Saturday, June 30, 2007

I hope they paid the royalties...

Rose Cuizon Villazor is a law professor at SMU. She also maintains a blog, called Property Prof Blog. There she admits that she uses singing as a tool to help her students learn future interests.
My students at SMU told me later that I helped decrease the stress (a little bit anyway) of learning life estates. When I taught Kelo v. City of New London, I circulated the words to the "Kelo Song," which was written by a student member of the Harvard Law School Federalist Society.

In comments some other law professors offered "YMCA," "Whiter Shade of Pale," and "Memorandaville." See, even lawyers need to learn about music.

My best friend used to compose songs that illustrated various partwriting rules and techniques. His best was "The Voice Exchange Song." I need to get a copy of that. Anyone else out there with songs used for pedagogical purposes?


Friday, June 29, 2007

FriPod: Red, White, and Green

No particular reason, I just decided to pick these colors. Viva Italia!

1. "Red and Black" from the Les Miserables original Broadway Cast. By Claude-Michel Schönberg, Alain Boublil, and Herbert Kretzmer. Very spirited, a nice juxtaposition of politics and love, showing the passions that drive both.

2. "Red Clay" by Freddie Hubbard from the eponymous album. A fusion of jazz and Rhythm-n-Blues.

3. "Red Top" by Lional Hampton and Ken Kynard, performed by Erroll Garner. Cool and bouncy at the same time.

4. "The Red Violin" from The Red Violin soundtrack, by John Corigliano, performed by Joshua Bell. Two tracks have the same name, the first is the main melody, and the second is the mini concerto played during the closing credits. It is a beautiful melody, full of very complex emotions.

5. "White as Lillies" by Andreas Scholl, on the Three Countertenors album. Yes, we bought this gimicky CD many years ago. Some of the tracks are quite nice, but I'm not crazy about this composition written by one of the three countertenors. However, my wife likes it, so it stays on the list.

6. "The White Ride" by Howard Shore, on the The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers soundtrack. Full of tension, apocalyptic choirs, and Wagnerian brass, this cue suddenly shifts to harps and women's chorale for a sunshine romp briefly before the tension returns. It ends with some grandeur added to the tension, a passionate nostalgia.

7. "The White Tree" by Howard Shore, on the The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King soundtrack. Much more nostalgic, as this cue is for the old and great kings who died off. But still nervous as Gandalf and Pippin ride up and up the layers of Minas Tirith.

8. Fantasia on "Greensleeves" by Ralph Vaughan Williams, performed by Rolf Smedvig and Michael Murray. I love this piece, but I do not like the blend between Smedvig's trumpet and Murray's organ registrations. In general I prefer to listen to organ live rather than in recordings, since I feel a large part of the organ's effect is the architecture of its surroundings.

9. "Green Chimneys" by Thelonious Monk, performed by Wynton Marsalis on Live At The House Of Tribes. A nicely angular march, with an extended solo by Wynton.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Pain made pleasant

A study by psychologists at the University of Montreal have found that listening to pleasant music decreases sensations of pain. Emotional valence contributes to music-induced analgesia, by Roy, Peretz, and Rainville, found that when participants listened to music they judged as pleasant, they tolerated high levels of heat (up to 48.5 deg C.) as less painful and more pleasant than the control group that listened to silence. Listening to unpleasant music was not different from listening to silence. So, if you know you are going to experience some pain, bring along music you find to be pleasant.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Music Cognition Online

No, not a new journal, though that would be so cool. Instead, I offer a blog and a research project. First, the blog, by Henkjan Honing. Henkjan belongs to the Dutch study group that runs those online music listening projects I've posted about before, most recently here. He is also a great guy, very smart, with incredibly interesting hair. Music Matters is his new venture, which looks to be a great resource in music cognition. Plus you can see pictures of adorable babies wired up for reactions to Balkan music.

Second, an experiment being run by MIT's Media Lab. They are examining "the universality of various aspects of music perception," with a test called the Music Universals Study. It takes about 15 minutes to complete.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Movie Meme

I'm still a little punch drunk (think Pierrot), so rather than try to write a meaningful post I'll just follow Pattie's lead with the AFI list of top movies. I have bolded those I have seen.

1. "Citizen Kane," 1941.

2. "The Godfather," 1972.

