Thursday, June 30, 2005

Revelations versus questions

Last weekend I went up to Wisconsin to say goodbye to my grandmother. She died on March 7, but I didn't go to the funeral a few days later. I regret making that decision, because I think I really needed to say goodbye while the emotions were strong. I can't say that I was very close with my grandmother, but she was a kind and caring woman who was there for many of my life experiences. She had a beautiful smile, the kind that emanates from the eyes rather than the mouth. I see that same smile in my father, with the eyes that both pierce and warm at the same time. She was also very devoted, still deeply in love with my grandfather who had passed away over thirty years ago. It's a wonderful example of the strength of love, one that gives me hope for the future of my family.

Last weekend, very close to her birthday, Grandma was memorialized with a new baptismal font during the church service. It had been a long time since I had attended a Lutheran service, so I paid close attention to the sermon and the liturgy. While I was happy to be there to show my respects, I was also struck by the wrong direction that this church was taking, which is really the same flaw in many organized religions.

In the previous week, my 20th century theory and literature class had been studying pieces by Charles Ives: "The Cage", "General William Booth Enters into Heaven", Sonata no. 2 for Violin and Piano ("The Revival" movement), and The Unanswered Question. Given the outwardly religious tone of the inner works, there was talk about whether Ives was sincere or satirical in his portrayal of Salvationist belief or a Baptist revival, especially as both works end with a musical question. General William Booth denies the final cadence, ending with the same drum beat that starts the song. The third movement of the violin sonata ends with a drop from G major to F for a final quote of the "Come, Thou Fount of Ev'ry Blessing" hymn, ending incompletely on a half cadence. Because of the uncertain ending, some of my students wondered if Ives was purposely undermining the religious tone of these two pieces. But this is highly unlikely, as Ives was a devout Christian, married to the daughter of a Congregational minister and active in the local Congregational Church up until his death. Instead, Ives shows that religion doesn't have to be all about revelations. "The Cage" ponders if life is simply pacing back and forth, with no goal in sight. The Unanswered Question realizes that some questions have no answers, and is at peace with that, while still asking the question. The uncertain endings of "The Revival" movement and "General William Booth" couple the quests with religion.

At the Episcopal cathedral in Buffalo, Dean Farabee (recently retired) used to state that Jesus wasn't the answer, he was the question. I found out later that the Buffalo parish was more universalist that many Episcopal churches, that in fact most Christian churches would adamantly disagree with that statement. To them, truth has been revealed, and life is about the acceptance of that truth. I disagree with that attitude because it doesn't lead to self-improvement and the taking of responsibility for decisions of morality. If morality is determined solely by revealed truth from a "Just and Angry God," then adherents to that morality have not decided to act morally because it feels right or just, but to protect themselves from the wrath of God. Contrarily, a person who examines the underlying purposes of morality as it is portrayed in Scripture, asking why rules were made and judgments given, is more likely to create an ownership to his/her morality. Is this moral relativism? Possibly, though in the Anglican pillars of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason would create a shared basis for morality in the first two pillars, even if people disagree about the application of the third pillar. It is the unexamined certainty of organized religion that keeps me from accepting their precepts, though it doesn't stop me from asking my own questions and arriving at my own moral beliefs.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

I got yer referral right here

Some interesting search queries led visitors to my humble blog recently, which I thought I'd share:

"music perceptions definition" - Really, it is simply the study of audio perception (hearing) with very specific stimuli (music). Various subcategories can be teased out, such as rhythm perception, meter perception, pitch perception, timbre perception, dynamics perception, as long as the caveat that only musical stimulus be used. Sometimes we cheat and reference more general audio perception studies, but only if there is a direct connection to musical stimulus.

"can it make a compose if it has no tone but it have lyrics?" - I'm going to say, "yes," as long as "tone" means pitch and not timbre. There are plenty of unpitched musical works out there, from rap to percussion ensembles to the opening sequence of The Music Man.

"OBOE evolution wars" - I had no idea the technological development of woodwind instruments was so bloody!

"power point presentation trumpets" - I think somebody needs to do his/her own work, rather than hoping for an easy internet solution! Likewise with "mozart requiem form and analysis" and "musical analysis stabat mater pergolesi."

