Perceptions about music, perceptions that affect music, perceptions colored by music, perceptions expressed by music.
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Music and Language
Monday, May 30, 2005
...And in the harmonies, bind them
Second, I have to point to one motif that I think Eric mislabels/misinterprets. The Ring motif is indeed used quite often when the Ring is mentioned. But it also occurs at the Argonath scene, as Eric rightly points out, and when Galadriel mentions how things have been lost and forgotten in the prelude of the first film. While the motif does represent the Ring, it also represents all the lost lore/wisdom/culture of the previous ages. Man can no longer build things like the Argonath. The end of the Ring means the end of the Elves power and culture. I think it overall represents the transition from the Elf-dominated world to a new one, which will be dominated by either Men or Orcs. It also captures the tone of Tolkein's books, with a nostalgic focus on the glories of the past, never to be repeated.
I'm thinking of teaching a course on the music of the Lord of the Rings for Winter Term in two years. It would include the film scores, with the extended DVD documentaries, score reviews (including Jaquandar's), and this site. It would also look at LOTR-inspired music, from band music to rock and jazz. I think it would be a good way to sneak in some basics of semiotics, while making for a fun course.
Thursday, May 26, 2005
Some more recent studies have looked at brain scans and brain physiology, comparing humans with other species and mapping these comparisons to behavioral trends. While seals are hardwired to vocalize in efforts to attract a mate, it has been shown that the actual sounds that are made are learned. (Even if the learned Mainer accent didn't help with the ladies...) Other studies on primates, birds, and rats have attempted to clarify which musical behaviors are solely human, and thus possibly an evolutionary adaptation. But defining whether a bobo's drumming is musical behavior can be difficult, if not impossible given the current definitions of music.
I still don't know what to think about music as an adaptation. Are there studies on the evolutionary aspects of other arts, such as painting or poetry? I know there is plenty on the evolution of language, as that is often cited in the music studies.
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
The negative of the second choice is that it can encourage cheating. I could have exactly as many pieces as there are students, and rotate sets every year. But somebody will be unhappy getting stuck with the Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf contrabass concerto. I'll have to ponder this over the summer.
But now, I get to catch up on housework, go see Star Wars tomorrow morning, and head off to Chicago for a weekend of sightseeing with the family. I'm teaching at the DePauw Vocal Arts Camp again, and also at IU for their summer session. But I'm teaching the exact same course (20th century analysis and literature), so there will be very little prep work needed.
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
The best use of paper
*Visit Jimbo's blog, so his traffic count won't depend only on Sid Rosenberg.
Sunday, May 15, 2005
365 days, and still no catblogging
I also did some reading: Winter's Tale (thanks to John Scalzi), Perdido Street Station (thanks to Crooked Timber), and Gun, with Occasional Music (thanks to no one, my airplane book).
In the last year, I've had 14,210 visitors. (This is in slightly less than a year, as I didn't install Sitemeter until May 30). April was my biggest month, with almost 1,700 visitors. My Google Page Rank is 5, good enough to get me a very nice tea maker. My name generates 5,070 hits on Google, and my blog name generates 715,000 hits. In both cases this blog is first on the list. My music blogroll started with Tim Johnson's The Rambler, and has expanded to 36, plus many other non-music blogs. I also started three class blogs, a project I will continue for the forseeable future. I'm pleased with the results, and hope you are as well. And that's enough navel gazing. Coming up, a survey of my students' research papers (names withheld to protect the "innocent.")
Friday, May 13, 2005
Where Zenph Studios has made strides is in the transcription of recorded sound to MIDI encoding. Ohio State's lab uses cameras and pressure sensors in the piano to encode performances, whereas Zenph has worked out a means of converting recorded WAV files, purely acoustic information, to MIDI files. Where this is particularly tricky is in polyphonic musical textures, with several notes playing at the same time (or very near the same time). Previous attempts at transcription software had only achieved a success rate of 80 - 90%, with up to 10% of the notes missing and another 10% transcribed wrongly. Zenph claims a 100% accuracy to its transcriptions, using proprietary technology.
This means of transcription can be immensely useful in performance research, looking at microvariations in pressure and timing that distinguish Horowitz from an amateur. It can also reveal important structural aspects of music that necessitate performance interpretations.
However, Zenph is also proposing two related uses of its technology that are inappropriate in my eyes (and ears). First, to celebrate their technological breakthroughs Zenph has arranged for a MIDI-generated performance from transcriptions of recordings by Glenn Gould and Alfred Cortot. Next Thursday, National Chopin Piano Competition winner Mei-Ting Sun is giving a recital in Fletcher Opera Theater, Raleigh, North Carolina. During this recital recreations of Gould's 1955 recording of the Goldberg Variations and Cortot's 1928 recording of a Chopin prelude will be performed. Related to this, Zenph proposes to use the technology to re-record old performances to provide a variety of improvements:
better piano (its timbre or richness)
better piano tuning (particularly individual out-of-tune strings)
better piano voicing (how the hammers hit the strings)
better room acoustics
less background noise – no interruptions from cars, coughs, airplanes, etc.
better microphones, more (or fewer) microphones
better microphone placement
better recording equipment
recorded at a better (higher) bit rate
I feel this use is out of step with current archival practices in the other arts. Preservation efforts for documents focus on maintaining current physical integrity, rather than improving the legibility. Preservation efforts in the visual arts attempt to restore the original appearance. In music, this is seen with efforts to denoise recordings, sometimes using very high tech efforts. But Zenph is proposing to "improve" the performances, creating sounds that had never existed before. My problem with this is that most of the fixes suggested - room acoustics, voicing, piano quality, and tuning - are things that the pianists had accounted for in their performances. Fats Waller might have chosen different voicings if his piano had been tuned differently. Arthur Rubenstein might have chosen to articulate a particular passage differently if the piano was different or the room had a different reverberation time. Zenph will rarely be able to account for all the variables that made up the original recorded performance, thus the archival possibilities of this technology is questionable at best. At worst, the new recordings will be the musical equivalent of John Wayne shilling Coors Light.
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Finally, a good use for science
Now, I'm in my last two days of classes for the semester, feeling mighty refreshed and ready for some serious research this summer. I'm also ready to start blogging again, just in time for my first anniversary. Coming up, uses of Geospatial Information Services (GIS) to predict the winner of American Idol.