Saturday, December 31, 2005

So long, suckas

Tomorrow morning (in far too early of a definition for morning), we are heading down to Florida to visit friends in West Palm Beach. I will be out of blogging range for the next four days. But that is okay, as I will be busy looking for that fountain of youth.

Small moose

Today I got another present, though this was a birthday present rather than a Christmas present. Over a month ago I used money from my Grandpa to order a cornetto from Jeremy West. It finally arrived, much to my excitement and my wife's dismay. Mary did manage to conceal her dismay enough to try it out, though. I'm sure it brought back wonderful memories of her indentured servitude in the Collegium Musicum at Cleveland State University.

This cornetto is made from resin, like the one I borrowed from Indiana University this summer. But it is covered in leather, so it feels much nicer. Some of my colleagues have formed a Baroque chamber ensemble. I hope to master the cornetto enough to play with them by next fall.

Friday, December 30, 2005


Coming home from my parents' house, I spent quality time with my nano. In the course of removing and replacing earbuds to listen to the comments and complaints of the spouse and progeny, I reflected that in the darkness I had no idea whether I had correctly placed the L bud in my left ear. The next tune came up, and I pondered whether it felt backwards or lopsided. Should the prominent voice favor my left ear, or my right? Do I even have a dominant ear?

Due to vision problems as a youngster, my right eye is decidely dominant. Thus I am willing to accept the possibility of lopsided perceptual facilities. In a bizarre way, it feels like prominance in stereophonic recordings should start in the back right, moving diagonally to the front left, though still mostly centered. I think the back to front is a coupling of low-to-high pitch with background-to-foreground. And yes, there are background voices that dominate over their brethren in my hierarchy.

Anybody else with ear dominance?

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Nanoo, Nanoo

It was a very nano Christmas here in the frozen tundra. Those receiving a Nano iPod included my brother, dad, and ME! I need to update the ancient 10.1.5 system on my TiBook so my iPod can talk to the appropriate version of iTunes, but I've been downloading some music via my mom's computer to tide me over. I now need to decide how often I want to listen to music. If I make it ubiquitous, I stop listening, which I consider a bad thing. I think it will mostly be used for jogging and long car/airplane trips, though I am listening right now as I am blogging ("The Dream of Kings" from the House of Sand and Fog soundtrack).

Music related gifts I gave out include a Evgeny Kissin CD to one niece, a Martha Graham DVD to the other niece, and a book on sound engineering for my eldest nephew. They seem to like the presents. My niece is even writing a paper on Graham right now, so the DVD was very appropriate. I hope everyone is having the best winter holiday that they can.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Holiday Party

[fictional emails, no actual person named Terry in the HR department. Via a colleague.]

FROM: Terry - Human Resources Director
TO: All Employees
DATE: December 13th, 2005
RE: Christmas Party

I'm happy to inform you that the University Christmas Party will take place on December 23rd, starting at noon in the private function room at the Walden Inn House. There will be a cash bar and plenty of drinks! We'll have a small band playing traditional carols...please feel free to sing along. And don't be surprised if the President shows up dressed as Santa Claus!

A Christmas tree will be lit at 1.00 p.m.. Exchange of gifts among employees can be done at that time, however, no gift should be over$10.00 to make the giving of gifts easy for everyone's pockets.

This gathering is only for employees! The President will make a special announcement at the Party.

Merry Christmas to you and your Family.


FROM: Terry - Human Resources Director
TO: All Employees
DATE: December 14th, 2005
RE: Holiday Party

In no way was yesterday's memo intended to exclude our Jewish employees. We recognize that Chanukah is an important holiday, which often coincides with Christmas. From now on we're calling it our 'Holiday Party'. The same policy applies to any other employees who are not Christians. There will be no Christmas tree or Christmas carols sung. We will have other types of music for your enjoyment.
Happy now?

Happy Holidays to you and your family,


FROM: Terry - Human Resources Director
TO: All Employees
DATE: December 15th, 2005
RE: Holiday Party

Regarding the note I received from a member of Alcoholics Anonymous requesting a non-drinking didn't sign your name. I'm happy to accommodate this request, but if I put a sign on a table that reads, "AA Only", you wouldn't be anonymous anymore!!!! How am I supposed to handle this? Somebody?

Forget about the gift exchange, no gift exchange allowed now since the Union Officials feel that $10.00 is too much money and Management believes $10.00 is a little cheap. NO GIFT EXCHANGE WILL BE ALLOWED!


FROM: Terry - Human Resources Director
TO: All Employees
DATE: December 16th, 2005
RE: Holiday Party

What a diverse group we are! I had no idea that December 20th begins the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which forbids eating and drinking during daylight hours. There goes the party! Seriously, we can appreciate how a luncheon at this time of year does not accommodate our Muslim employees' beliefs, perhaps the Walden Inn can hold off on serving your meal until
the end of the party - or else package everything up for you to take home in a little foil doggy bag. Will that work?

Meanwhile, I've arranged for members of Weight Watchers to sit farthest from the dessert buffet and pregnant women will get the table closest to the toilets, Gays are allowed to sit with each other, Lesbians do not have to sit with gay men, each will have their own table. Yes, there will be flower arrangements for the gay men's table too. To the person asking permission to cross dress - no cross dressing allowed.

We will have booster seats for short people. Low fat food will be available for those on a diet. We cannot control the salt used in the food we suggest those people with high blood pressure taste the food first. There will be fresh fruits as dessert for Diabetics. The restaurant cannot supply "No Sugar" desserts. Sorry!

Did I miss anything?!?!?!?!?!


FROM: Terry - Human Resources Director
TO: All F****** Employees
DATE: December 17th, 2005
RE: The ******* Holiday Party

Vegetarian pricks, I've had it with you people!!! We're going to keep this party at the Walden Inn whether you like it or not, so you can sit quietly at the table furthest from the "grill of death", as you so quaintly put it, you'll get your f****** salad bar, including organic tomatoes. But you know, tomatoes have feelings, too. They scream when you slice them. I've heard them scream. I'm hearing the scream right NOW!!

I hope you all have a rotten holiday. Drink, drive, and die.

The Bitch from HELL!

FROM: JOHN - Acting Human Resources Director
TO: All Employees
DATE: December 18th, 2005
RE: Terry and Holiday Party

I'm sure I speak for all of us in wishing Terry a speedy recovery, and I'll continue to forward your cards to her. In the meantime, the Vice President has decided to cancel our Holiday Party and instead, give everyone the afternoon of the 23rd December off with full pay.


Friday, December 23, 2005

Winter = Hibernate, right?

I wish I had been hibernating. Instead, I was finishing grades for the semester (check out the final results of this semester's class blog), buying a house, moving into the house, writing letters to the editor and my Congressmen (secret laws, secret lawbreaking), putting up Christmas decorations, buying presents, conducting my War on Michaelmas, and baking cookies. I also finally got the wireless working in the new house, hence I can start blogging again. (Plus, my temporary house had two accidental movie channels with my basic cable service, whereas the new house actually gives me only the channels I paid for.)