"Philip Glass depauw" - this intrigues me, as I don't think Glass has ever visited our fair campus. Neither have any of his major works been performed here in my three years. Looking through the search list, though, I find out that DePauw was the site of the very first sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta, in 1870.

"How are our brain perceptions influenced by habits" - From what I understand, it isn't the perceptions that change, but the processing of these perceptions (cognition) that can become more efficient through repeated exposure. But others on the search list look more appropriate for this question than me.

And finally, a search for that marvelous combination of art and medicine, "Marin Marais gallstone surgery" on Marais' Le Tableau de l'Operation de la Taille, his 1725 musical work about his gallstone operation. He also did one on childbirth. Coming soon, the spleen's greatest hits.

Monday, June 20, 2005

The Purpose of Music Education

Two stories have me pondering the purpose of music education at two different levels.

First, a high school countertenor was prevented from auditioning for the Texas All-State Choir. Mikhael Rawls had sent each of the board members of the Texas Music Educators Association a 35-page packet to make his case, including the recent resurgence of Baroque opera and the historical use of Men and Boys Choirs (not so historical, as most big Episcopal and Anglican churches still use them, including countertenors). The Board sent him back a one-page rejection, citing the traditional organization of choirs in Texas. While I find the one-page rejection to have completely failed in offering to educate the young lad (and the NPR-listening audience), I do see a reason for rejecting his petition. A standard SATB choir (Soprano-Alto-Tenor-Bass) has a very different blend of voices from a Men-n-Boys Choir, and both choirs are very different from the use of solo countertenors in Baroque (and Classical) music. The Board could have argued that the countertenor voice has a distinctively different timbre from female mezzo-soprano voices, especially youthful high school mezzo-soprano voices. Because of this large difference, it would be difficult for the choir director to effectively blend Mikhael's voice in with the rest of the mezzos. But the Board did not make this argument, neglecting their role as leaders in music education.

Second, an adjunct violin professor thinks about quitting to become a lawyer, partially because he feels guilty about recruiting students in a field that has a dearth of jobs. I used to feel that way, regarding schools of music like Indiana U. to be unethical in the production of so many performance majors. But I have a different attitude now, and no, it was not caused by me getting summer gigs at IU. It was through teaching performance majors at smaller music schools, students who were unlikely to win auditions for orchestras or opera companies, that made me rethink what the purpose of a performance degree is.

While my BM in performance was from a conservatory of music, I really ended up treating it as a liberal arts study in music. I took courses on music aesthetics, conducting, wind pedagogy and the psychology of music in addition to the traditional lessons, music theory, and music history. When I got my MM in performance, I took courses on bibliography and opera history that were not required. And now I pull on my all of experiences in performance, theory, history, psychology, etc. when teaching my students and conducting my research.

Performance majors who are not attending Eastman or Julliard are not getting a professional degree oriented only to one career choice. Instead, they are learning a discipline that teaches problem-solving, a mighty work ethic, creativity, and self-expression. These skills can be applied to just about any field, even law. So the adjunct violinist may have good personal reasons for making a career change, but he shouldn't worry about the ethics of recruiting students.
(via Steve Hicken)

Sunday, June 19, 2005

The incomprendible bits

Today I was listening to a small section of the Christ Church Cathedral’s Men and Boys Choir performing a motet by Giovanni Croce, O sacrum convivium. I had little idea what the words meant, and figured that most of the church-goers both today and back when it was composed were in the same situation. I then began to reflect on what the purpose of the motet was back in Croce’s day, and what its purpose was today. It can’t really be considered another form of spiritual education, given the lack of understanding for the Latin text by Thomas Aquinas:
O sacrum convivium,
in quo Christus sumitur recolitur
memoria pasionis ejus.
Mens impletur gratia
et futurae gloriae nobis pignus datur.

[O sacred banquet
at which Christ is received
the memory of his passion is renewed,
our souls are filled with grace,
and a pledge of future is given to us.]

