of some sort. Scholars for Social Responsibility have also started a listserv email list to continue the discussion.

I didn't attend the November conference, and I missed the meeting at ICMPC in August because my dinner took too long (caused by slow service and having the kids along). But as you can tell by any of my political posts, I strongly agree with the stance taken by both groups. I have signed the declaration, and will be taking part in the listserv discussion. I encourage any of my scholar readers to do likewise. The declaration reads as follows:
Prompted by the war in Iraq, waged by a coalition led by the US and UK governments, and in the light of the ensuing occupation and continuing violence and loss of life and property, we, the undersigned, comprising an international group of scholars meeting at Seattle, Washington, November 12, 2004:

* express our commitment to the principle of international cooperation and its application to the constructive, long-term resolution of international problems, and adherence to international law;
* encourage study of the profound moral and legal questions raised by the preemptive use of military power;
* peacefully oppose governmental, individual, and corporate acts that impede, disregard, override, or ignore the sanctity of human life;
* seek to promote these views throughout the international community.

Anyone signing now is listed separately as a Post-Conference signatory, so don't worry that you weren't at the meeting.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Evil twin?

terminaldegree has her own evil twin, so why not me? This one is more realistically dressed, has my hair and beard and glasses, and my overbearing intellectual abilities. Crap, I'm the evil twin!

They are big, they are large, they are huge, Giant Steps!

From Casper, I find out about this interesting analysis of Coltrane's "Giant Steps." Not only does Ian Houghton (or is it Tommy Flanagan, hard to tell) provide a possible explanation for the chord progression, he provides a nifty visual presentation in real time to the music. The explanation does lack some important details, which I will try to deduce.

The chords are arranged around three key areas, B major, G major, and Eb major. For each key, the chords follow the typical jazz (and tonal) progression II - V - I, so in B major the progression is c#m7 - F#7 - B . The key areas are separated by major 3rds (G to B, Eb to G, and B to Eb(D#), known as the chromatic mediant relationship (keys a third apart but sharing the same major or minor mode). Ian (or Tommy) calls this the ditone relationship, and points out that B, G, and Eb equally divide an octave into three parts. The author also points out the quadratone relationship, which is quite unnecessary. The quadratone progression from G to Eb can be explained as a descending ditone.

What the author really misses is how the individual chords progress from one to the next. The first five chords of "Giant Steps," F#7 - D7 - G - Bb7 - Eb, move directly from the V of B major to the V of G major. This cannot be waved away as a "ditone progression" without further explication. Instead, we need to look at what notes are shared between the two chords, and what is changed. F#7 has the notes F# A# C# E, D7 has F# A C D (rearranged so commonalities can be seen). The F# is the only shared note between the two chords. Two notes slide down a half step (A# to A, and C# to C), and one note slides down a whole step (E to D). Viewed from the neo-Riemannian perspective I posted about earlier, the original F#7 chord was transformed by a few operations to become D7, those operations part of a large pattern that governs the ordering of all the chords. Dealing with seventh chords is more complex than triads, though Adrian Childs has developed a neo-Riemannian system for seventh chords: "Moving beyond Neo-Riemannian Triads: Exploring a Transformational Model for Seventh Chords," Journal of Music Theory Vol. 42/2 (1998), 181-193. Analysts have used other explanations for this progression, from strange altered pivot chords to theories of altered dissonance and consonance patterns. But none so far have provided the nice animation that Ian/Tommy did.

Since music analysis is just an attempt to explain the logic of music, why a melody or chord progression sounds like it makes sense, what is your analysis of "Giant Steps?" Do the first five chords make sense to you? If so, how do the chords seem to belong together?

Monday, December 06, 2004

New and Improved Snake Oil?

The United Church of Christ, in which I was raised as a youth, is trying to advertise on all the major networks. While the main news is that CBS and NBC have rejected one ad because it criticizes other churches for condemning homosexuals, the linked article quotes a professor of marketing who cautions about churches advertising in the first place:
Ellen Garbarino, assistant professor of marketing at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, said church advertising, like a pitch for soap, can help provide consumer awareness and lead to sampling. Then it's up to the church to keep a new member, she said.

But the UCC might face a consumer backlash, according to Garbarino, who said people expect ads on cars and candy, not necessarily churches.

I remember the Mormon church advertising regularly when I was a youngster in the '70s. That was the only way that I even knew what a Mormon was, growing up in Wisconsin suburbia. The Episcopal Church tried advertising a few years ago, but I haven't heard any mention of it since, other than regular sponsorship of the local NPR station by several local churches. The point is, church advertising is not exactly new. Thus I would expect a marketing professor to have statistics to back up claims for caution. Perhaps Prof. Garbarino does have such stats, and was cut short by the reporter. In that case I criticize the reporter for creating the incorrect impression that mainline churches have not regularly advertised before.

(via Marcus Maroney)

Fighting amusia, one tin ear at a time

From PZ Meyers, I find out that I too can be a superhero.

I think I used less restraint than PZ, opting for the thigh high boots, the cool visor (the glasses provided were too big to adequately show my own), and a cool Pharoah beard (they didn't have a Van Dyke like mine). I managed to resist the jet pack, though I was tempted by the big wings. The ring is used to bring about harmonic resonance, naturally.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Journal Club: Rats and Mozart

This is actually an old article, published in Music Perception's Winter 2003 issue. But the title is great, and it's on my mind because I had my seminar students read the article and prepare a group presentation on it. (Their last writing assignment is to prepare a script for a 10-minute presentation on a research article about music and science.) The title of the article is "Do Rats Show a Mozart Effect?" by Kenneth M. Steele. The article examines the results of another article, "Improved maze learning through early music exposure in rats," in Neurological Research, 20 (1998). This earlier article is by the grandmother of the Mozart Effect, Frances Rauscher (with co-authors). She first claimed that listening to Mozart's Sonata for Two Pianos in D major, K 448 increased spatial reasoning in 1993. This claim sparked all sorts of Mozart for Baby products as parents hoped to make their wee ones geniuses merely by playing some classical music to them. Music educators also hopped on the bandwagon, using the results to justify more support for music programs in schools. Recent studies by one of Rauscher's associates have attempted to generalize the Mozart effect to Alzheimer patients and epileptic patients. Alzheimer patients listening to Mozart did better on a visual-spatial task; epileptic patients had fewer seizures, even if in a coma!

The problem is, laboratories that attempt to replicate the Mozart Effect are more likely to fail than succeed. Steele cites twelve studies that failed to produce the result, and two that did produce the effect. The two positive results have been explained by arousal or preference differences, not priming of the spatial reasoning parts of the brain. In efforts to counter the claim that any Mozart effect is caused by arousal (liking the music), Rauscher and some colleagues showed the Mozart effect in rats. As rats do not share our cultural preferences, any effect must be neurophysiological.

Rats were bred in the presence of a repeating loop of the Mozart sonata, Philip Glass's Music With Changing Parts, or white noise. Pregnant rats were exposed to one of these conditions for 12 hours each day through gestation. The birthed rats were exposed to the sound for another 60 days. Then the rat pups were run through a maze. Groups were trained on the maze with one of the sounds present, so some were exposed to the same sound but other groups were exposed to a different stimulus. The Mozart-reared group did best in learning the maze, regardless of what music was played. Sounds good, right?