3. "Casablanca," 1942.

4. "Raging Bull," 1980.

5. "Singin' in the Rain," 1952.

6. "Gone With the Wind," 1939.

7. "Lawrence of Arabia," 1962.

8. "Schindler's List," 1993.

9. "Vertigo," 1958.

10. "The Wizard of Oz," 1939.

11. "City Lights," 1931.

12. "The Searchers," 1956.

13. "Star Wars," 1977.

14. "Psycho," 1960.

15. "2001: A Space Odyssey," 1968.

16. "Sunset Blvd.", 1950.

17. "The Graduate," 1967.

18. "The General," 1927.

19. "On the Waterfront," 1954.

20. "It's a Wonderful Life," 1946.

21. "Chinatown," 1974.

22. "Some Like It Hot," 1959.

23. "The Grapes of Wrath," 1940. (I've seen parts)

24. "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," 1982.

25. "To Kill a Mockingbird," 1962.

26. "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," 1939.

27. "High Noon," 1952.

28. "All About Eve," 1950.

29. "Double Indemnity," 1944.

30. "Apocalypse Now," 1979.

31. "The Maltese Falcon," 1941.

32. "The Godfather Part II," 1974.

33. "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," 1975.

34. "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," 1937.

35. "Annie Hall," 1977.

36. "The Bridge on the River Kwai," 1957.

37. "The Best Years of Our Lives," 1946.

38. "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre," 1948.

39. "Dr. Strangelove," 1964.

40. "The Sound of Music," 1965.

41. "King Kong," 1933.

42. "Bonnie and Clyde," 1967. (I don't think I have...)

43. "Midnight Cowboy," 1969.

44. "The Philadelphia Story," 1940.

45. "Shane," 1953. (My dad loves this movie, I don't get what is so great about it.)

46. "It Happened One Night," 1934.

47. "A Streetcar Named Desire," 1951.

48. "Rear Window," 1954.

49. "Intolerance," 1916.

50. "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," 2001.

51. "West Side Story," 1961.

52. "Taxi Driver," 1976.

53. "The Deer Hunter," 1978.

54. "M-A-S-H," 1970.

55. "North by Northwest," 1959.

56. "Jaws," 1975.

57. "Rocky," 1976.

58. "The Gold Rush," 1925.

59. "Nashville," 1975.

60. "Duck Soup," 1933.

61. "Sullivan's Travels," 1941.

62. "American Graffiti," 1973.

63. "Cabaret," 1972.

64. "Network," 1976.

65. "The African Queen," 1951.

66. "Raiders of the Lost Ark," 1981.

67. "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?", 1966.

68. "Unforgiven," 1992.

69. "Tootsie," 1982.

70. "A Clockwork Orange," 1971.

71. "Saving Private Ryan," 1998.

72. "The Shawshank Redemption," 1994.

73. "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," 1969.

74. "The Silence of the Lambs," 1991.

75. "In the Heat of the Night," 1967. (I've seen parts.)

76. "Forrest Gump," 1994.

77. "All the President's Men," 1976.

78. "Modern Times," 1936.

79. "The Wild Bunch," 1969.

80. "The Apartment, 1960.

81. "Spartacus," 1960.

82. "Sunrise," 1927.

83. "Titanic," 1997.

84. "Easy Rider," 1969.

85. "A Night at the Opera," 1935.

86. "Platoon," 1986.

87. "12 Angry Men," 1957.

88. "Bringing Up Baby," 1938.

89. "The Sixth Sense," 1999.

90. "Swing Time," 1936.

91. "Sophie's Choice," 1982.

92. "Goodfellas," 1990.

93. "The French Connection," 1971.

94. "Pulp Fiction," 1994.

95. "The Last Picture Show," 1971.

96. "Do the Right Thing," 1989.

97. "Blade Runner," 1982.

98. "Yankee Doodle Dandy," 1942.

99. "Toy Story," 1995.

100. "Ben-Hur," 1959.

And here is another list of movies by PopMatter's (50 DVDs every film fan should own), which I'm very disappointed to see so heavily weighted towards exploitation and porn. I can understand getting one representative work of each, but so many?

Friday, June 22, 2007

FriPod: Hello, Goodbye

1. "Hello Babe," by Dickie Wells, performed by Lester Young on Classic Tenors. A good hello, cheery and bouncy with a little grit to the sound that suggests ulterior motives for the babe.