Looking at the text, I can see the appropriateness for singing this during Communion. However, the lack of translation in the church program left me unaware of the link between the motet and the actions of the priests and laity. So what made this work more desirable than an instrumental work or a secular work sung in a foreign language? It isn’t the sensibilities of the audience that is the concern here, it is the sensibilities of the composer and the Director of Music Ministries. These people know what the words mean, and it satisfies them.

This is seen in various compositional techniques that could never be perceived by the general audience: Wagner’s associations of keys with characters, Bartok’s Golden Sections, Webern’s magic square, these are all tools used by the composer to give inspiration or organization to the specific work. They don’t need to be understood by the audience, as long as the other aspects of the music (or drama in Wagner’s case) make sense. And in most cases the use of these hidden tools do enable the composer to create a comprehensible piece.

Unlike AC Douglas, I do not claim that understanding these techniques will not alter the perception and interpretation of these pieces. Just as the composer’s biography can help a listener to make connections to the music, knowledge of how the composers constructed their works can make it easier for the listener to appreciate the works. Technical knowledge also makes it easier for the performers to decide how to segment the work into digestible morsels. Likewise, appropriate text makes it easier for sacred music programmers to decide what pieces to include in a service.

Update: broken link fixed. Thanks, ACD.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Friday's iChing Question

Last week I asked the stupid iChing when my house would sell. This week, we shall raise the stakes: Will Congress reverse its course on destroying Public Broadcasting?

1. The Covering: The important events, issues, attitudes or influences around the question or current situation - Invention in F minor BWV780 (Kenneth Gilbert) J.S. Bach

2. The Crossing: Current obstacles, problems, conflicts and opposition that the questioner must deal with - Contredanse No. 4 (Michael Tilson Thomas - Orch. of Saint Luke's) Ludwig von Beethoven

3. The Crown: The best that can be achieved or attained from current circumstances - Four Seasons Concerto 2 - Summer (RV 315): III Presto (Itzhak Perlman/ LSO) Antonio Vivaldi

4. The Root: Past events or influences that have played an important part in bringing about the current situation - Il Prigionier Fortunato, Sinfonia -- Grave (John Wallace, trumpet, Philharmonia Orchestra) Alessandro Scarlotti

5. The Past: Events or influences from the more recent past that have influenced the present but are now passing away - Sheep May Safely Graze (Rolf Smedvig, trumpet/Michael Murray, organ) J.S. Bach

6. The Future: Future events and fresh influences about to come into play that will operate in the near future - Air Mail Special (Benny Goodman Sextet) Charlie Christian: Genius of Electric Guitar

7. The Questioner: The questioner's attitude and how they relate to the current situation - Sonata a 5, 2 Trombette, 2 Voilini con Fagotto: 2. Allegro (The Parley of Instruments / Stephen Keavy / Crispian Steele-Perkins) Vincenzo Albrici

8. The House: How other people around the questioner affect and view matters in hand - Wissahickon poeTrees:1.spring (Network For New Music Ensemble) Jennifer Higdon

9. The Inside: The questioner's hopes, fears and expectations with regard to the question or the current situation - Concerto no. 3 in D: IV. Vivace (Hakan Hardenberger) Georg Philipp Telemann

10. The Outcome: The eventual outcome of events shown by the other cards - Gone With "What" Wind (Benny Goodman Sextet) Charlie Christian: Genius of Electric Guitar

The intricate counterpoint of the Bach Invention shows that there are many facets to this argument. Beethoven's country dance may reflect the rural/conservative attitudes that are causing all of my problems. While "Summer" may seem to be positive, this movement is very stormy and tumultuous. This doesn't bode well for the Crown. The past is a fortunate prisoner, the future is controlled by the Federal Government (postal service).

Skipping to the outcome, the answer may be scary. Literature is being mocked for being to White-oriented. However, the piece was composed by Benny Goodman and Count Basie working together, and played by one of the first integrated jazz combos. Maybe the Republicans and Democrats will work together to create some great art. Even better, just give the money to those that know how to make the good stuff.

It is funny that this "random" list had two Benny Goodman / Charlie Christian songs, two Bach movements, and two works named after seasons. I think iTunes has some explaining to do.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Wanna be a guinea pig?