The problem is, rats are born deaf. They cannot perceive any air-borne sounds until 11 days after birth, and no skull-conducted sounds until 7 days after birth. So no sound signals were reaching the rat fetuses, and no sounds for the first week of the 5 week testing. But the rats do get 4 weeks of sound, and the mothers could be affected, right? Well, rats hear frequencies effectively between 8,000 Hz and 32,000 Hz. The entire piano keyboard ranges from 27.5 Hz to 4186 Hz, so even the highest piano note is below the rat's threshold of perception. Even at the loud levels of the study (65-70 dB) the rat could perhaps hear some notes within the piano range, but only about 1/3 of the notes of the Mozart sonata assuming no masking effects of noise from ventilation fans and computers.

Steele claims that the "effect" on the rats was a litter effect, genetic disposition of the rats, as all the Mozart-reared rats came from the same mothers. He also points out other questionable procedural methods of Rauscher's group, choosing groups with no blinding procedures to keep scientist bias out. So the answer is, rats do not show the Mozart effect. Thus, any observed Mozart effect in humans (which is still controversial at best) is still best explained by arousal rather than brain re-wiring.

Update: Rereading this, I decided to point out that Rauscher has responded well to her critics. She emphasizes active music making over passive listening for any cognitive improvements. And Rauscher did not make outlandish claims of boosts to IQ in her reports. Newspapers misused her research (no surprise there), as did music educators and various companies. Rauscher only claimed an effect on the cognition of spatial relations. I also found out after writing this post that Frances Rauscher is an accomplished cellist as well as psychologist. She has a bachelor's degree in performance from Julliard, and even soloed with the National Symphony Orchestra. (bio here) And finally, while I think Steele has pointed out some serious flaws to Rauscher's research methods, I don't think he has completely disproven the legitimacy of the Mozart effect either.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

What do we live for?

Various scientific bloggers have been lamenting the low level of scientific knowledge as exhibited by the masses. PZ Meyers fumes over the 45% of Americans who believe in young-earth creationism. Chad Orzel points out that 34% of women believe the Sun goes around the Earth, that 24% of the population thinks sound travels faster than light, and almost half of Americans do not know that the Earth takes a year to orbit the Sun.

It is sad that people do think Science is Hard, but I can point out similar swathes of ignorance in the arts and literature, in philosophy and religion, that have just as much an effect on peoples' lives. American society puts far too much emphasis on earning money. Careers are picked for salaries more than personal enjoyment, as shown by all those country-western songs. Education is geared towards getting those high paid careers, both at the college and secondary levels. We need to emphasize the things that make us want to live: art, music, culture, philosophy, religion, education for its own sake. Right now self-enrichment is defined by how many toys a person has, when it should be about how many ideas a person has thought up and how many beautiful things a person can appreciate.

The three R's are fine for the beginnings of education, as they provide the basis for all other learning. But very quickly Reading and (w)Riting should be replaced by the Humanities and Social Sciences. (a)Rithmetic should be supplemented with the Physical Sciences and Logic. Fine Arts and Foreign Languages should be started at the very beginning, not in 5th or 7th grade. Physical Education should be injected with Nature Appreciation. These are the things worth knowing, not "How to earn a living."

But then, I'm a musician teaching at a liberal arts college, so I may be biased.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The art of abstracts

My seminar students have written probably their most boring posts (boring for them, not for the reader), developing their skills in synthesizing and condensing articles into 250-word abstracts. I think this is a necessary skill, as it forces them to think about the overview of the article, seeing the forest as well as the trees. The assignment was to pick two articles on music education or music pedagogy, and to compose a short abstract for each article. You may find the topics interesting enough to read the entire articles at your local music library.

The students still need to work on the language, getting the right balance of formality and elegance. Any specific suggestions would be welcomed. Their final project is to rewrite 3-4 of their posts for a portfolio, so they are quite interested in any pointers for improvement.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Sempre trivia

My undergraduate school is somewhat famous, or infamous, for being the site of one of the largest trivia contests. Broadcast for 52 hours on the college/NPR radio station, it is celebrating its 40th anniversary this January. When I was a student, I was one of the trivia masters to help run the show for three years. I was therefore excited to find out that someone put together a history of the contest, bringing back fond memories. While my name isn't mentioned on this site, I can lay claim of authorship for one of the Super Garudas. The Super Garuda is the final question of the contest, worth 100 points (typical questions are worth 1 point). My question was used in the 1993 contest, gleaned from a biography of Teddy Roosevelt that I had read for an education class. My friend, Matt Horn, was Grand Master for two years. But more importantly, his question was chosen for the Garuda in 1990, the first trivia contest that he and I worked at. Where indeed was the largest crab fest for bassoonists held?

In the spirit of trivia, what is the translation of the motto for my last year as trivia master? "Conceptus sum nugarua tempore anno MCMLXIX nec quic quam praeter hanc togulam inoptimatis mactus sum!!!"

OCLC top music holdings

Like Tim Rutherford-Johnson, I had seen the mention of the OCLC's top 1000 most popular books at Crooked Timber. Unlike Tim, I hadn't thought to search the list for musical works. Tim comments on some surprising and satisfying things to him. What I notice is the heavy emphasis on vocal works. The first eight items are seven operas and an oratorio. Five orchestral works follow, and then more operas and other vocal works follow (Peter and the Wolf counts as vocal, as far as I'm concerned.) There are 74 unquestioned vocal works (mostly operas and musicals), 54 unquestioned instrumental works, and four that are mostly instrumental: Mahler's 2nd and 4th symphonies, Holst's The Planets, and Mendelssohn's incidental music to Midsummer Night's Dream. Even though the vocal works win the count, only one work was art songs. And there were far fewer piano works than I had expected. One interesting thing is that the Ring cycle and each component opera had separate listings: #65, 67, 68, 72, and 88. This should be a pretty helpful list for some musicology research.

Harmony examples

Tim Cutler has put together a nice database of various harmonic progressions that can be used to supplement music theory textbooks. I've added it to my list of music sites to the left. Music students might enjoy looking up examples of V progressing to IV or Parallel voice leading as means of flustering their theory teachers. "But Brahms moves from V to IV in m. 88 of his Violin Sonata no. 2, 2nd movement. Why can't I?" Interestingly, Brahms wrote a monograph called "Oktaven und Quinten." It was a collection of parallel fifths and octaves that Brahms had found in works of the tonal masters. Heinrich Schenker published an edition of this monograph in 1933, using it to show how his theory of structural levels explains away the parallels as foreground phenomena mitigated by the underlying middleground (deeper structural levels).

You may enjoy looking through and listening to the various examples of the database, especially if you have studied or are currently studying music theory.