2. "Hello Dolly," by Jerry Herman, performed by Louis Armstrong on All-Time Greatest Hits. I love the chunky banjo that introduces this song. How the hell does Satchmo get that shimmer in such a gravelly voice?

3. "Escape / Chase / Saying Goodbye" by John Williams, on the E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial soundtrack (expanded version).

4. "Everytime We Say Goodbye," by Cole Porter, performed by John Coltrane on My Favorite Things. So suave and smooth, a little sad.

5. "Goodbye Stevie," by Steve Winwood, performed by The Spencer Davis Group on The Best Of The Spencer Davis Group. Stevie wrote this to honor his leaving the group to go solo.

6. "Mama's Gone – Goodbye," by Peter Bocage, performed by Midge Williams & Her Jazz Jesters.

7. "Say Goodbye To Hollywood," by Billy Joel on Turnstiles. A little too over orchestrated.

8. "Saying Goodbye To Those You So Love," by James Horner on the A Beautiful Mind soundtrack.

What about the children?

Apparently you shouldn't let your youngsters read my blog about music: What's My Blog Rated? From Mingle2 - Online Dating


Why? Because I've used the word "suck" twice (I'm pretty sure I've used it many more times than that) and "gay" once. I'm guessing this "service" only looks at the main page of the blog, not the archives. More to the point, yes, talking about gay marriage is not suitable for children. Idiots!

Via Chad, who has probably managed to up his rating.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

I think...

This morning I managed to perform a true cliché: slipping in the shower and hitting my head. I didn't suffer from amnesia, so no soap opera plots arose. But I did get four stitches in my forehead, and canceled my class for today. So I've finally got time to acknowledge that I was listed as one of the blogs that makes Phil Ford think. The responsibilities of being a thinking blog are multitudinous:
1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote.

So, with my thinking fuzzy as it is, here are five blogs that make me do this fuzzy thinking. The ranking is completely random, guaranteed by the rattling of my skull. And I'm deliberately not picking the blogs listed by Phil, Matthew, or Tim, though I read almost all of those blogs regularly and also find them thought provoking. Update: And here is Daniel's list.

1. Crooked Timber. This moblog discusses economics, political science, philosophy, educational theory, communication theory, literature, science fiction (a special category of literature often neglected by literature blogs), music, and politics. The roster of posters include experts in many of these fields, and the comments are particularly high in signal and low in noise.

2. Think Denk, the blog of pianist Jeremy Denk. I have to make sure I have plenty of free time before I tackle a typical Denk post. These posts are dense with cultural references, analysis, and emotion that require much thought and introspection.

3. Cognitive Daily. The ScienceBlog on cognition by Dave and Greta Munger is a fabulous resource for learning about and discussing these issues. They make the most of the medium, with videos, graphs, audio clips, and surveys to explain or research various psychological theories and findings.

4. Making Light is the joint blog of Teresa and Patrick Nielsen Hayden. They are both editors at Tor. Teresa is the master of comment moderation, inventor of disemvowelment for persistent trolls. As a result, the comments are incredible, a community that can take a specific topic or an open thread and run the gamut from Persian grammar to China Miéville to gardening, all making sense. Poetry also abounds.

5. Father Jake Stops the World. I've been learning about Episcopalian life, theology, and spirituality from this blog. Very progressive, so much so that it triggers my knee-jerk response to question the assumptions of these politics, thus making me re-examine my own progressive politics and theology.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Welcome to my world!

No, really.
Yet the two have shared producer duties on the staggeringly ambitious project they call Spiegelworld, a blend of cabaret, circus and burlesque housed in an authentic spiegeltent on a pier near the South Street Seaport. In its inaugural season last summer, wildfire word of mouth lured thousands of curious New Yorkers to the tent, under the Brooklyn Bridge. They said that despite limited advertising, “Absinthe,” Spiegelworld’s risqué vaudeville cabaret, played to capacity crowds from the third week of its two-month run. This year an expanded season of Spiegelworld will run for three months, from July 2 through Sept. 30.