There are two online music research experiments going on right now. Henkjan Honing, a very nice and smart Dutch music cognitionist, is looking for volunteers to judge the quality of 28 audio files. Participants mark whether the file has been digitally manipulated. The whole experiment takes less than 15 minutes, and is rather fun.

Victor Adan, a graduate student at MIT's Media Lab, is seeking subjects for an experiment on contemporary piano music. Participants rate excerpts on similarity, preference, and complexity. Victor estimates the experiment to take about 50 minutes. I haven't had time to do this yet, but it sounds like an interesting project. And you owe it to science!

Speaking against injustice

I made a drastic avoidance of politics after the November elections, deciding to blog only about musical matters. But recent events have impelled me to speak out against some injustices.

First, , a Pakistani woman who was sentenced to be gang-raped because of an infraction her brother committed. After the rape, Mukhtaran bravely denounced her attackers and brought charges against them. She was then placed under arrest, and her attackers freed. Tom Watson has been leading the blog charge on this, in a most excellent way. Found via Jaquandar.

Second, the latest announcements about Guantanamo Bay. Here's a simple question: why do we need a prison facility that is not on American soil? The prisons in Afghanistan and Iraq could be argued to as geographically convenient, keeping prisoners close to the military personnel that need the intelligence gleaned from the prisoners. But Guantanamo Bay does not fill that criterion. So there must be some other reason. What can it be but to allow the military to avoid U.S. laws on prisoner treatment? Notice that U.S. prisoners do not have a lot of rights, just protection against cruel and unusual treatment, access to lawyers, due process. Why can't the GB prisoners have these simple rights? There have been clear instances of prisoners who were innocent, so due process and lawyers are needed to protect these individuals. Here's a conservative who agrees with me, sort of.

Third, the genocide that continues in Sudan. The US government calls it a genocide, but does nothing to stop it. This is wrong. Write your representatives and senators, demand that the US takes action to stop the Sudanese government-sanctioned killings.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Baby needs a new pair of shoes!

Last week Sean Carroll introduced the iChing, a new take on the Friday Randomness that is around the blogosphere. Sean explains it far better than I can, so go read it. I'm going to apply it today, asking a specific question as Sean recommends. My question: When will our house sell?

Now, I hit the refresh on iTunes shuffle to get the pieces:

1. The Covering: The important events, issues, attitudes or influences around the question or current situation - J.S. Bach, Cantata n 202, Hochzeit / Wedding: 4. Und dieses ist das Glucke; Sich uben im Lieben (Wynton Marsalis and Kathleen Battle)

2. The Crossing: Current obstacles, problems, conflicts and opposition that the questioner must deal with - Tomaso Albinoni, Adagio in G minor (Hakan Hardenberger)

3. The Crown: The best that can be achieved or attained from current circumstances - Johann Ernst Altenburg, Concerto in D - 2. Andante (New York Trumpet Ensemble)

4. The Root: Past events or influences that have played an important part in bringing about the current situation - Maurice Ravel, Piano Concerto For The Left Hand In D Major (Lortié)

5. The Past: Events or influences from the more recent past that have influenced the present but are now passing away - Charamela Real, Sonata 44 (Nick Norton and Anthony Plog)

6. The Future: Future events and fresh influences about to come into play that will operate in the near future - W.A. Mozart, Hornkonzert Nr. 3 Es-dur, KV 447: II. Romanza (Larghetto) (Dennis Brain)

7. The Questioner: The questioner's attitude and how they relate to the current situation - Mack the Knife (Ella Fitzgerald)

8. The House: How other people around the questioner affect and view matters in hand - Robert Schumann, Myrthen, Op. 25: 19. Hauptmanns Weib (Ian Bostridge ten, Graham Johnson piano )

9. The Inside: The questioner's hopes, fears and expectations with regard to the question or the current situation - Beethoven, String Quartet No. 8 in E minor ("Rasumovsky 2"), Op. 59/2 : 2 Molto Allegro (Alban Berg Quartett)

10. The Outcome: The eventual outcome of events shown by the other cards - Brahms, Intermezzo in E minor, Op. 119, no. 2 (Radu Lupu)

Okay. The important events surrounding this question do start with me getting married. More importantly, we are selling this house so we can move closer to my work, which will keep the marriage and resulting family healthy. We chose the current house so my wife could more easily find work, showing the compromises that are made in love.