Veni, coxi, mandi

Despite the criticisms of pumpkin pie made by some, it was served alongside the traditional family favorite, banana cream pie, and relative newcomer chocolate cream pie. Two brined turkeys were consumed. One I roasted on our outdoor grill, after rubbing it with olive oil and a preparation of rosemary, thyme, sea salt, and pepper. The other was roasted in the oven, with only an onion in its cavity for seasoning. The drippings were turned into gravy with white wine, chopped onion, and chicken broth. There was a cornbread-hot sausage dressing, mashed potatoes, southern-style cranberry jello salad, and a new version of green beans made by my sister that wasn't nearly as heavy as a traditional green bean casserole. Dun buttered muffins and family-grown squash sat alongside bottles of Shiraz and Chardonnay.

I hope everyone had a good weekend, whether two days or five days in length. Now, I must get ready for classes and work on a few research projects. More blogging latter today, I think.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Off for the holiday

Relatives are coming to visit. Turkeys will be grilled and roasted. Potatoes will be mashed. Pies will be baked. Stomaches will be distended. And I've started to actively convert my CDs to MP3s. No blogging until Sunday. Here is a topic to hold you over until then: How should university students be taught to develop various skills, whether lab techniques or sight singing solfège?

Monday, November 22, 2004

Biographies of the Stars

My students have written biographies in their blog this week. Some are not complete biographies, but rather snapshots of some aspect of a musician's life. These include Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, the childhood and death of Miles Davis, Felix Mendelssohn-Bartoldy as a child prodigy, and Julie Andrews' career-ending surgery. The others provide a brief overview of the musician's life: Arnold Schoenberg, Jacques Offenbach (DePauw is producing Orpheus in the Underworld in February), Richard Rodgers, and Luciano Pavarotti.

It is quite pleasurable to see their writing mature over the semester. I plan to change the format of the seminar next year, but I'm definitely keeping the blog as a major component. (With a new title, hopefully!)

Saturday, November 20, 2004

What's in a name?

Alex Ross makes the excellent request that any links to his blog use his name rather than the name of the blog. In making the requested change in my blogroll, I also decided to do the same thing with all other blogs, where applicable. I left the blog title when I didn't know the real name of the author or when the blog has multiple authors.

I also make the same request of the bløgösphère, that blogrolls list "Scott Spiegelberg" rather than "Musical Perceptions". This will both help my Google positioning for my name (and yes, like Tim I also Scholar-Googled myself for a result of two hits) and will remove most confusions whether the link is to me or to a site about the book.

I certainly respect those bloggers who wish to remain pseudonymous, but I think we should embrace authors rather than blog titles. Of course, some people (Steve Hicken) insist on creating multiple blogs, which is just asking for trouble.

In further blogroll news, since it is sooo interesting, I'm thinking about adding a category of book blogs. The negatives would be a longer and unwieldy blogroll, and I would waste even more time reading blogs. I'll ponder for a week.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Chopin Prelude, Op. 28, No. 4

One of my birthday presents was an edition of Chopin's Preludes, op. 28. Playing through these really emphasizes how radical a composer he was. As an example, his fourth prelude in E minor -- the one with a simple oscillating melody over pulsing block chords -- is rife with exotic chromatic progressions, ambiguous chord realizations, and some non-functional progressions. It starts innocently enough with a simple tonic chord, though the E is not in the bass so the chord is slightly unstable. The melody lifts up to an upper neighbor, creating dissonance and signalling a change of harmony to come soon. The next chord is the dominant chord, though with a suspension: the E refuses to let go. When this suspension does resolve, Chopin "misspells" the chord with an Eb instead of a D#. The melody turns this dominant chord into a diminished seventh chord, which resolves as a common-tone chord to a secondary French augmented-sixth chord! By this point, only the third measure, the listener is quite confused as to where tonic is, even though the chords progress by very small steps with many common tones.

The augmented-sixth chord does not resolve correctly, instead shifting to a chord progression that fits best in the key of A minor: iiø43 - viio42 - V7. By half-steps the dominant chord gets transformed, leading us back to the key of E minor. A minor is hinted at several times, and the final cadence of each phrase (there are only two phrases in the 25-measure prelude) includes an oscillation between the dominant B7 chord and the A minor triad.

The second phrase (measure 13) repeats the first phrase for the first 1.5 measures. At that point a subtle shift in the underlying chords, merely by moving the bass note one beat earlier, creates new tensions in the simple melody. These tensions lead to a passionate cry as the melody tries to escape the tyranny of the half-step. It leaps up to a higher register and throws in large intervals of 6ths and 7ths. But the plodding chords rein in the melody, pulling it back to a simple two-note pattern and soft dynamics.

This prelude is all about the tensions between the melody and the harmony, with the harmony clearly winning. But what is so striking is that the exotic harmonies are created by simple means, small little movements of the left hand, and this slow harmonic rhythm creates such emotional intensity. John Sloboda and Andreas Lehmann picked this piece for a study on the perceived intensity of emotion, because it is short yet full of possibilities for interpretation. James Huneker puts it well in the introduction to the Schirmer edition:
The whole is like some canvas of Rembrandt -- Rembrandt who first dramatized the shadow in which a single motive is powerfully handled; some sombre effect of echoing in the profound of a Dutch interior, all gold and gloom. For background Chopin has substituted his soul; no one in art but Bach or Rembrandt could paint as Chopin did in this composition.

For a real brain twister, try to analyze the second prelude!

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

How to write a textbook

My First-Year Seminar students have written sections of imaginary textbooks on their blog. You can read about Performance Anxiety, The Swing Era, Wagner's Ring cycle, the Bel canto tenor, Bel canto singing for sopranos, tutti horn excerpts, and The Little Shop of Horrors. There is an interesting discussion going on about vibrato in the bel canto soprano post.

The students are becoming more appreciative of the different styles available for academic writing. They all expressed admiration for the use of pictures and other graphics to break up a reading assignment and to appeal to other learning styles. But they all decided against including any pictures in their blogs (with the exception of the horn excerpts), as it would be a big pain. Now they know why many books, especially academic books, do not have any pictures. The hassles involved in typesetting, getting legal permissions, and finding or making the right kind of picture are very time consuming. Academics would rather spend that time polishing words or starting on new projects. I know that I often visualize various concepts, and therefore I would like to recreate those visuals in print. But I can never seem to physically recreate what is in my mind. A lack of drawing skill is one problem, aggravating the time issue mentioned above. But the other, more prevalent problem, is that when I closely examine my conceptualization, it turns out not to be visual. I think in gestures, but those gestures are often aural, or sometimes abstractions that don't translate to pictures. Maybe I should learn how to create animation, but that is another time sink. I'll stick to polishing my wordsmithing skills.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Buddha met the scientist

Last night I went to a reading by Kim Stanley Robinson on campus. He read from his newest book, >Forty Days of Rain. He is a very engaging reader, in a quiet way. The passage he read reflected the more spiritual side of his writing, though still interlaced with references to scientific theories (in this case, sociobiology). He planned well, stopping on a cliffhanger of sorts. I was impressed enough to buy a copy on the spot (plus that gave me a chance to get it signed and an excuse to talk to him personally). Stan is a very engaging speaker, and seems like a great guy all around. He really knows his science, and gave a fascinating account of the mechanics that could cause an ice age from global warming. From the Q&A and signing: He tends to build his stories around recent scientific advances that he finds interesting, rather than doing research to support a story idea. Stan enjoyed the challenge of writing in the alternate-history setting of The Years of Rice and Salt, but he prefers "the day after tomorrow" and "far in the future" science fiction as it gives him more of a chance to prophesy and it can influence people more powerfully. His favorite science fiction authors are the New Wave: Ursula K. LeGuin, Roger Zelazny, and Thomas Disch were mentioned specifically. Before he started reading science fiction, Stan read "locked door detective mysteries." He reads Science News every week. He grew up in Orange County and is very sad about how it has changed from the farmland he knew as a child. He supports "flexible fuel" technology as a first step in slowing global warming. Stan's mother was a piano teacher, and he tried to write about music before he started science fiction writing.