One thing that stuck out from the article is the claim that "spiegel" is a Flemish word. When I was in Holland last February a Dutch person claimed that my name must be Dutch, not Deutsch, since it wasn't Schpiegelberg. I know that my family came over from Prussia in the 1800's, and there is the famous German magazine Spiegel. Anyone out there with better linguistic knowledge than me?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Now that's a ground bass

An appreciation of a little-known Rameau opera is found at an unexpected source: science fiction editors Teresa and Patrick Nielsen Hayden's Making Light. Teresa found all sorts of interesting tidbits about Les Indes Galantes, "a Baroque opéra-ballet by Jean-Philippe Rameau. It has Turks, Incas, Conquistadores, beautiful Indian maidens, long-separated lovers recognizing each other under improbable circumstances, a superfluity of mythological personifications hanging from the flyloft on ropes, and an exploding volcano." She also links to many video performances of portions of the opera.

Friday, June 15, 2007

FriPod: Priests and Bishops

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts-Schori, is visiting Indianapolis right now. Tonight I had dinner with her husband, along with the spouses and partners of many clergy and postulants in the diocese. This week's FriPod is in her honor.

1a. J.S. Bach's St. Matthew Passion, performed by Mark Padmore, Deborah York, Etc., Paul Mccreesh; Gabrieli Consort & Players: "Da Versammleten Sich Die Hohenpriester"
1b. "Und Der Hohepriester Antwortete Und Sprach Zu Ihm"
1c. "Des Morgens Aber Hielten Alle Hohepriester"
2a. J.S. Bach's St. Mark Passion, performed by The Choir Of Gonville And Caius College, Cambridge: "Recit - Und der Hohepriester"
2b. "Recit - Aber die Hohenpriester"
2c. "Recit. Evangelist - Desselbengleichen die Hohenpriester"
3a. Heinrich Schütz's Matthaeus-Passion SWV479, performed by Schreier, Polster, Lorenz, Kreuzchor, and Flaemig: "Hohepriester und Schriftgelehrte"
3b. "Hohepriester und Aelteste"
3c. "Hohepriester und Pharisaeer"
4. J.S. Bach's Christmas Oratorio, performed by Concentus Musicus Wien, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Wiener Sängerknaben & Hans Gillesberger: "Evangelista: Und ließ versammeln alle Hohepriester"
5. "Separate Lives," by Stephen Bishop, performed by Phil Collins on Serious Hits ... Live!
6. "Woodchopper's Ball," by J. Bishop and W. Herman, performed by Woody Herman on The Thundering Herds 1945-1947.

Be prepared for lots of 20th century stuff next week, as I started my summer class at IU today.

Does Disco Suck?

There is a debate going on right now on the AMS-L list about Disco music. The question is whether opposition to Disco arose because it was soulless and insincere, or because it came from the gay club subculture. Was Disco Demolition Night an act of aesthetic outrage, or homophobia? Of course, I find it hard to separate the two issues. I think many of my peers didn't like disco music because of its homosexual flavor, even if they weren't able to label it as such. What do you think?

Update: Barnet Bound has his own take on the Disco discussion, including a mini-rant on the AMS-L list itself.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Born with a Tin Ear

Recently the International Workshop on the Biology and Genetics of Music was held in Bologna. Several of the papers were on being "tone deaf," being unable to perceive and distinguish different musical pitches.

John Sloboda, "Explaining exceptionally high and exceptionally low achievement in music: elite performers, savants, and the self-defined 'tone deaf'" talked about how 4 to 5 percent of the population may indeed be unable to perceive pitch (cognitive amusia), up to 15% of college-aged populations call themselves "tone deaf." His studies reveal that these people who claim to be tone deaf have "perceptual skills indistinguishable from normals, and that the key deficits appear to be in the area of planning and monitoring of singing behaviour." Even the simple inclusion of accompaniment helps these people of "low musical achievement" to improve their performances.

The National Institute of Health has done research on tone deafness, as reported by Dennis Drayna, Jennifer Jones, Carmen Brewer and Chris Zalewski "Genetics and phenotypes in tune-deafness." They found that tone deafness is a complex genetic trait, such that members of a family may all have difficulties with pitch perception, but the amount of "deafness" varies greatly and there is no strict segregation between pitch perceivers and nonperceivers. They also found that people with amusia also have other aural perception difficulties, including speech. And people who do poorly on auditory tests often have attention deficits.