I thank all those who linked to my Mozart post, though I must say that I did not create the letter, as shown by the age of these sites. I'll be reporting from the frozen tundra in a few days, more to come.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The problem of amplification

Lisa Hirsch writes about the negative effects of amplification in the Berkeley Rep. I experienced a similar amplified performance when I took my daughter to the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra's Yuletide Concert. I wasn't bothered by the amplification of the singers, but the orchestra seemed very flat in timbre, dynamics, and emotion. Hilbert Circle Theater is already a problematic performance space, as it was originally designed to be a movie theater rather than an orchestral hall. The auditorium doesn't have enough volume for decent reverberation time, so they had to design electronic "cheats" to give the proper acoustic signature. They turn off these cheats when doing their pops concerts, replacing them with a blanket amplification. The brass, seated way up by the organ pipes, have none of the shock-n-awe that they normally produce, because the amplification normalizes the loudness of every section. Thus the brass is as loud as the strings, or even the bassoons fer chrissakes!

I don't think amplification automatically creates a bad performance experience. But I do think very few sound engineers have the time or knowledge to accurately capture the nuances of a full orchestra.

But what about the sword?

Fafblog reviews the ultimate opera.
The sun rises to hail the third act, which is attacked by the first act and set on fire by the rest of the score. The prince is forced to answer three riddles; they are mistaken for women and married off to random viceroys to everyone's amusement just before their leitmotif explodes, killing everyone.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Authentic link

I'm linking to AKMA for the first time in the body of a post, in a clear effort to get my wife into Seabury-Western next year. But seriously, AKMA has a great post about authenticity in musical performance. I think I agree, though "authenticity" can also be a technical term to describe efforts in replicating performance practices from the time period of the composition. It can still be misleading to suggest that these period performances are more authentic than those on modern instruments with modern techniques, but it has entered the jargon for better or worse.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

RIP Donald Martino

I was saddened to learn that Donald Martino has passed away. I relied upon his compositional insights on articulation when writing my dissertation. Here is a favorite quote that shows Martino's humor as well as musicalintelligence.
The dash, to performer one (a string player) is a bowing indication whose attack characteristics might range from relatively incisive to barely audible; to performer two (a wind player) it means a soft attack. Performer three reads this sign as tenuto: a term which is variously interpreted as “hold the note its full value” or “hold the note a bit longer than its full value.” Attack for this player has never been of great concern. To performer four, a dash means that the note is somehow invested with great expressive significance and, therefore, he is free to play in whatever manner seems most appropriate. And to performers five through infinity it means things the aural results of which are too horrible to contemplate.

Donald Martino, “Notation in General — Articulation in Particular,” Perspectives of New Music, 4/2 (1966), 47.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Scream with a good tone

Today Terry Gross had a voice coach on Fresh Air. Melissa Cross teaches punk and heavy metal rockers how to scream without hurting themselves. It's pretty fascinating, especially when she demonstrates healthy screams vs. bad screams. I had no idea we have a set of false vocal chords, which I see are also used in throat singing. Listen to the whole show, you'll also learn how to talk without strain.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

To Ayre is Human

I got the school library to purchase Golijov's Ayre, and yesterday I had the chance to check it out and listen to it twice. I fall in between Alex Ross and Charles T. Downey, though much closer to Alex's opinion. I think Charles' problem (and Jens' in comments at ionarts) is that they approached the music as a classical work, an art song cycle. Ayre is a mongrel creature, a mix of pop, world music, art song, electronica, and performance art. The sixth song, "Wa Habibi," caught me off-guard the first time, with its heavy emphasis on glissanding synthesizers. But it has a unique charm, as does each song. Ayre somewhat reminds me of Bach's Magnificat. Each movement creates a specific character, with often sharp shifts from one movement to the next. Despite these radical differences, the work retains an overall cohesion. Ayre is definitely a lighter work, but I think it is a lot of fun to listen to, and recommend it to almost anyone.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Sweet Animals

By Katelyn Elizabeth Spiegelberg (transcribed by her doting father)

A monkey was on the road. The monkey didn't know where the car was going. So he followed it. Then, a truck came up. The monkey was scared. And then it was a pet store truck. The monkey ran and hid. But the pet store owner caught him. The monkey was very scared. "Hmm," said the monkey. And then a rabbit came up. Why did the rabbit hop? Because it was trying to get to the pet store. And then a little girl came and picked out the monkey as her pet. But the rabbit wanted her. But the pet store owner said, "You can be my pet."

She decided she wanted to make a book, and was inspired by a stencil that had a rabbit and a monkey on it. Those stencils decorate the cover of the book.

Note the tension right away. The road is transition, made more frightening because of the lack of destination. The tension builds as identities are confirmed, and action taken against the protagonist. Then, when all is darkest, some humor is injected with a carefully placed "Hmm." A new character is introduced to keep the reader's interest, along with a change in authorial tone. This seemingly separate narrative strand is entwined to the original plot. Just when we think the rabbit will achieve the monkey's escape, yet another character comes onto the scene. With the resolution of the monkey's plight, it becomes apparent that this was not the primary conflict. The real conflict was between the monkey and the rabbit, not the monkey and the pet store owner. Both animals wanted the same owner, even if the monkey did not have that self-awareness at the beginning of the story. The ending is intentionally open-ended. Is the rabbit happy with this substitution? Does he even agree to be the pet store owner's pet? Is the pet store owner acting out of altruism, or for more nefarious purposes?

[Hey, John Scalzi did it, why can't I?]

Mozart in the Academy

Dear Dean

This is in response to your suggestion that we appoint Mr. Wolfgang Mozart to our music faculty. The music department appreciates your interest, but the faculty is sensitive about its prerogatives in the selection of new colleagues. While the list of works and performances submitted by the candidate is impressive, the committee feels that it reflects too much activity outside of academia. Mozart does not have an earned doctorate and has very little formal education and teaching experience.

There is also evidence of instability and wanderlust in his resume. Would he settle down in a music school like ours? Would he be a team player? We are concerned about the well-publicized incidents leading to Mozart's dismissal from his former employer, the Archbishop of Salzburg. Mozart's lack of respect for authority suggests an inability to work with our team. Franz J. Haydn's letter of recommendation is supportive, but Haydn is writing from a unique situation. The Esterhazy palace is a private institution and consequently able to accommodate talented non-academics, like Haydn. Here we are concerned about everybody, not just the elite. Furthermore, we suspect cronyism in Haydn's recommendation for his close friend. It is well known that Mozart dedicated six string quartets to Haydn, perhaps in the hope of gaining his support.

After Mozart's interview with our distinguished musicology faculty, they reported him to be sadly lacking in knowledge of Western Music before Bach and Handel. If he were to teach only music composition, this might not be a serious problem. The questions remains, however, would be he an effective teacher of music history? The applied faculty were impressed with his pianism, but thought his performance on the violin and viola stretched his versatility dangerously close to dilettantism. The composition faculty was also sceptical about his vast output of works in all genres. They correctly point out that Mozart's prolificacy has resulted in works of inconsistent quality. One of our full professors mentioned that Mozart shamelessly promotes his music through his own performance. Despite his notoriety he has never won the support of a single major foundation.