The Crossing is more difficult, as this is a purely instrumental work. The Adagio is very passionate, but also very sad. The music strives for something, but cannot reach it. It seems to reflect the spirit of the Crossing without specifying what the obstacle is.

The Altenburg concerto is for seven trumpets and timpani, which I played on my senior recital. It exemplifies teamwork, especially since the seven trumpets are divided into two choirs so two trumpets take turns as leader. Perhaps the best that can be achieved is that my wife and I (both trumpeters) continue to work together as a team, each of us taking the lead when we need to. But what about the house?

The Root is the only Classical piece that is completely self-contained. Ravel's Concerto for the Left Hand encompasses tenderness, turmoil, and triumph. It is long enough and varied enough to represent the whole history of our family.

The Past is an old trumpet ensemble, perhaps representing that both Mary and I have left behind the trumpet as our main pursuits. In fact, the decision to move was made in part because Mary no longer wants to teach private lessons. This piece is very similar to the Altenburg Concerto, with trumpets and timpani. In one way, this could suggest that the best that could occur has already occurred, but that is too depressing for me.

The Future, how does a Mozart horn concerto reflect our future? Dennis Brain was killed in a car accident, but again, that is too depressing. The movement is lovely, peaceful, quiet. That is a good future, though again it doesn't specify what particular event will affect this. Damn instrumental music!

The Questioner, okay, maybe my attitude is too lackidasical. Like Ella, I don't care if I don't know all of the words, I just make up some as I go along. But it also reflects my concern that the house hasn't sold yet. I'm not saying that I want to hire a hit man to handle things, but I am frustrated.

Robert Schuman composed Myrthen as a wedding gift for Clara. "A myrthen is a wreath made out of myrtle (evergreen) leaves and white flowers, which together were traditionally associated with Venus." The particular song, "The Captain's Lady," is based on a Robert Burns poem, though altered significantly by the translator:
In Burns’s version, “The Captain’s Lady” is a spoiled darling who mounts a nice nag to watch from the sidelines, safe from harm, as her soldier-husband does battle, but in Gerhard’s hands (“Hauptmanns Weib”), she becomes an Amazon, riding to war alongside her husband. Schumann, who knew Clara’s strength from the protracted battle with her redoubtable father for the right to marry, no doubt saw his beloved in the staunch warrior-woman of the German text.

So Mary's attitude is one of support (as also shown by the Altenburg Concerto), helping in the process of selling the house. She has battled just as fiercely as I (probably moreso).

The Inside is another instrumental work. Beethoven's Rasumovsky Quartets were composed for Count Rasumovsky, Russian ambassador in Vienna. It is a beautiful movement, though not as simple as the Mozart concerto. There is more exploration of theme and harmony, more dissonance (though always resolved), and some wicked-cool augmented-sixth chords! Lots of hope, but realistic.

Interestingly, the Outcome was also composed for Clara Schumann, but by Brahms this time. The Intermezzi in general are very gentle and domestic in nature. But not the E minor. This has been described as "anxiety turn[ed] to trembling in the scheme and construction of the repeated fragile chords of the sixteenths. However, we hear a glimpse of hope also in this intermezzo in measures [36-71] in the E-dur episode." So anxiety may be overcome by hope? That's the best I get? Stupid iChing!

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Two Quotes

"Physicists and philosophers won't know anything until they learn to dance." Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy and the Case of Wagner.

"Physicists do understand one element of dance -- simple repetitive rhythm." William Benzon, Beethoven's Anvil: Music in Mind and Culture.

We know that physicists are very classy. Is it the classiness that limits their dance abilities? Physicists, what do you have to say for yourselves?

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Paging all Back Seat Drivers...

From The Well-Tempered Blog, I find out about the Expression Synthesis Project, an interface created by Elaine Chew and her team at USC. I first met Elaine when leading a special session proposal on cognitive models of Music and Motion for a music theory conference. Elaine wrote one of the papers that we selected for the proposal, and she was good enough to send me revisions as she was touring Southeast Asia. I then met Elaine in person at ICMPC8 last summer.