I've started reading Forty Days, and I'm impressed with how real the characters are. I think his writing has improved since the Mars trilogy (I haven't read Rice and Salt yet), while still recognizable as his style. And who wouldn't like a book that Locus describes as "the best novel featuring the NSF this year?"

Friday, November 12, 2004

The gift of emotional turbulence

Last night my darling wife took me to her church for their regular popcorn-n-theology series. Did I mention it was my birthday? And that I myself am not Christian? Yet I had agreed to this, both because I love my wife, and because I had enjoyed some of the previous movies in the series. Last night's movie was Amen, about the Holocaust and the unwillingness of Christians to speak out against it. As I watched the film I grew angrier and angrier about the way these religious leaders so blithely regarded Jews as subhuman. But I was not only angry because of what happened 60+ years ago. I saw in those leaders' attitudes towards Jews the same attitudes contemporary religious leaders have towards homosexuals.

In 1920, members of the German Nazi Party announced that Jews were not part of normal German society and should not have the same rights. In 1933, Jews were prohibited from government work, restricted in attending universities, and prevented from becoming lawyers or doctors. In 1935 Jews were stripped of citizenship and told they couldn't marry or have sex with non-jewish Germans. Eventually businesses and property were taken away, Jews were barred from all public areas, and requried to add "Israel" or "Sara" to their names to indicate their "racial identity."

Does any of this sound familiar? Religious conservatives in the US have been stripping the legal rights from homosexuals for many years. They have passed laws telling them who they can't marry, who they can't have sex with, and quashed laws that would protect people from being fired for being homosexual. South Carolina's newly elected Republican Senator DeMint said gays and lesbians should not be allowed to teach. Oklahoma's newly elected Republican Senator Tom Coburn has said that high school girls shouldn't be allowed in bathrooms together because "rampant lesbianism is plaguing Oklahoma high schools." Here is a long list of other attacks.

In Germany in the 1930s, there weren't enough good people standing up to say that Jews are people who deserve equal rights. In the United States in the 2000s, will there be enough good people standing up for the homosexuals?

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Great moments in history

Eighty-six years ago today, the great powers of the world sat at a table to make decisions which would have major geopolitical effects through the next century. Germany agreed to retreat from all invaded countries, surrender numerous weapons, return prisoners of war and stolen property, and to ensure that within fifty years a trumpeter/music theorist with specialties in cognition and acoustics would be born in an Allied country to be determined later. Because of the unusual characteristics of the last request, hindered in part by the second World War and the Wisconsin milk strikes of 1933, this birth did not occur until exactly fifty-one years after the signing.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Great Discussions

There is a genuine debate of good intentions and fact-based responses going on at Electrolite about gay marriage (look in the comments). People have actually been convinced by arguments, no invective has been used, and I think all sides have been learning. I know I have learned a great deal, just from reading all the comments. I still stand by my earlier post, but I also see new arguments for why it needs to be called a marriage rather than a civil union, and I acknowledge legitimate concerns about the equality under law argument as it can affect affirmative action.

Meanwhile, a post about social justice as regarded from liberal and conservative views at Matthew Yglesias' blog has spawned some conversations about foreign policy and how to convince moderates that violence is not necessary. It isn't as focused or respectful as the previous debate, but I still think good points are being made on both sides.

More of this, please.

Tales from academia

I've added several new music blogs to my blogroll. One of them is terminaldegree, by an almost-PhD musician teaching at a Christian liberal arts college she dubs Oxymoron U. Reading her posts about the conflicts between certain religious beliefs and the study of music reminded me of a possible path that I thankfully did not tread.

When I was applying for jobs during my last one-year position, one of the openings for a music theorist was at a large Baptist university located in Texas. It was only a term position, but I was applying for almost anything at that point, as my job had no possibility of renewal. The application process seemed normal enough for the Baptist position, requesting the same sorts of documents as any other search. But then I was sent a Religious Beliefs survey from upper administration, asking me to detail my religious upbringing, habits and beliefs. First, a brief history of my religious beliefs: I was raised in the Congregational church, United Church of Christ, a rather liberal Protestant church. By the time I got to college, I decided that I was agnostic. I then fell in love with and married a woman who had deep beliefs in Christianity, though she had not been an active church-goer. She soon did become active in the Episcopal church, to the point that she is now discerning to become a priest. I attend her church every other week, to show my support for her. About four years ago my agnosticism developed into deism, somewhat from the argument of First Cause, though my thinking is more along the lines that there must have always been something, which can for convenience's sake be called "god." So, my beliefs do not align with the Southern Baptist Church, but I could play a Christian rather convincingly if I so desired.

I could have lied in the survey, labelling myself as an Episcopalian, and moved on to the next step in the interview process. But I did not want to mislead them, or get myself into a teaching situation that I philosophically disagreed with. So I answered truthfully, though I emphasized my respect for Christianity as a reasonable belief based on my regular church attendance and support of my wife (though at this point she was not thinking about a career in the church). I also emphasized that I believed in the existence of "God," though without the scarequotes and with minimal explanation of deism. My answers were too vague for them, so the chair of the search committee phoned me and asked me to clarify my answers. Then I explained my deistic beliefs in full, and answered his questions about when I stopped thinking of myself as a Christian. He was very polite, and I still tried to make the point that I respected the religious beliefs of others. I thought that would be enough, based upon the claim's of this university that its faculty included non-Baptists and non-Christians. But apparently it would not included deists. The chair made clear (nicely) at the end of the phone interview that they would be pursuing other candidates for the position.

In the end, I got a tenure-track job at a liberal arts college that is de jure Methodist, but de facto secular. I am quite happy here, and I know I would not be happy at either the Texan Baptist university or at terminaldegree's Oxymoron U. And I have a good parable supporting moral behavior without reliance upon a higher authority. It's all good.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

De gustibus non est disputandum

I'm experiencing a internal conflict. I believe that some aesthetic values are better than others, but I also believe that all people are entitled to their tastes. I admit, I enjoy a combination of disparate elements. I feel that rock has a place in the concert hall, and toilets can be used with Barbie dolls in a legitimate art piece. But really, does my daughter need to dip her tortilla chips into her strawberry milk?