One of our faculty members was present a year ago at the premiere of Mozart's performance of one of his piano concertos. After the performance he was astonished to discover that Mozart had not bothered to write out the entire piano part before the performance. This type of improvisation may be very well in his world, but it is unacceptable behaviour in the academy. We expect deadlines to be fully met including all paperwork.

It must be admitted that Mozart is an entertaining man at dinner where he spoke enthusiastically about his music and his travels. Yet a female faculty member was deeply offended by his misogynist jokes. She left the room after his tasteless attempts at scatological humour. This type of behaviour is not surprising from a composer who found the subject of Don Juan suitable for an opera.

As a committee we were happy to have had the chance to meet the candidate from Salzburg, but we cannot recommend his appointment. Even if he were acceptable, Mozart has no hope of achieving tenure. He hasn't completed his doctorate and he spoke disparagingly about continuing his education. When you write to Mozart, please give him our kindest regards. We wish him every success in his career. The committee is unanimous, however, that he cannot fulfil the needs of our department.

We wish to recommend the appointment of Antonio Salieri, a musician of the highest ideals and probity who accurately reflects the aims and values that we espouse. We are eager to welcome such a musician and person to our faculty.

Sincerely yours,

The Search Committe

P.S. Some good news. Our senior professor of composition tells me there is now a very good chance that a movement of his concerto will have its premiere within two years. You will remember that his work was commissioned by a foundation and won first prize nine years ago.
[via a colleague]

Monday, December 05, 2005

The DePauw Blogging Juggernaut

One of my colleagues, Eric Edberg, has joined the blögøsphère. He has posts on his sabbatical in New York, a performance of La Monte Young's solo cello work, a debate caused by his video of left-hand technique, and something of his personal side about the death of a friend and frustrations. Please read Eric's blog and welcome him to our corner of the interwebs.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The budding author

My 5 year-old daughter wrote her first poem today. She typed it on the computer by herself, without any help whatsoever. Here it is.
tip seeze a little boy wat is a tip asked the little boy a tip is a mountain is the teenyist top of the mountain top

Thus ends my proud father bragging moment.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

A Cosmic Varianche!

I know some bloggers dream about getting linked by Instapundit or Atrios. I'm happy to get a mention from the premiere physics blogs out there. My previous brush with heavy traffic was over a year ago, when Virginia Postrel linked to my post on the anthems in the Olympics. Welcome to all Cosmic Variance visitors. You may find my posts on acoustics of interest.

Continuing our theme of hit rates and the science blogosphere, we see a request by PZ Meyers to list the percentage of international visitors and political affiliation. My current counter has 24% international*, not as high as PZ's, but higher than Powerline. I am socially liberal and fiscally conservative, which means that I vote Democrat.

Checking my referrals, amongst the Cosmic Varianchers and Uncertain Principlists I found proof of my international stardom: a link from a Norwegian blog.

And moving from traffic stats to pure science, Dave Munger has another cool post on music cognition. This time, it is on identifying musical styles. In the comments, I point out a worry that using one composer could cause problems because of a certain unity of musical language or lack of aesthetic investment in some of the styles. David Cope created EMI, a computer program that can mimic composers by stealing bits from existing pieces to create new pieces. Thus a brand new Bach chorale or Chopin mazurka is created. Dalla Bella and Peretz could replicate the experiment using piano pieces composed by EMI in the style of Bach, Mozart, Chopin, and Schoenberg, without worrying that musicians would recognize the pieces or that artificial similarities or deficiencies were present. In fact, EMI-composed pieces seem to be a boon for many music cognition studies. Note to self.

*6% Canada; 5% UK; 4% Finland; 2% each Norway, Mexico, Australia; 1% each Poland, Lithuania, Italy.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Cool resource on Film Music

I found this in my referrals.

Music Therapy for Alzheimer's

Via Mind Hacks, I found this article about singing as a therapy program for Alzheimer's patients. Singing for the Brain is a business started by Chreanne Montgomery-Smith three years ago. It conducts weekly sessions where patients sing songs ranging from Broadway to the Beatles. This is related to music therapy programs for Parkinson's patients developed by Michael Thaut, though Dr. Thaut's program is more rigorous and focused on rhythmic entrainment rather than active singing.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

I've got no strings, to hold me down

I'm celebrating my new wireless home network by blogging in my bedroom. I don't have much to say right now, though I'm working on a little essay on the purpose of music analysis. I can share a little personal details. We just moved from our Avon house to a little rental house in Greencastle. We had been trying to sell our house since April, with the hopes of buying something in Greencastle. We lost hope this month, and decided to rent something while we wait for the house to sell. Naturally, the house sold three days after we moved. And then we found a house we want to buy, so we could be moving twice in the space of a month.

But more importantly... Accordian jokes!

Q: What is the definition of an optimist?
A: An accordion player with a pager.

Q: What is the difference between an Uzi and an accordion?
A: The Uzi stops after 20 rounds.

Q: What do accordion players use as a contraceptive?
A: Their personalities.

Q: What's the range of an accordion?
A: Twenty yards if you've got a good arm!

Q: What's a gentleman?
A: Somebody who knows how to play the accordion, but doesn't.

Q: What's the difference between an onion and an accordion?
A: No-one cries when you chop up an accordion.

Q: What's the difference between an accordion player and a terrorist?
A: Terrorists have sympathisers.

Q: What's the definition of perfect pitch?
A: When an accordion is thrown down the toilet, nothing but net (er, blue water).

Q: What's the difference between an accordion and a concertina?
A: The accordion takes longer to burn.

Q: How do you protect a valuable instrument?
A: Hide it in an accordion case.

Q: What's an accordion good for?
A: Learning how to fold a map.

Q: What's the difference between a chainsaw and an accordion?
A: A chainsaw can be tuned.

Q: Why is it good that accordionists have a half-ounce more brains than horses?
A: So they don't disgrace themselves in parades.

Remember, an accordion is a bagpipe with pleats.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Music in other disciplines

In Economics: protectionism by music unions in France, via Brad DeLong.

In Cognition: remembering words vs music, and music helping us to remember things better.

In Encyclopedias: what chemistry and music have in common.

In Education: what physics and music have in common at Andover.

In Art: the influence of music on some paintings. (I don't particularly like these. There are many paintings in the halls of the Performing Arts Center here, including a series on "Sound in Color" by Leonardo Nierman. These paintings on impressions of Ravel, Mahler, Bach, and others please me more than those by Dr. Lin.)

In Philosophy: Wha Hah Hah Hahh! = Armageddon.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


[I got this from my dad.]

If you're new to blues music, or like it but never really understood the whys and wherefores, here are some very fundamental rules:

1. Most blues begin with: "Woke up this morning..."

2. "I got a good woman" is a bad way to begin the blues, unless you stick something nasty in the next line like, "I got a good woman, with the meanest face in town."