Isabelle Peretz, the coiner of the term "congenital amusia," gave a paper entitled, "The Genetics of Congenital Amusia (or tone-deafness): Family Aggregation." She confirmed that amusia is a pitch problem, not a rhythm problem, and agreed with the previous study on the strong genetic component. She identified 10 large amusic families with 40% of the first-degree relatives suffering from tone deafness, whereas only 3% of the relatives in the control families were tone deaf.

Timothy D. Griffiths et al, is attempting to identify a single gene that explains congenital amusia: "Could a congenital disorder of musical perception ever be explained by a single gene? Relating neuronal organization to a complex behavioural phenotype." More interestingly, they explain the physical causes of these perceptual deficits:
Pitch-direction analysis is likely to depend on a right-lateralized network including the secondary auditory cortices and inferior frontal cortex (Stewart et al., 2006). Recent voxel-based-morphometry data acquired in collaboration with the Montreal group (Hyde et al., 2006) demonstrate either an increase in grey-matter density or a decrease in white-matter density in right inferior frontal cortex. In either event, such deficits could be produced by single genes. An increase in grey-matter density could be caused by heterotopic cortex due to a neuronal migration disorder (which can be due to an autosomal dominant or x-linked recessive single-gene disorder). A decrease in white-matter density might reflect a disorder of axonal guidance which could be plausibly related to a single gene such as that for a cell-adhesion molecule.

So, don't assume you are tone deaf if you can't sing well; and if you are tone deaf, blame it on your parents.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Authors and Music, Living Together, mass hysteria!

I'm sure there's a better Ghostbusters paraphrase in there, but that's the best I could come up with in my fluid-dripping state. Anywho, the NY Times Book Review has a blog called Paper Cuts. And every Wednesday intrepid editor Dwight Garner will ask an author to provide a playlist, called Living With Music. Here is the first entry, by George Saunders. At least with authors we can count on some interesting listening choices, unlike other types of celebrities. I like how he equates some of the pieces with various authors or books, like with DSCH's SQ8: "This puts me in mind of Isaac Babel, Gogol, St. Petersburg and the great Russian moral darkness. So dark, it’s light." Other classical composers mentioned: John Adams (twice!), Aaron Copland, and Philip Glass (and not the typical choices either).

Calling all guinea pigs!

Those wacky Dutch researchers are at it again, looking for participants in a rhythm perception experiment. But this time, you can win an Amazon gift certificate!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

It's a small world, after all

In looking at my blogroll I realized I hadn't added Spot's Doghouse to the Winds-n-Brass section. So I was looking at his blog to see if a real name was used, when I saw that he used to be connected with the Lawrence University Arts Academy, where I taught while a student at LU. And my niece has been involved with the academy for years, both for piano and choir. As LU has their alumni weekend starting Friday, this is a timely discovery. Alas I cannot go, since I start teaching at IU on the same day.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Wherefore Art?

Dave Munger can't just enjoy his vacation, but must pose vexing questions. The comments bring up Cage as a musical referent. Join the fun, and list your own definitions of art. I wrestle with whether there needs to be a creator. Can something accidentally created or naturally occurring be labeled art? I suppose it comes down to a person framing the creation within an artistic perspective, regardless of how the framed thing came into being. And by framing I'm not talking wood and gold paint, but someone standing up and saying, "This I call art. I have placed boundaries on this thing, and regard it as aesthetic." Thus Cage placed boundaries on a period of ambient noise and performance expectations, challenging us to experience it aesthetically.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Stuff Online

First, a new online music journal, Radical Musicology. Unlike many other journals, RM provides a blog for discussion of the articles, an update on the email list that talks about Music Theory Online articles. The first volume of RM looks interesting, if beyond my area of expertise. The closest would be Gustavo Azenha's article on the affects of e-commerce on the music industry, something I've blogged about several times.

Second, Dan Brown (no, not that Dan Brown) has written an online book about Bach, entitled, Why Bach? He sent me a password, essentially an Advanced Review Copy of the book, and I've been slowly reading it. Brown uses the online format well, with links to MIDI-produced excerpts and scores peppered throughout the text, and color-coded text describing these examples. As an example, he talks about an embedded appoggiatura within an appoggiatura. In the text, the smaller figure is in red, matching the red bracket of the example, while the larger figure is mentioned in green to match the green bracket of the example. The MIDI examples are sometimes annoying, particularly the faux voice sound for the chorales. But they still help get the point across, with an engaging text intended for "the lay music lover [...] though I'd like to think there are things in it that will interest the expert as well." (from the Foreword) Dan Brown is selling this e-book for $7.95, which can be paid via PayPal. Pop scholarship of music has reached Azenha's internet age.