Friday, November 05, 2004

Strange searches

I am not usually surprised at the web searches that lead people to my little corner of the internet. But one today has me stumped: thelonious monk turtletop. There are only five results, all of which mention John Shaw's uTopian TurtleTop blog. I am not familiar with any piece by Thelonious Monk that involves a turtle, so my sole guess is that the searcher had read something about Monk on John's blog, but couldn't remember the exact name. At least, I hope that's what happened. The other possibilities are too horrible to contemplate.

Fairness, justice, and morality, oh my!

As a musician, it is not surprising that over half of my students, friends and colleagues are homosexual. This stereotype is true, for whatever reason. On Tuesday, I saw eleven states vote to relegate these people to the status of second-class citizens. In Arkansas, the new amendment says that "legal status for unmarried persons which is identical or substantially similar to marital status shall not be valid or recognized in Arkansas," which effectively bans any type of civil union. Georgia's new amendment says that "No union between persons of the same sex shall be recognized by this state as entitled to the benefits of marriage. " Kentucky will "not allow legal status identical to or similar to marriage for unmarried individuals, such as civil unions, regardless of where they were performed." Michigan is a little more unclear: "No other relationship shall be recognized as a marriage or its legal equivalent by the state..." though it is likely that "legal equivalent" will also ban civil unions. North Dakota says that "Marriage consists only of the legal union between a man and a woman. No other domestic union, however denominated, may be recognized as a marriage or given the same or substantially equivalent legal effect." Utah says that "no other domestic union may be recognized as a marriage or given the same or substantially equal legal effect." Ohio and Oklahoma are even broader: "...This state and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage." "It prohibits giving the benefits of marriage to people who are not married." Oregon, Mississippi and Montana seem to only ban marriage, not civil unions. So in eight states, homosexual people are denied the right to hospital visitation, the right to plan their partner's funeral, the right to not disclose the contents of confidential communications between the couple in legal cases, Social Security and Medicare benefits, and insurance coverage for a financially dependent partner. All of these are benefits and rights of marriage, which those eight states have said cannot be conferred to anyone other than a heterosexual couple. No legal document can be drawn up to mimic these specific rights (the link I give mentions other benefits of marriage that can be duplicated with wills and other legal arrangements). This means that in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Ohio, and Utah, homosexual people do not have access to the same rights, the very definition of a second-class citizen.

Some people will argue that homosexual people can gain the benefits of marriage by marrying a person of the opposite sex. But this is an un-American thought. The Declaration of Independence states that "We [Americans] hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." (emphasis added) Forcing anyone choose between love and legal rights is to hinder that person's pursuit of happiness.

This institutionalized descrimination against a set of people is not fair or just. What about moral? Most people for these discriminatory amendments cite religious texts to support their cause. Genesis, Leviticus, Romans, and Corinthians are all brought out to show that homosexuality is morally wrong. But this is a religious argument, and the U.S. Constitution, Amendment 1, guarantees the right of all people to the freedom of religion. There are Christian, Jewish, and other religious practices that do not believe that homosexuality is immoral. The freedom of religion gives people the right to disagree with these practices, but it also gives equal legal weight to both beliefs. Given the literal contradictions in the Bible and Torah, any consistent religious belief based on those texts must ignore some passages in favor of others. It is not the job of the government to make the decision of which interpretation is correct, which should be of immense relief to all interested parties. (Protestants, imagine that the government decides that the Pope is a direct inheritor from St. Peter and must be obeyed. Catholics, imagine that the government decides that worshipping saints is akin to idolatry.) So the religious argument of morals cannot stand up to the principles of American democracy: freedom of religion, and the pursuit of happiness.

Some people argue that homosexuality is a mental disease, and that homosexual marriage will lead to polygamy, ruining the social values of marriage. But these arguments are weak at best, particularly as the arguments against polygamy are quite different from homosexuality. Polygamy is banned because it objectifies women and in practice often involved child brides, which is not a concern with homosexual marriage. As for the mental disease argument, it has not been considered so by professional psychiatrists since 1986. Here is a complete history of mental health and homosexuality.

Please, please, please work to reverse the marginalization of homosexuals in our country. Fight against any bans on civil unions, even if your religious beliefs prevent you from accepting homosexual marriage. Pursuade your neighbors that religious beliefs are necessarily separate from legal rights. See homosexual men and women as people, rather than monsters.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Legal rights of composers

Helen asks a question about the posting of her own performances and the copyright of the composer. Tim Rutherford-Johnson says that composers have the legal right to stop uses of their work that is misrepresentative, what he calls "moral rights." I know nothing about British copyright law, and not enough about U.S. copyright law. So I can't comment on either of these posts. But I can offer a related question of my own. Augusta Read Thomas is coming to DePauw for our Music of the 21st Century festival. I offered to perform Gusty's Sonata for unaccompanied trumpet (1986), since I like the piece and I've played it before. But I have been informed she withdrew this piece in 2001, along with many of her other early works. My question is, what are the legal ramifications of withdrawing a piece? Can a composer bar any performances of a work, even if the performer has legally purchased the piece? I certainly can understand respecting the wishes of a featured composer for a festival, but I would like to play the piece for a faculty recital.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Unorthodox listening

Lately I've been choosing six CD's each night to put in my multi-CD/DVD player at home, and listening to them in Track Shuffle mode. This mode skips randomly from disk to disk and track to track, usually only one track from any given disk is played before moving on to another disk. One night I stacked the deck with four Louis Armstrong CD's from a single great album, The California Concerts, balanced by Alphorn Concertos and trumpet virtuoso Sergei Nakariakov. Another night I had another Nakariakov CD with The Essential Basie, Lionel Hampton, and a BBC Classical magazine CD of the Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty Suites. (My daughter requested some ballet music. She decided she liked the Nutcracker and has asked for it several more nights.)

Last night I did not want to watch news for a while, so I put on Booker Little, Les Miserables, The Eagles Greatest Hits Vol. 2, The New York Trumpet Ensemble, and Bryn Terfel.

With the shuffle mode on, I never know what song/movement/piece is going to be next, so I find myself listening more closely to the beginning of each track than I do during normal play. Because of this, I keep from slipping into "background mode," where the music doesn't register consciously with me. The randomness also creates some interesting transitions. Last night a quiet inner movement of a baroque trumpet concerto led to "Stars" from Les Mis, the harpsichord shifting to the synthesizer yet in a similar timbral space and with nearly identical tempi. I have yet to try this experiment with symphonies or sonatas, multi-movement works that are expected to be heard in order for both emotional effect and long-range tonal closure. But the concerto movements did not seem to suffer from being split apart from their herds. The most disconcerting transition was from a little ditty in the Louis Armstrong collection that was intended as an introduction to a bigger work. But the producers put the little introduction on a separate track, so the CD player jumped away after the intro, never fulfilling the promise.

My kids seem to enjoy the eclectic mix of music styles I subject them to. My son starts to dance anytime he hears jazz or rock, my daughter sings along with any vocal music. I certainly won't always listen in such a random manner, but I find it a refreshing change for now.

Rococo the Vote!