3. The blues lyrics are simple. After you get the first line right, repeat it. Then find something that rhymes - sort of: "Got a good woman with the meanest face in town. Yes, I got a good woman with the meanest face in town. Got teeth like Margaret Thatcher and she weigh 500 pound."

4. The blues is not about choice. You stuck in a ditch, you stuck in a ditch...ain't no way out.

5. Blues cars: Chevys, Fords, Cadillacs and broken-down trucks. Blues don't travel in Volvos, BMWs, or Sport Utility Vehicles. Most blues transportation is a Greyhound bus or a southbound train. Jet aircraft and state-sponsored motor pools ain't even in the running. Walkin' plays a major part in the blues lifestyle. So does fixin' to die.

6. Teenagers can't sing the Blues. They ain't fixin' to die yet. Adults sing the blues. In the blues, "adulthood" means being old enough to get the electric chair if you shoot a man in Memphis.

7. The blues can take place in New York City but not in Hawaii or anywhere in Canada. Hard times in Minneapolis or Seattle is probably just clinical depression. Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, Memphis, and Nawlins are still the best places to have the blues. You cannot have the blues in any place that don't get rain.

8. A man with male pattern baldness ain't the blues. A woman with male pattern baldness is. Breaking your leg 'cause you were skiing is not the blues. Breaking your leg 'cause a alligator be chomping on it is

9. You can't have no blues in an office or a shopping mall. The lighting is wrong. Go outside to the parking lot or sit by the dumpster

10. Good places for the blues:
a. Highway
b. Jailhouse
c. Empty bed
d. Bottom of a whiskey glass

11. Bad places for the Blues:
a. Nordstrom's
b. Gallery openings
c. Ivy League institutions
d. Golf courses

12. No one will believe it's the blues if you wear a suit, 'less you happen to be an old person and you slept in it.

13. Do you have the right to sing the blues?
Yes, if:
a. you're older than dirt;
b. you're blind;
c. you shot a man in Memphis;
d. you can't be satisfied.

No, if:
a. you have all your teeth;
b. you were once blind but now can see;
c. the man in Memphis lived; or
d. you have a 401K or trust fund

14. The blues is not a matter of color. It's a matter of bad luck. Tiger Woods cannot sing the blues. Sonny Liston could have. Ugly white people also got a leg up on the blues

15. If you ask for water and your darlin' gives you gasoline, it's the blues. Other acceptable blues beverages are:
a. cheap wine
b. whiskey or bourbon
c. muddy water
d. black coffee

The following are NOT blues beverages:
a. Perrier
b. Chardonnay
c. Snapple
d. Slim Fast

16. If death occurs in a cheap motel or a shotgun shack, it's a blues death. Stabbed in the back by a jealous lover is another blues way to die. So are the electric chair, substance abuse, and dying lonely on a broken-downcot. You can't have a blues death if you die during a tennis match or while getting liposuction.

17. Some blues names for women:
a. Sadie
b. Big Mama
c. Bessie
d. Fat River Dumpling

18. Some blues names for men:
a. Joe
b. Willie
c. Little Willie
d. Big Willie

19. Persons with names like Michelle, Amber, Jennifer, Debbie, and Heather can't sing the blues no matter how many men they shoot in Memphis.

20. Blues Name Starter Kit:
a. name of physical infirmity (Blind, Cripple, Lame, etc.)
b. first name (see above) plus name of fruit (Lemon, Lime, Peach, etc.)
c. last name of President (Jefferson, Johnson, Fillmore, etc.)
For example:
a. Blind Lemon Jefferson
b. Pegleg Lime Johnson
c. Cripple Peach Fillmore

21. I don't care how tragic your life is: if you own a computer, you cannot sing the blues, period.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Revenge of the Brass

Here's a nice bit of trivia: the list of the brass players for all six Star Wars soundtracks. Note the extreme expansion of forces from the first movie to the second (especially the all-important trumpets):
Star Wars: 4 + 8 + 3 + 2
Empire Strikes Back: 9 + 9 + 6 + 3

Monday, November 14, 2005

Back from Beantown

I was offline for the last four days, attending the national meeting of the Society for Music Theory. I had a great time, seeing old friends and teachers, listening to stimulating papers, and having possibly the best dinner of my life at Julien's, thanks to my generous big brother. I'm not going to blog much more about the conference, as I'm still digesting the things I heard. I'm also inspired to work harder on my own research and writing, so a little less time at the old blog-wheel.

I do want to point out that Jaquandar has finally taken up my film music meme, willingly undertaking the longer list. To answer his question, the course will be on all uses of music in films, including source music. I also want to point out that not all source music is diagetic, nor all underscoring non-diagetic. A literal definition of "diagetic" is being produced by the narrative. One can imagine cases where source music is not directly part of the narrative, and there are plenty of cases where the underscoring is a direct result of the narrative (in Amadeus, Mozart imagines the music he is composing, which we hear in the underscore).

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

More on Countertenors

It's serendipity that I received this comment a day before I attended a recital by Steven Rickards. The recital was very good, including a hilarious love duet between Steven and Gabriel Crouch. I also liked song cycles by Gerald Finzi and John Gardner, both based on texts by Shakespeare. And now to my commenter. Here's what Mr. Lynch says:
I have sung countertenor since 1966 and have more than once felt the insult of gender discrimination. Regardless of one's musical tastes, it is simply wrong for the same reasons it's wrong to exclude women from practicing medicine. However you dress it up or rationalize it, gender discrimination is what it is. In California, it's illegal as to professional singers working for a non-religious employer. When public funds or facilities are involved it's illegal, period. I'm a lawyer by trade, and I'm itching for the right case to litigate this issue, which I'll gladly do pro bono. And by the way, the Episcopal Church has a specific canon against gender discrimination in all aspects of lay ministry. This isn't a musical taste issue, but a human rights issue.

I don't accept that this issue has to be about gender discrimination. Vocal performance is about more than just the tessitura. The timbre of a countertenor's voice is quite different from that of an alto, just like the timbres of a harmonica compared with a clarinet. No one would suggest that it is discrimination to prevent a harmonica player from auditioning for an all-state orchestra, even though that player could play the same notes as a clarinetist (or flutist or violinist). This issue is not about male versus female, it is about blended versus unblended tonal colors. Others have made the argument that countertenors can blend with female altos or sopranos, and I can accept that possibility. I can also accept the possibility that the Texas Board was influenced by gender stereotypes in making their decision, which is wrong. But to assume that this has to be the case, that is unfounded in my opinion. The Episcopal Church sees no contradiction between its canon against gender discrimination and its many Men and Boys Choirs, which do not allow female membership. Nor with its Girl choirs which do not admit males. Neither do I.

That fine line between idiocy and genius

Frank Samarotto of Indiana University took it upon himself to create a list of bad dissertation titles.