Unlike Bart, I don't find the science in this project to be weird at all. Elaine is trying to create an interface that will allow nonmusicians, or perhaps nonexperts who do play some music, to experience the pace of decision-making that musicians make with any performance. This is an interesting way of teaching the laity to appreciate the cognitive demands of musical performance. It could also be used as a pedagogical tool in music instruction, from music appreciation classes to upper-level stylistic interpretation lessons. Children could learn to develop their sensitivity to musical phrasing while playing a video game. Advanced students could experiment with different phrasing models to hear the differences, without worrying about the technical demands of the piece. In the latter case, it could prevent phrasing-to-the-technique problems, as well as reducing physical strain on the musician.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Update on Bouncing Babies

I'm at school, so I can access the Science journal article I mentioned before. Phillips-Silver and Trainor have made a good experimental design for exploring the effects of movement on the development of rhythm perception. However I do find fault with their training stimulus. All the babies listened to the "ambiguous" beat pattern while being bounced every two beats or every three beats. You can listen to the beat pattern here, and see the pattern in Part A of the figure shown below. Phillips-Silver&Trainor

Phillips-Silver, J. and L.J. Trainor. "Feeling the Beat: Movement Influences Infant Rhythm Perception." Science, Vol. 308, 5727, 1430, 3 June 2005.

I do not think this pattern can be heard as either duple or triple, and therefore ambiguous. Rather, this pattern is clearly a duple pattern, given the weak beats on the 2nd and 6th beats. Because beat 2 is much weaker than beat 3, (beat 3 being just as strong as beat 1), beat 3 sounds like a new downbeat. The rest of the pattern confirms this, with beat 5 much stronger than beat 6. This paper by Justin London illustrates my claim, as do the cited articles by Mari Riess Jones. Thus I think there is a bias towards the duple pattern, which could have masked the bouncing effect somewhat. The babies trained in the triple pattern may not have felt as strong an affinity for the congruent condition, weakening the difference between the two conditions.

For fun, the other two beat patterns are found here and here. The addition of dynamic accents do intensify the duple feel in the second pattern, and do make the triple feel possible in the third pattern. But absent of these strong accents, the timbral accents take over to create the unambiguous meter of the training stimulus.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Name My Tune

From today's newspaper, a website that allows people to A) find the name of a tune that they can hum but can't recall the artist or title, and B) have fun listening to other people humming or singing bits of songs and identifying what the piece is. For the first part, simply hum or sing 10 seconds of the song into your computer's microphone (a requirement), and the website sends the clip to experts as determined by your guess of genre and era. The genres include Alternative, Blues, Classical, Country, Dance, Electronic, Folk, Hip Hop/Rap, Inspirational, Jazz, Latin, New Age, Pop, R&B/Soul, Rock, Soundtrack, Vocal, World, and Any. The eras are by decades, from pre-1960's to the 2000s, with a category for the last 12 months. I haven't tried this feature yet.

Listening to 17 "classical" songs on the second part, I heard "Hey Jude" sung to the lyrics "hap hap, hap hap hap hap;" something bizarre sung with heavy reverb, a blank recording (which I naturally identified as 4'33"), I think a recording from a radio about 20 feet away from the computer, a fair rendition of Schubert's Unfinished Symphony ("this is the melody, to Schubert's unfinished symphony..."), something played pretty nicely on the clarinet, I think some Asian folk song, and some varying qualities of singing, humming, and whistling. Most of them seem to be not Classical, but rather classic Rock, pop, or World music. This isn't too surprising, as the website refers to everything as "songs" and asks for the recording artist rather than a composer. Thus it is biased towards pop culture.

I sense party games, possibly involving drinking, using this website.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Bounce those babies!

In the latest issue of Science, Jessica Phillips-Silver and Laurel Trainor write about how movement affects the perception of rhythm by infants. I cannot get my off-campus proxy to work so I can access the direct article, so I have to rely upon an AP article my mom sent me. Next week I'll put up some more details.

16 7-month-old infants listened to snare drums played with an ambiguous rhythm. Apparently it means that beat was established, but no meter. Half of the infants were bounced every other beat , the other half were bounced every third beat. Bouncing was done by the mother of the infant.