I went to my polling place at 7:00 this morning. The line winded through the clubhouse, out the door, and around the whole side of the building. People waited patiently, even though it was raining. I saw one person leave, but he announced that he would come back later, he had to go to work at the moment. I had to wait for about 45 minutes for my turn to vote, and then was subjected to the evil electronic voting machine. It seemed to work fine, but who knows how well the memory chips well stand up. Given the number of people standing in line so early in the morning, I think turnout will be very high. There is no question that Indiana will go to George Bush, and I think Congressman Steven Buyer will probably stay in office. But I think Governer Kernan has a good chance of winning re-election. And if turnout is so high here in a red state, when only 30% of Republicans think this election is essential, I think turnout in swing and blue states will be incredible, given the 70% of Democrats that are very worked up. At Daily Kos, they predict about 124 million voters, up from 111 million in 2000. I'm going to predict 130 million, based upon reading from the I Ching.

Electoral-vote.com predicts a rather big win for Kerry, 306 to 218 with Colorado and New Mexico too close to call. I made my predictions earlier, and I stand by them, though it seems quite possible that Kerry will take Florida, to make his total 316. I actually think Nader will get less than 1%, that Nader plus Badnarik and Cobb and all the other small party candidates will total about 1%.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Read the reviews

My First-Year Seminar has just blogged their first full writing subject - music reviews. We have two DVD reviews: La Boheme and Stomp!; two reviews of a Guarneri Quartet performance at DePauw; and four reviews of a faculty recital by Barbara Paré, soprano, and John Clodfelter, piano.

I'd particularly invite any reviewers out there to give feedback to the students.

Friday, October 29, 2004

I feel the need for more humor

You might be a theory geek if . . .

1. you whistle in style brisé.
2. your favorite pickup line is, "What's your favorite augmented sixth chord?"
3. your second favorite pickup line is, "Would you like to raise my leading tone?"
4. you have ever played the how-many-episodes-is-too-many-episodes fugue game.
5. you have a poster of Allen Forte in your room.
6. you know who Allen Forte is.
7. you dream in four parts.
8. your biological clock follows a non-retrogradable isorhythm.
9. you can improvise 16th-century counterpoint with no trouble, but you frequently forget how to tie your shoes.
10. you will look at a piece by Bach and say, "You know, I think he could have gotten a better effect this way . . ."
11. you expected something quite different out of The Matrix.
12. you can answer your phone with a tonal or a real answer.
13. you like to tease your friends and loved ones with deceptive cadences.
14. you know how large a major 23rd is without having to count.
15. you only drink fifths, and then you laugh at the pun.
16. you feel the need to end Tchaikovsky's Pathétique Symphony with a picardy third.
17. your favorite characteristic of Brahms's music is the subcutaneous motivic play.
18. instead of counting sheep, you count sequences.
19. you find free counterpoint too liberal.
20. Moussorgsky's "Hopak" gives you nightmares.
21. you wonder what a Danish sixth would sound like.
22. you long for the good old days of movable G-clefs.
23. the Corelli Clash gives you goosebumps. Every time.
24. you can hear an enharmonic modulation coming a mile away.
25. you can hear Berg's lover's dog coming a mile away.
26. you have had to be forced to stop labeling motives.
27. you confuse fishsticks with ground bass.
28. you found No. 27 funny.
29. you have ever quoted Walter Piston.
30. you like to march to the rhythm of L'histoire du soldat.
31. your license plate says: PNTONL.
32. you have ever defended yourself with, "But Gesualdo did it!"
33. you have ever tried to do a Schenkerian analysis on "Three Blind Mice."
34. you have ever tried to do a Schenkerian analysis on 4'33''.
35. you have ever had a gebrauchsmusik party.
36. you have ever tried to hop onto the omnibus.
37. you like to wake up to a Petrushkated version of "Reveille."
38. you lament the decline of serialism.
39. you know what the ninth overtone of the harmonic series is off the top of your head.
40. you keep the writings of Boethius on the coffee table.
41. you have ever dressed up as counterpoint for Halloween.
42. you have ever written a musical palindrome and given it a witty title.
43. you can name ten of Palestrina's contemporaries.
44. you have ever found a typographical error in a score by Ives, Nancarrow, or Babbitt.
45. you have ever heard a wrong note in a performance of a composition by Ives, Nancarrow, or Babbitt.
46. you already sensed that if this list had been written by Bartók, this would be the funniest item.
47. you enjoy the tang of a tritone whenever you can.
48. you've let the rule of the octave determine how you go from one event of the day to the next.
49. you have ever played through your music as if the fingering markings were figured bass symbols.
50. you suspiciously check all the music you play for dangling sevenths.
51. you have devised your own tuning method.
52. you keep a notebook of useful diminutions.
53. you have composed variations on a theme by Anton Webern.
54. you know the difference between a Courante and a Corrente.
55. you have trained your dog to jump through a flaming circle of fifths.
56. you have ever used the word fortspinnung in polite conversation.
57. you feel cheated by evaded cadences.
58. you organize phone numbers based on their prime form.
59. you find it amusing to refer to you ear-training course sections as your "pitch classes."
60. every now and again you like to kick back and play a tune in hypophrygian mode.
61. you wonder why there aren't more types of seventh chords.
62. you wish you had twelve fingers.
63. you like polytonal music because, hey, the more keys the merrier.
64. you abbreviate your shopping list using figured bass symbols.
65. you always make sure to invert your counterpoint, just in case.
66. you have ever told a joke with a punchline of: because it was polyphonic!
67. you have ever named a pet, instrument, boat, gun or child after Zarlino.
68. you have an <0 1 4> tattoo.
69. your lips may say, "perfect fourth," but in your heart it will always be "diatessaron."
70. you have ever said, "Yes, didn't Scriabin use that sonority in . . ."
71. you know dirty acronyms for the order of sharps.
72. you can name relatives of the "Grandmother Chord."
73. you're still wondering why I haven't included the "must-resolve-the- dominant-seventh-before-going-to-bed" indicator.
74. you can not only identify any one of Bach's 371 Harmonized Chorales by ear, but you also know what page it is on in the Riemenschneider edition and how many suspensions it has in the first four bars.
75. you got more than half of the jokes on this list.

(Yes, this is an old list. Yet still true.)

More letters from camp

from Ashlee Simpson:

Dear Mom and Dad,

Here is a new song I wrote, called “Autobiography.”

On a Monday I am waiting
Tuesday I am fading
And by Wednesday I can't sleep
Then my the phone rings,
I hear you
and the darkness is a clear view
I see you've come to rescue me...