I have to say, I'd really want to read #4, 8 and 10.
1. Uncertainty in Music: A Definitive Survey

2. The Catalan Influence on the French Augmented Sixth Chord in the Music of Engelbert Humperdinck

3. The Voicing of the Final Chord in Music of the Classical Period

4. A Syncategorematically Recursive Hedra-Lattice of Poly-PC Postponement: A Theory of Atonal Silence

5. Heinrich Schenker: Threat or Menace?

6. Prolonging the Agony: A Schenkerian Approach to Muzak in the Dentist's Office

7. “Where Are All My Favorite Notes?” A Statistical Tabulation of Every Pitch-Class in the Serial Music of Webern

8. A Violist Walked into a Barline: Rhythm and Meter in the Structure of Viola Jokes

9.Three Times a Lady: Triple Counterpoint in the Music of Britney Spears

10. The Whole Step: Our Misunderstood Friend

A point for the EP crowd

Dave Munger has another post about music and emotion. Researchers at the University of Toronto found that people with extensive musical training are better at detecting emotions in speech prosody (the pitch patterns used in speaking) than those without musical training. This fits in the arguments of Benzon and others that music arose before language as a means of communicating emotion. It also agrees with the notion that music has continued as a human activity as a means of exercising our emotions. If musical people are better at reading emotions, they are more likely to make lasting connections with other people, and hence increase their likelihood of survival. And this is why human cognition has evolved to enjoy listening to and creating music. A leap is made here, as the study only looks at performance, and did find that singing was not as effective as keyboard training.

Blogging warm-up

When you've taken a break from blogging, it is important to do a good warm-up before embarking on any extensive posts. Thus I give you, yet another movie-meme. This time, it's comedies.

All About Eve
Annie Hall
The Apartment
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
Blazing Saddles
Bringing Up Baby
Broadcast News
Le diner de con
Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
Duck Soup
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Four Weddings and a Funeral
The General
The Gold Rush
Good Morning Vietnam
The Graduate
Groundhog Day
A Hard Day's Night
His Girl Friday
Kind Hearts and Coronets
The Lady Killers
Local Hero
Monty Python's Life of Brian *
National Lampoon's Animal House
The Odd Couple
The Producers
Raising Arizona
Shaun of the Dead
A Shot in the Dark
Some Like it Hot
Strictly Ballroom
Sullivan's Travels
There's Something About Mary
This is Spinal Tap
To Be or Not to Be
Toy Story *
Les vacances de M. Hulot
When Harry Met Sally...
Withnail and I

Films Whose Presence in the Canon I'm Particularly Gratified to See (pick up to five): Airplane!, Blazing Saddles, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, This is Spinal Tap, Toy Story

Films in the Canon Whose Presence Should Not Be (pick up to five): Austin Powers, Dodgeball, A Hard Day's Night, Shaun of the Dead, Sullivan's Travels

Films I'd Pick to Replace Them (pick up to five): City Lights, What's Opera Doc?, One Night in the Tropics, Stripes, It's a Mad Mad Mad World.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Fastest Slide of the West

David of Hot Brass has the link to the trailor of Kit Bones - the fastest slide in the West, starring Christian Lindberg and Håkan Hardenberger. You've been warned.

Don't you hate it when life intrudes on blogging?

1) My parents visited for the weekend.
2) I got an early birthday present: The Lord of the Rings exhibit. (Which was really cool.)
3) I got another early birthday present, teas from Adagio Tea. (Mango, Berry Blues, and the Green Tea sampler.)
4) We thought my wife's purse was stolen, complete with birth certificates from our trip to Canada. So cancelling credit cards, putting alerts on our bank accounts, filing police reports.
5) The university orchestra concert.
6) We decided to stop looking for a house to buy, and instead started to look for a house to rent for awhile.
7) Pumpkin carving.
8) Mask painting.
9) Trick-or-Treating.
10) Candy eating.
11) Advising students on course scheduling for next semester. Each day I seem to get more students advising with me, including those who already have other advisers.
12) We discovered that the purse was not stolen, but left at the university library. Yet we are without credit cards until the new ones arrive. Fun!

So I'm finally back blogging, spurred by a request to advertise a fine classical music resource in Vancouver. Classical Vancouver is a web portal with concert calendars, lists of artists and resources, and links to arts-related news. I think this is a great idea for all larger cities to emulate. A one-stop-shopping approach to the fine arts makes it easier for artists to find each other, and for audiences to find concerts to attend.

Friday, October 28, 2005

The search for music

Here's a fascinating article in Wired by Michael Chorost, author of Rebuilt : How Becoming Part Computer Made Me More Human. The article describes how he went from partial deafness to full deafness, his cochlear implant, and the search to make Bolero enjoyable again. Chorost communicates his passion for music well, describes the science and technology clearly, and carries us through the excitement and disappointments he experienced.

(via Mind Hacks)

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Movie Music Meme, Take 2

Okay, nobody wants to go through a list of 200+ movies, especially in such an unorganized way. So I only have the heavily emphasized movies in this list, in alphabetical order. Let me reiterate, this list is supposed to be representative of the major developments in film scoring. Copy the list and bold those movies you have seen, and snark about those movies that are missing.

The Adventures of Robin Hood
Ben Hur (1959)
The Best Years of Our Lives
The Birth of a Nation [I haven't seen all of this yet]
The Bride of Frankenstein
Citizen Kane
Don Juan (1926)
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
The Empire Strikes Back
The Godfather
Gone With the Wind
High Noon
The Jazz Singer (1927) [I've seen scenes]
King Kong (1933)
The Last of the Mohicans
Lawrence of Arabia
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
The Mission
On the Waterfront
Rain Man
Rebel Without a Cause
The Red Violin
Run Lola Run (Lola Rennt)
To Kill a Mockingbird
Touch of Evil
The Wizard of Oz
Wuthering Heights

I've seen 71% of the movies thus far, and plan to see all except Don Juan before the end of the semester. If I can find a copy of Don Juan, I'll watch that too. Now, I expect Jaquandar and Peter (the other) to carry on this meme, even if it dies there.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Let me tell you how sad I am, slowly

Dave Munger has a good post describing a recent study by Isabelle Peretz and Lise Gagnon on emotional effects of music. It turns out that tempo is more important than mode (major vs. minor keys) in creating the sensation of happiness or sadness. However, I find the tempo choices to be quite bizarre. The slowest tempo was 110 beats per minute, well above the accepted normal range. Dave doesn't say how the primary beat was determined, a very complex matter as Peter Martens could tell you. But typical music definitions of slow tempi are in the range of 40-60 beats per minute, half of the study's speed.

A Call For Papers

DePauw University is pleased to announce a symposium on “The Interaction of Poetry and Music,” on February 18, 2006. The symposium is being held in conjunction with Music of the 21st Century, an annual festival celebrating contemporary composers. Scholars from the fields of music and literature are invited to submit paper proposals for this symposium.