Then, the infants were bounced to snare drums played with accented beats, duple and triple meters. "The babies preferred to listen to the pattern that matched how they'd been bounced," as measured by time the babies spent looking at the speaker that the music was coming from.
So a baby paid attention to triple meter waltzes if s/he was bounced in that same waltz pattern.

Therefore, get those knees in shape if you want to develop your childrens' meter perceptions.

Feeling the Beat: Movement Influences Infant Rhythm Perception

Jessica Phillips-Silver and Laurel J. Trainor

Science 3 June 2005; 308: 1430 [DOI: 10.1126/science.1110922] (in Brevia)

Thursday, June 02, 2005

17 proven methods for ruining your child's music education

My wife found this from a 1950's magazine.

1. Always call him for practice when the ball game is going best; call in a loud, demanding voice so his friends will feel sorry for him.

2. Insist he practice the most uninteresting music the longest. “You can’t learn much by playing tunes.”

3. Stop him if he plays anything for fun or any music other than his lesson. “Music is serious.”

4. Never help him with his practicing. “I just don’t have the time.”

5. Add another hour of practice when he has been naughty, or when he does not mind you. “That will teach him!”

6. Call loudly from kitchen or basement each time he makes a mistake. Add a punch line, such as, “If you can’t do better than that, give it up.”

7. Insist he never practice when (a) father is home, (b) baby is taking a nap, (c) Susie is looking at TV, or (d) mother is tired.

8. Pay no attention to his music making. “I don’t care whether he practices or not. It is entirely up to him.”

9. Don’t let him play for his friends or anyone else until he can really play. “After two or three years he’ll be able to surprise them.”

10. Take him unawares the first time you want him to play for someone and ask him in front of everybody to play “something.” If he refuses, insist that he play; if he still refuses, announce that he’s through with music.

11. Apologize for his poor performance when he does play for others.

12. Never compliment him on his playing. He may get an inflated ego.

13. Keep him away from concerts and recitals until he’s old enough, and don’t take him unless he can play well enough to “appreciate” it.

14. Use an old wreck of an instrument instead of buying a new one. “No sense wasting money until he plays real well.”

15. Don’t tune the piano. “He needs to learn to finger the keys; it doesn’t matter how it sounds.”

16. Threaten, periodically, to stop his lessons unless: (a) he plays better than so-and-so, (b) he makes better grades in school, (c) he makes his bed each morning, (d) he treats his parents with more respect.

17. Lay down the law forcefully, just as your parents did with you (even though you quit playing at the first opportunity).

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

He's a musician, he's a post-secondary teacher, two classes in one!

From Sean Carroll, I find out that I can determine how classy I am, in four simple steps. The New York Times graphic looks at Occupation, Income, Education, and Wealth, to determine whether you are lower class, middle class (lower, middle or upper), or upper class. Really it is ranking by quintiles, and I think the labels of the three types of middle class are misleading. They have the maximum education of "some college" as upper middle class, which may be true by percentages, but not by associations of class. The "some college" would be associated as lower middle class by my reckoning, with bachelor's degree as middle class, master's degrees as upper middle class, and the various doctorates as upper 5th. If we are going purely by populations, I don't think the political associations of class names should be used. But then the article wouldn't be as interesting to the public, proles that they are...

However, what I found interesting (like Sean), is the ranking of occupations. Sean is happy, as physicists are ranked #5 out of 440 jobs. Unfortunately, musicians are all grouped together, regardless of the specific genre. The ranking: #182 for "Musicians, Singers, and related workers." (The old joke about musicians and singers has apparently become fact for the NYT.) I would think there is a big difference between classical musicians, jazz musicians, and rock musicians in terms of "classiness," though I understand that the study couldn't have separate categories for every type of job. So I'm feeling depressed that I'm so far down on the respect meter, when I remember that I'm not just a musician, I'm a professor! "Post-secondary teacher" ranks way up at #25, still no scientist but much better than those bourgeois performers. Again, professors at Harvard are grouped with instructors at Cankdeska Cikana Community College, which seems a bit heterogenous for a group. But what do I know, I'm just a musician, er, post-secondary teacher.