Aw crap, that’s the wrong song! Well, here’s a little dance. Tell Jessica to stay out of my room.



from Steve Reich:

Dear Mom and Dad,

How are you? I am fine
HHowaareyyou? IIaamffin
HoHowrareoyou?I Imamifi
nowHoweareuyouI aI amnf
inw How are?you?amIfame
fineaHowyare youam Iiam
HfinarHowoare youm fIna
amwfine How?are youfinI
Ham fineyHow areayouine
IoamafinyoHow aremyoune
HIwamrfinouHowIare youe
HoI amefinu?How arefyou
HowIaam fine Howaareiyo
uow Iramyfine Howmareny
ouw aIeamofineIHow aree
you?arI amufinI Howfare
eoyoure Ioam finamHowna
reeyoue yIuam finm Howe
are you?yoI?amIfinefHow
HareayouyouI am finfiHo
woareryouou?I amafininH
owwareeyouu? IIammfinne
How are you? I am fine


Thursday, October 28, 2004

Letters from camp

From Arnold Schoenberg:

Dear ma & pa. How are you? I am fine. Love Arnold.
Arnold love, fine am I. you are how?
pa & ma dear. dlonrA evoL .enif ma I
?uoy era woH .ap & am reaD..read am & ap
?woh era uoy .I ma enif ,evol dlonrA

Love, Arnie


From Philip Glass:

Hello heh heh hello, o-hell o-hell oh ellow ellow heh heh heh hello
mama mama muh muh muh-mah, ah ah ah ahhhh! Aye aye aye aye aye yam
yam yam yam
Eye yam yam Fie aye aye aye fuh fuh fuh fie un yun yun yun
Hah hah aha hah ow ow ow wow ow wow ow ow ah hah aha haha are are are
huh huh huh yuh you? oooh. oooooh.

Sincerely, Phil


From Milton Babbitt:

Dear bi-polar source set, All members of the aggregate feelings
matrix are demonstrating maximum congruity with respect to the
positive experiential axis.

With affections invariant under transposition, Milton.


Anton Webern (c. 1913)

Hello. Hel. H.

Olleh. Lo. Fi.

I am I



Pierre Boulez (c. 1952):




Schoenberg is dead.

Q to N


John Cage:


Anton Bruckner:

Liebste Mutti und Vati
Howwwww arrrrrre yoooooouuuu?
Howwwww arrrrrre yoooooouuuu?
Howwwww arrrrrre yoooooouuuu?
Howwwww arrrrrre yoooooouuuu?
Howwwww - arrrrrre - yoooooouuuu?
How are you? How are you? How are you? How are you? How are you?
How are you? How are you? How are you? How are you? How are you?
Howwwww - arrrrrre - yoooooouuuu?
I-i-i-i ammmmmm fiiiiiine.
I-i-i-i ammmmmm fiiiiiine.
I-i-i-i ammmmmm fiiiiiine.
I-i-i-i ammmmmm fiiiiiine.
I-i-i-i ammmmmm fiiiiiine.
I-i-i-i ammmmmm fiiiiiine.
I am fine.
I AM FINE!!!!!
Howwwww arrrrrre yoooooouuuu?
Howwwww arrrrrre yoooooouuuu?
Howwwww arrrrrre yoooooouuuu?
Howwwww arrrrrre yoooooouuuu?
Howwwww - arrrrrre - yoooooouuuu?
How are you? How are you? How are you? How are you? How are you?
How are you? How are you? How are you? How are you? How are you?
Howwwww - arrrrrre - yoooooouuuu?
I-i-i-i ammmmmm fiiiiiine.
I-i-i-i ammmmmm fiiiiiine.
I-i-i-i ammmmmm fiiiiiine.
I-i-i-i ammmmmm fiiiiiine.
I-i-i-i ammmmmm fiiiiiine.
I-i-i-i ammmmmm fiiiiiine.
I am fine.
I AM FINE!!!!!
Howwwww arrrrrre yoooooouuuu?
Howwwww arrrrrre yoooooouuuu?
Howwwww arrrrrre yoooooouuuu?
Howwwww arrrrrre yoooooouuuu?
Howwwww - arrrrrre - yoooooouuuu?
How are you? How are you? How are you? How are you? How are you?
How are you? How are you? How are you? How are you? How are you?
Howwwww - arrrrrre - yoooooouuuu?
I-i-i-i ammmmmm fiiiiiine.
I-i-i-i ammmmmm fiiiiiine.
I-i-i-i ammmmmm fiiiiiine.
I-i-i-i ammmmmm fiiiiiine.
I-i-i-i ammmmmm fiiiiiine.
I-i-i-i ammmmmm fiiiiiine.
I am fine.
I AM FINE!!!!! Fine! Fine! Fine!

(Double counterpoint)

How I are am you fine.
I how am are fine you.



(from a colleague)

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Perspectives of Cone

Edward T. Cone, professor of music at Princeton for 39 years, died on Saturday. He was a founding editor of Perspectives of New Music, an expert on form and hermeneutics, and a good pianist and composer. His writing style was very incisive and eloquent, and he was not afraid to ruffle feathers. I recommend Musical Form and Musical Performance, or his essays in Music: A View from Delft.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

The new protest song

I had previously searched for current protest songs. I have found the best example. It isn't folk music, and it's main medium is the video rather than the acoustic guitar. But Eminem has definitely produced the protest song for this election season. "Mosh" protests against the Iraq war, the backdoor draft, Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy, the erosion of civil liberties, and the loss of jobs, all to a pretty cool beat and very cool animation. This protest is more filled with rage than the previous generation's protest songs, but this balances out as our demonstrations aren't as impassioned as those of the Vietnam era. However, even with the rage and feeling of impending violence that the video imparts, the ending gives the proper solution to the problem of George Bush.

(via Pandagon)

Monday, October 25, 2004

Bush as Big Brother

My local congressional candidate, David Sanders, has a great article on his website about the link between George W. Bush and George Orwell's 1984. Here's a choice quote:
  At the core of Orwell's new political system were four critical elements-the use of perpetual war for political purposes, the control of human sexuality, the cult of personality and antipersonality, and the abuse of language and history.  The current application of the first principle is transparent.  There was the war on drugs.  Now there is the war on terror.  It is indisputable that we were attacked by a brutal and cowardly enemy.  Does this mean that any domestic or international action taken by the government is now justified in the name of security?  There is the Orwellian logic: "Iraq is now the enemy.  Iraq has always been the enemy." We need to engage in doublethink and forget about the Reagan administration support for Iraq and its tacit acceptance of the use of weapons of mass destruction by the murderous tyrant, Saddam Hussein.  We need to forget the Bush administration's stated reasons for war against Iraq.  We need to forget that we have left in anarchy much of Afghanistan where we periodically wipe out families and wedding parties by unfortunate accidents.  There can be no doubt about the success of the exploitation of the war for the stirring of nationalist passions in support of the political party in power.

Bush is trying to use the Anti-Homosexual-Marriage Amendment, anti-abortion laws, and abstinence-only sex programs to control human sexuality. The cult of personality, "Big Brother," is definitely Bush himself. He cannot make a mistake, he is strong and resolute. The cult of antipersonality -- the person who is against all that we believe in -- has changed over time. It started out as Osama bin Laden. Then it became Saddam Hussein. Now it is the "Islamofascists" as a group, with Zarqawi getting prominent play. It is curious that Osama is no longer in the spot light. I think he is either dead or otherwise incapacitated, and Bush needed someone else to keep as The Villain for the public's focus. With current news media and short public attention spans, The Villain needs to be someone who is seen or heard from regularly, to remind the public how evil he is. This part has definitely weakened, especially when Saddam was captured and seen to be just a man.