Jake Heggie will be the featured composer at the festival. The composer of the operas Dead Man Walking and The End of the Affair, Heggie has won numerous awards and honors. His songs and operas have been performed by internationally celebrated artists such as Renée Fleming, Frederica von Stade, and Bryn Terfel. Previous composers honored at Music of the 21st Century include George Crumb, Tanía León, and Augusta Read Thomas. This year’s festival is spread over five days. It will include student and faculty performances of contemporary works, a lecture/performance by the composer, and public masterclasses on composition and song performance led by Jake Heggie. A detailed schedule can be found here.
(The schedule will become more detailed.)

The symposium will feature a keynote address by Deborah Stein. Dr. Stein has published articles in music theory and musicology journals, and is author of Hugo Wolf’s Lieder and Extensions of Tonality. In 2004, Stein published a chapter in A Rebecca Clarke Reader and edited and contributed to a book, Engaging Music: Essays in Music Analysis. Her book Poetry Into Song: Performance and Analysis of Lieder, coauthored with pianist Robert Spillman, was named an Outstanding Academic Book of 1996 by Choice.

Proposed papers can be on any aspect of music and poetry in interaction. Topics may include analytical or theoretical studies from either discipline, historical contexts, cognitive theory, or technical aspects of composition. Proposals should be submitted electronically by November 28, 2005.

Proposals should be no longer than three pages (including footnotes or endnotes); they should be double-spaced and use a 12-point font. Proposals should be anonymous and articulate clearly the paper’s premise. Include a cover letter listing the title of the paper, the author’s name, with rank and institutional affiliation (if applicable), and the author’s address, telephone number and email address. Please also list any technical requirements (stereo, piano, computer, overhead projector, etc.) in the cover letter.

Proposals should be submitted electronically as either a MS Word or .pdf document email attachment to Please put “Symposium 2006” in the subject heading.

A liberal arts college with one of the oldest Schools of Music in the country, DePauw University is located in Greencastle, Indiana.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Evolution of Music

I've written about various evolutionary theories of music before. Now I point you to a good radio program from the BBC that interviews Steven Mithen, Professor of Early Prehistory at Reading University and Lawrence Parsons, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at Sheffield University, on this subject. Mithen, the author of The Singing Neanderthals, discusses the archeological record of music. I've read before about the 30,000 year old flutes, but Mithen makes an interesting claim. By looking at the anatomical design of vocal tracts in proto-humans, he feels that our ancestors were singing millions of years ago, before the development of language. Mithen bases this argument on the facts that there are no records of symbols used that far back, and that behavior was not languag driven. I'm not sure what he means by this, I'll have to read the book to find out. Parsons describes all the interesting research in functional imaging of the brain. Comparisons of the brains of musicians and nonmusicians, and scans of brains while listening to or performing music have revealed some fascinating data. Take a listen, the interviewer does a good job of keeping things interesting, understandable, yet rigorous.

(via Mind Hacks. Also note the article about hearing implants and musical appreciation.)

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Rockin' Theorists

The latest issue of Music Theory Online is out. Three of the four articles are part of the latest initiative to prove that theorists can be cool. Mark Spicer's review of The Beatles as Musicians: The Quarry Men Through Rubber Soul is the lamest effort. While the Beatles can be cool, liking them is so universal among old people (over 25) that the book cannot be cool itself. Allan Moore has a better effort with his article on The Persona-Environment Relation in Recorded Song. Moore describes how the accompaniment of popular songs (guitars, drums, etc.) interact with the lyrics to flesh out the characters in the songs. Still somewhat geeky, but he does mention AC/DC, Laïs, Iggy Pop, and (as a negative) the Carpenters. However, Luis-Manuel Garcia has done the best job of proving how hip theorists are, with his article On and On: Repetition as Process and Pleasure in Electronic Dance Music. That's right, Dance Dance Revolution has made it to the academy. As it turns out, the highly repetitive nature of electronica is perfect to stimulate the experience of pleasure through process.

One guy apparently didn't get the memo, and had to write an article on key signatures. This is not helping the cause, Dmitri!

Warning: This post is highly sarcastic, with the tongue firmly pressed into the cheek. The author appreciates the fine efforts in all four articles, and encourages everyone to read all of them.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Movie Music Memelicious

In the textbook I will be using for Film Music next semester, the author has emphasized specific movies with separate chapters or detailed Viewer Guides. So I figured, let's make this a list to bold with the ones I've already seen, cheaply copying similar notions. I've decided to expand the list to all movies listed as significant, with the emphasized ones, um, ... emphasized with italics. There are many foreign films that are discussed but not listed as significant at the beginning of the relevant chapter. Feel free to snark about the list in comments. I question all the significant movies at the very bottom, it is too inclusive. But still, a list of 221 movies. Take that, Scalzi!

L'Assassinat du Duc de Guise
Queen Elizabeth (1912)
The Birth of a Nation [I haven't seen all of this yet]
The Fall of a Nation
Broken Blossoms
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
Battleship Potemkin
Napoléon (1927)
The New Babylon
Don Juan (1926)
The Jazz Singer (1927) [I've seen scenes]
City Lights
Lights of New York
Steamboat Willie
In Old Arizona
The Broadway Melody
The Hollywood Revue of 1929
The Blue Angel
King Kong (1933)
42nd Street
Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
The Informer
The Bride of Frankenstein
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs*
The Adventures of Robin Hood
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
The Wizard of Oz
[the book does highlight some motives]
Gone With the Wind
Wuthering Heights [I have this checked out, will watch it over the weekend]
Citizen Kane [Likewise this one]
Things to Come
Alexander Nevsky
Of Mice and Men
Our Town
The Devil and Daniel Webster
Hangmen Also Die
La Noche de los mayas
Laura [I've heard and performed the title song many times]
Double Indemnity
The Lost Weekend
A Double Life
The Red Shoes
The Heiress [I've heard Copland's music]
The Best Years of Our Lives
An American in Paris
A Streetcar Named Desire
Singin' in the Rain
High Noon
The Man with the Golden Arm [I've seen scenes]
Blackboard Jungle
Sunset Blvd.
La Ronde
A Place in the Sun
The Day the Earth Stood Still
Seven Samurai
East of Eden
Rebel Without a Cause [Some principal themes are discussed]
Forbidden Planet
On the Waterfront
Around the World in 80 Days
The Bridge on the River Kwai
The Seventh Seal (1957 Bergman version)
Big Country
North by Northwest
Anatomy of a Murder
Some Like It Hot
Touch of Evil
Ben Hur (1959)
Quo Vadis
The Robe
The Ten Commandments
The 400 Blows
Hiroshima mon amour
Last Year at Marienbad
The Magnificent Seven
West Side Story
Breakfast at Tiffany's
El Cid
Days of Wine and Roses
Dr. No
Lawrence of Arabia
Doctor Zhivago
Wait Until Dark
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
The Hustler
To Kill a Mockingbird
The Manchurian Candidate (1962) [I've seen scenes]
Tom Jones [I do not understand how this movie won two Oscars]
The Pawnbroker
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
Bonnie and Clyde
The Graduate
Planet of the Apes
2001: A Space Odyssey
Midnight Cowboy
Easy Rider
The French Connection
Shaft (1971) [But I have the soundtrack]
Clockwork Orange
Dirty Harry
The Godfather
The Godfather: Part II
The Sting
American Graffiti
Mean Streets
The Exorcist
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Taxi Driver
Star Wars
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Superman: The Movie
Star Trek: The Motion Picture
The Empire Strikes Back
Raiders of the Lost Ark**
Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan
Return of the Jedi

