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.