The abuse of language and history has been rampant. "Clean Skies Initiative" to help polluters. "Healthy Forest" laws to help lumber mills. The war on Iraq was not for WMD, it was because Saddam was evil. Before the Iraq war, the administration was lambasting the CIA for not taking the Iraqi threat seriously. Afterwards, the same administration claimed that the CIA pushed them to attack Iraq, using faulty intelligence. Human rights are being systematically abused, but are supposedly only caused by "a few bad apples."

By the way: my current congressman, Steve Buyer, was a House Manager in the Clinton impeachment trial, called for nuclear strikes in Afghanistan, and falsely claimed to be called up by the Army last spring. He must go. 9 8 days.

Friday, October 22, 2004

PostClassic Radio

I've been listening to Kyle Gann's PostClassic Radio for the last hour. Much like iPod listings, here are my impressions:

Jean Hasse - Kinkh, liked it, mellow piano music.
Pamela Z - Pop Titles 'You', really liked it, a combination of musique concrete with a funky beat.
David Rosenboom - How Much Better if Plymouth Ro, very annoying. I don't like the 70's synth sounds, and the ostinati don't change enough for my taste, though I think I could tolerate it better if the timbre was more to my liking. Sadly, this is a rather long piece (almost 23 minutes), forcing much jaw-clenching to get through it so I could see what came next. It did have an effective climax and interesting ending, as each strand gets layered in more stretto fashion to create a sense of speeding up as the dynamics ebb. Then the strands die away, leaving only the main ostinato slightly out of sync with itself.
Ooh, I just heard Kyle's voice, giving a little audio introduction to the next piece. Just like a DJ!
David First - Good Book's (Accurate) Jail of Escape Dust Coordinates, Part 2, it moves VERY SLOWLY, but isn't annoying or grating. I don't think I would choose to actively listen to it at a concert, but it makes for some cool background music while I'm grading papers.

Bush's Willie Horton?

My sister sent me a news article, asking why it wasn't getting more airplay. She is absolutely correct that it is both important, and being ignored by everyone. I haven't even seen it in the political blogs. It seems that Guantanamo Bay could be turning into a radicalizing greenhouse:
A video given to NBC News by a contact in the region shows Mehsud at a hideout last week, playing to the camera. He urges fellow militants by radio to prepare for a suicide mission.

"Once you tie the bombs tightly to your bodies, then you should be ready for suicide. Once I give you the order, go and act," says Mehsud in the video.

Later, in a confrontation with Pakistani troops, one hostage and five of Mehsud’s men were killed.

The Mehsud story is more than a bit embarrassing for the United States. Until last March, Mehsud was in prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba — having been captured fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan. However, a Pentagon review board decided to release him, ruling Mehsud was not a security threat. ...
Experts say it's possible Mehsud was always a hardcore militant and deceived his captors. "The other possibility is that the two years in captivity was itself a radicalizing experience," says terrorism expert Brian Jenkins. ...
The Pentagon says 156 Guantanamo detainees have been released after signing pledges to renounce violence. Mehsud is one of ten who returned to terrorism. Aspokesman admits the process for deciding which detainees to release is "imperfect."

So either the U.S. government screwed up in letting a terrorist go, or they created a new terrorist with the human rights violations in Guantanamo Bay. Are we safer, with Bush in the White House?

Update: NPR has taken up this story, with some alterations. Michele Norris said that over 200 detainees have been released, and the 10 that have returned to battle are only those that have been killed or recaptured. There is supposedly a Washington Post article about this, I'll try to find it later.

A new blog

I was directed to a new blog written by a faithful reader, known mysteriously as a listener. 'A listener' is writing about concerts in Chicago, starting with a performance of Winterreise by Ian Bostridge and Leif Ove Andsnes. I wrote about Bostridge's incredible voice and musicality in June, as well as his intellectual gifts. A.L. gives another description of Bostridge's abilities to exceed audiences' expectations. This blog promises a very interesting take on concert-going, one I plan to read regularly.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Obsessions and Rules

This weekend my mother gave me The Rule of Four. I read it in three days, entranced by the visions of Princeton campus life and the unfolding drama about academic intrigue and Renaissance puzzles. But what really struck me about this book was the portrayal of obsession. Most of the obsession is over a single book, the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. Some of the characters regard this book as their ticket to academic stardom. Others see it as a yardstick of intellectual might, proving themselves against its puzzles. And some are just plain obsessed, the sign of an addictive personality that could pick anything for its obsession. Relationships are strained and/or broken through this addiction, which is as destructive as any drug or alcohol abuse.

I’ve fought my own obsessions with books, computer games, and blogs or Usenet groups. Like any addict, I find it very difficult to stop at only one, to manage my time so I nurture my personal and professional relationships. While I was writing my dissertation, I had to give all my computer games, especially Civilization II, to my wife to hide, so I wouldn’t be distracted. I give myself strict rations on entertainment reading, though I still will stay up far too late or ignore work and family when I’m in a reading groove. I completely gave up my Usenet group over a year ago, because I was spending too much work time at it and because the political environment was very pro-war. However, this was a time-neutral action, as I started reading blogs instead. I got blog-reading under control by starting my own blog with a professional bent. Now when I am blogging, I am usually thinking about my discipline, formulating thoughts for my teaching and research. I have noticed that I find it easier to put down books or games now that I am a father. Perhaps obsession does mellow with maturity.

I highly recommend this book. It is very well written, maintaining a realism in plot and character-realization. There are many suspenseful moments at a variety of levels: murder, solving puzzles, managing relationships, and fulfilling graduation requirements. Not for the faint of heart!

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Got Rhythm?

Thursday night I saw Clark Terry perform on campus with his combo. It's been fifteen years since I saw the trumpet king live. While his voice isn't as strong, and he played the entire set sitting in a raised chair, he still can blow that horn. The combo had great time, be it ballad, swing, or samba. It struck me that in many (most?) musical genres, it is rhythm that makes or breaks the performance. Being slightly out of tune is not nearly as noticeable as being out of synchrony. And when a group really hits the groove, that's when the music swings. I'm not talking merely about jazz and popular music here. The same holds true with Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Contemporary art music. The delightful stretching of tempo created by rubato won't work if the groove isn't set. The harmonic rhythm can't be felt if the portrayal of meter isn't confident and obvious. Greg Sandow wrote about Brahms' practice of making extreme changes of dynamics and tempo "so the audience could more easily follow the shape and flow of the music." This was especially true of unfamiliar pieces to the public, but in today's musically illiterate society, I think it is necessary with most performances. I know that as a performer I delight in making subtle shifts in timbre, pitch, dynamics, and duration. But if the shifts are too slight for the audience to perceive, I might as well play it straight. I think exaggerated portrayal of meter is necessary for the groove to be felt by the audience, otherwise it comes off as uninspired.

Update: John of the perfect cheloniad comments on this post. He has a point that sometimes subtlety is still worthwhile, even if it is at the subconscious level.