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Saturday Night Fever
Midnight Express
Apocalypse Now
A Little Romance
The Shining
Chariots of Fire
Blade Runner
The Year of Living Dangerously
The Right Stuff
A Passage to India
Once Upon a Time in America
The Natural
Out of Africa

The Mission
The Last Emperor
Empire of the Sun
The Untouchables
Beverly Hills Cop
Back to the Future
'Round Midnight
Top Gun
[I'll have to include this movie in the class, if I want tenure in this state.]
Lethal Weapon
Rain Man
Die Hard
The Milagro Beanfield War
Who Framed Roger Rabbit
Dances with Wolves
Home Alone
The Last of the Mohicans
Schindler's List
Jurassic Park
Blue (from Three Colors)
The Little Mermaid
Do the Right Thing
The Silence of the Lambs
Beauty and the Beast
Boyz n the Hood
Forrest Gump
The Lion King***
The Shawshank Redemption
Pulp Fiction
Shakespeare in Love
Run Lola Run (Lola Rennt)
American Beauty
Star Wars: Episode I
The Matrix
Star Wars: Episode II
The Red Violin
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
The Hours [I've heard part of Philip Glass' score]
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Black Hawk Down
Pearl Harbor [blech!]
Monsters, Inc.
Moulin Rouge
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Finding Nemo
The Triplets of Belleville [I really need to see this]
Kill Bill: Vol. I
Spider-Man 2
Kill Bill: Vol. II
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

* The book also lists Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, and Bambi.
** There is a list of all major fantasy/adventure films, 1977-1989, excluding those already listed above: all four Supermans, all three Indiana Joneses, and all five Star Treks.
Yet more Disney movies, I assure you I've seen all of them except Hercules and Atlantis. (Oh, and Mulan. I read the book, but haven't seen the movie.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Movie Madness

Following the recent theme of film topics, I'll partake in the latest bold-this-list idea generated by Jaquandar from John Scalzi's latest book. This is a list of the 50 science fiction movies Scalzi has
deemed to be the most significant in the history of film. Note that "most significant" does not mean "best" or "most popular" or even "most influential." Some of the films may be all three of these, but not all of them are -- indeed, some films in The Canon aren't objectively very good, weren't blockbusters and may not have influenced other filmmakers to any significant degree. Be that as it may, I think they matter -- in one way or another, they are uniquely representative of some aspect of the science fiction film experience.

Here is the list. I have bolded those movies I have seen.

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension!
Back to the Future
Blade Runner
Bride of Frankenstein
Brother From Another Planet
A Clockwork Orange
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
The Damned
Destination Moon
The Day The Earth Stood Still
Escape From New York
ET: The Extraterrestrial
Flash Gordon: Space Soldiers (serial)
The Fly (1985 version)
Forbidden Planet
Ghost in the Shell
The Incredibles
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956 version)
Jurassic Park
Mad Max 2/The Road Warrior
The Matrix
On the Beach
Planet of the Apes (1968 version)
Solaris (1972 version)
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
The Stepford Wives
Terminator 2: Judgement Day
The Thing From Another World
Things to Come
12 Monkeys
28 Days Later
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
2001: A Space Odyssey
La Voyage Dans la Lune
War of the Worlds (1953 version)

This isn't too bad, with a nice mix of old and new movies. I am ashamed that I haven't seen Solaris, Metropolis, or all of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (I've seen excerpts). I haven't seen much anime, thus no Ghost in the Shell or Akira. I've seen many serials from the 50's, but I don't think I saw that particular Flash Gordon storyline.

How Blogging is Professional Development

Because of my previous posts on film music, I've been sent a wonderful bibliography on the intersection of film music with my main research interest: music cognition. This bibliography is a work in progress by Peter Kaye, a PhD candidate at Kingston University and experienced film composer/music editor. I've added this bibliography to my Music Sites, as well as his recommended Anderson & Sadoff bibliography. It would have been highly unlikely that I would have found this bibliography without the help of this blog.

I've also switched my sidebar around, giving more prominance to the Musical Sites. With the proliferation of RSS readers, blogrolls have become less important. But non-blog resources are not always evident from web searches, so I hope my list of music resources will be helpful.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Home Again, jiggety-jig

We are back home (in Indiana), having left far too much money in the hands of Michigan vendors. I have the week off, thanks to the enlightened calendar system designed by my colleagues. I plan to get caught up in my grading, do some writing, and continue planning next semester's classes. In a serendipitous moment, my local WW Norton rep stopped by last week and gave me a desk copy of a new book on film music. This book, Reel Music, is much better written than The Soul of Cinema and aimed to the nonspecialist audience that Critical Approaches isn't. I plan to have my students read two chapters of Critical Approaches for a stronger basis in theory. But with this, I think Hickman's book will be very good.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Canada blogging, eh?

Yes, I'm blogging from deep inside the evil Northern Empire. It was a risky trip, complete with birth certificates, friendly border guards, and Tim Horton's coffee shops. To show my dedication to the cause, I have even brought my family with me, leaving only the dog and cat behind to avenge our deaths if necessary.

These tricksy Canadians have built a training grounds here, clearly part of a plan to attack Europe. A perfect replica of London is hidden in the interior of Ontario, complete with a River Thames, Picadilly, Queen's Street, King's Street, Victoria Park, Oxford Street, Blackfriar's Bridge, and St. Paul's Cathedral. I have not discovered where they are hiding the Tower, but as I said, these Canadians are tricksy.

I've been eating their Sweet Marie's, Beef Wellington, and poutine, but I have not gone native. No "Zed" will ever pass my lips, nor shall my "again" ever fit in a My Fair Lady song. The babies are cute, and the history professors are friendly. I fear that they will try to pry secrets of the Republic from me with copious amounts of wine this evening. Of course, the joke's on them, as I'm not a Republican.

Monday, I am to be subjected to another evil, the great Blue country of southern Michigan. Every day I try to forgive my wife for having been brainwashed by those dastardly Ann Arborites, only to be thanked with this visit. I will sing "On Wisconsin" continuously to guard against contamination, with instructions given to the cat to end my life swiftly if I mention the name Lloyd.

Think well of me, as I face these dangerous lands. I will return for more regular blogging on Tuesday.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Thursday Thuggeries

Mr. Answer Man answers your google questions:

Recursive Writing: When I'm writing about what I'm writing about at that moment. Ref: Godel, Escher, Bach - An Eternal Golden Braid.

Music Theory Mnemonics: Besides the way to remember Picardy Thirds, I can offer FACE for the spaces in the treble clef; Each Girl Brings Dog Food for the lines in the treble clef; BEAD + Greatest Common Factor for the order of flats; when you get Mono you are left all alone, so Monophony is the texture with one voice; and Rounded Binary is round like a circle, in that it returns to the beginning.

Sentics: It sounds crazy, but this theory has (mostly) held up to experimental investigation. Manfred Clynes posits that the seven basic emotions have their own "touch" as exhibited by tapping patterns. These emotional touches correspond to emotional content in music, and each composer has his/her own rhythmic pattern as well (the last part hasn't tested as well).

Eroica Symphony Opening Chord: It is an awesome Eb major triad, voiced quite densely with lots of emphasis on the tonic Eb, especially in the highest voices. It's so good that Beethoven has to repeat it before starting the melody.

Geographical Fugue PDF score: This textual fugue by film composer Ernest Toch is not in the public domain, so you will have to shell out the bucks for the score.

Catchy Tunes: This is a common search referral for me, because of my post on the sensationalized Nature article and various interpretations of it. Composers would give up their copy of Finale (or Sibelius) for the knowledge of how to write a catchy tune. Either to cash in on the popularity, or to avoid such dreck in their masterworks.

Bach chorales Schenkerian: Schenkerian analysis is based upon a theory that all tonal music is a stretching out of a single tonic chord by means of various transformations. The analysis shows how the tonic chord is transformed into a full piece, detailing the various levels. I don't know of any published analyses of all 371 chorales. I've done many myself during grad school, but I have not kept those graphs.

Shofar Tekiah MP3: This question is pertinent today, as long as the person waits until sunset to listen to the MP3.

Musical Quotes by Theorists: Well, I can share quotes my students have collected from me. " The French Augmented Sixth sounds a like brothel, sexy and mysterious." "With Formal analysis we are figuring out how to divide up the whole friggin' piece." "The half-diminished seventh chord is bittersweet and poignant." [Followed by a longing stare into the distance as I played it.] How's that?

iTunes Troubles: I've come to terms with my iTunes, especially after I discovered how to make new fields. I keep the movements as separate tracks, even though this can create some bizarre transitions when listening in Shuffle mode. A short transitional movement of a Baroque concerto can connect a Howard Shore film score to Ella Fitzgerald singing "Mack the Knife." But I can always shift from Shuffle mode to directed listening and hear the whole concerto if I desire.

That' s it for this edition of Mr. Answer Man. Keep visiting with those burning questions.

Update: I have no idea how some of my sentences were retrograded by Blogger, but I can't help but find that to be SO COOL! Now let's see some inversions.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Tuesday Timerity

Here's a neat website on Musical Acoustics, which I found from the Scientific American 2005 Web Awards. I'll add this site from the University of South Wales to my list of Music Sites on the left. I had a student do a paper on the acoustics of didjeridus two years ago, he would have loved this resource.

Speaking of unusual aerophones, I will finally get to dust off the shofar this year, even if a week later than I had hoped. I usually play for the campus services of Rosh Hoshana and Yom Kippur, but communication lines fizzled for the first Holy Day. In any event, I look forward to seeing how awesome I can make the Tekiah Gedolah that ends the Day of Atonement.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Monday madness

A crazy Carnival of Music has popped up over at HurdAudio. I don't think I had broken down over the odd link, but I admit to the table-jumping. Speaking of odd links, the administrator of the RaptureWatch discussion board left a comment below. Unfortunately, she has her nose buried in Revelations so much that she missed my request to use New Comments rather than the old system.

But it must be one interesting Bible she has, that specifies that she will be sucked from Earth to Heaven, come back after 7 years of death and destruction, take part in the 1,000 year Reich Reign of the rapturites and their main man, and then have life everlasting. (There must be some interesting genetic manipulation for eternal life that takes a millenium to work out.) My Bibles* don't have that stuff, only the allegory of the Roman Church having fallen into sin like a whore of Babylon.

And speaking of the church, I got to rub shoulders with the Episcopal elite of Indianapolis last night, celebrating the retirement of Dean Robert Gianninininini. (He made fun of my name last night, so it's payback time!) But the wife and I learned an important lesson: Episcopal functions have cash bars, not open bars. To be fair, there was wine served with dinner, but we found ourselves at happy hour being unhappy, sober, and cash poor.

*Yes, Mary and I have many Bibles. We've got a King James, a Standard Revised, the Oxford Annotated, the Precious Moments Bible, a Good News, and some evangelical-feeling one that I can't remember the name of. Don't tell PZ.

Thursday, October 06, 2005


I. I'm pleased that both of my senators voted for the McCain Amendment to ban torture of military prisoners. I am horrified that any senator could vote for torture.

II. You may have noticed that my comments tag looks different, in that there are two choices of links to comments. I found out that Haloscan does not keep old comments, when I think there are some great comments that make my posts much better. So I have turned the Blogger comments back on, while still keeping the haloscan active for now. I encourage everyone to use the Blogger link (the one on the left), and I will eventually get rid of the haloscan links.

III. Check out my students' class blog, Harmonious Puddles Make You Lose Control. They have been experiencing Indian music, the realities of music as a career, and now music technology.

IV. Yesterday, I was very excited to listen to the NPR story on the newly-found recording of Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane. The sound is absolutely great, and the archivist (Appelbaum) does a good job describing the unusual but wonderful interaction of Monk's sparse style with Coltrane's lyricism.

V. I was a little freaked out to discover this discussion board among my referrals. I'm not used to people being so excited about the end of the world. I wonder if any of them are parents. I look forward to seeing my children grow. I thrill at seeing them discovering the universe, their worldviews expanding at prodigious rates. I would be quite sad if the world ended next Tuesday, stopping that growth forever.

Discoursing on art

People experience various forms of art (music, theater, painting, sculpture, dance, gourmet cooking) for one or more of the following purposes:
1) to be seen looking cultural
2) to entertain themselves
3) to exercise their emotions
4) to exercise their cognitive abilities
5) to explore the limits of their perceptions

Any discourse on art should address one or more of these purposes. If the claim is made that a particular artwork is great, which of these purposes is it great at fulfilling? The first purpose is too cynical to be involved in most discussions of art, though it can provide insight into how peer pressure and patronage have shaped the arts. The second purpose is not satisfying by itself, because it naturally leads to the question, "why is it entertaining?" Why do we find it preferable to stare at a painting instead of a blank wall, or to listen to our iPods instead of silence? Entertainment has to be caused by one of the other purposes, whether it is the stimulation of emotions or the time kill of a good intellectual challenge.

So a good discourse on art should be about the emotional effect, the perceptual effect, or the cognitive effect. Arguments could and should be made that some of these effects directly influence each other. A cognitive awareness of the structure of a symphony can engender an emotional response. The visual illusions in a painting can affect the cognitive interpretations.

My argument does not specify whether the focus should be on universal effects or individual effects. Both approaches have their benefits and problems. Universal effects allow the discourse to approach the artwork as a tangible object with indisputable attributes. Individual effects are more ephemeral, but more accurate when it comes to emotion. I challenge my fellow members of the bløgösphère to address the purpose of the artwork in your discourses.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Academic Blog Survey, or is it another damn meme?

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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