Friday, June 08, 2007

FriPod: Rain

1. "A Little Fall of Rain," From Les Miserables original soundtrack.
2. "Come Rain Or Come Shine," by Arlen and Mercer; performed by (1) Dinah Washington on Dinah Jams and (2) Duke Ellington on 22 Original Big Band Recordings.
3. "Raincheck," performed by Duke Ellington on The Best Of Duke Ellington: Centennial Edition.
4. "Sweet Rain," by Mike Gibbs, performed by Stan Getz on Sweet Rain.
5. "En Obdach gegen Sturm und Regen," by Richard Strauss, performed by Lucia Popp and Irwin Cage.

Yes, it's raining today.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Break out the crys

One of my former students, Emily Frame, has started a blog on Jay-Z. She has provided a survey on the blog, as it is part of her master's project on music technology. Please visit and give feedback, especially any of you with expertise in hip hop culture or popular music research.

Festival in the Can

Okay, if you weren't at the Bang On a Can festival, and haven't read Darcy James Argue's liveblogging of said event, go read it now. I mean it. Click the damn link and get filled with envy for those lucky bastards who were able to experience the Event. Oh, and look at the pictures he took as well. I'm thinking I need to drag some students to this next year. I did purchase some music from iTunes, thanks to Darcy's evocative descriptions.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

What's News?

I am! I was cited in the Chicago Sun-Times, which led DePauw to mention me on the university website. The question is, does this go under Service or Professional Development in my tenure file? By the way, those visiting from either of these sources can find the top 53 list here.

In other news, I've heard about a new blog by James Roe. We now have oboe blogging covered from coast to coast! It is a very nice looking blog, with great use of pictures, photos, and poetry to communicate Jim's experience as a musician in New York. He is also the AD of the Helicon Foundation, which puts on Historically Informed Performances of chamber music "in intimate spaces." I love that idea, the personal connections that such performances can make with the audience.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Hey buddy, where's the fire?

In honor of my first 5K race (28:10), here is William Sethares playing on a recreation of Helmholtz's double siren.

Friday, June 01, 2007

From the mouths of children

Evan Tobias quotes another Evan, the winner of the spelling bee championship.
“My favorite things to do were math and music, and with the math I really like the way the numbers fit together,”….. “And with the music I like to let out ideas by composing notes and the spelling is just a bunch of memorization.”

This says far more eloquently what I was trying to say here and here.

FriPod: Think of the Children!

1. "Children's Song," Chick Corea on Works.
2. "Children and Art," from Sunday in the Park with George by Steven Sondheim, Original Broadway Cast recording.
3. "For Unto Us a Child is Born," from Messiah by George Handel, performed by Andrew Davis and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Toronto Mendelssohn Choir.
4. "Sweet Air," from Child by David Lang, performed by Sentierri Selvaggi.
5. Ancient Voices of Children, by George Crumb, performed by Jan DeGaetani, Machael Dash, and the Contemporary Chamber Ensemble.
6. "Godchild," by George Wallington, performed by Miles Davis on Birth Of The Cool.
7. Kindertotenlieder, by Gustav Mahler, performed by Agnes Baltsa, Lorin Maazel and the Vienna Philharmonic.
8. "Wiegenlied am Lager eines kranken Kindes," by Robert Schumann, performed by Dorothea Röschmann, Ian Bostridge, and Graham Johnson.
9. Kinderszenen, by Robert Schumann, performed by Claudio Arrau.
10. "Jolie Fille," by Joaquin Turina, performed by the Empire Brass.
11. "La Fille aux Cheveux De Lin," by Claude Debussy, performed by the Empire Brass.
12. "Scene Et Legende De La Fille Du Paria," from Lakme by Léo Delibes, performed by Maurice André.

Lists, schmists

Yesterday a reporter asked me to make a comment on the Little Einsteins top 10 list of classical music for preschoolers. First, here is the press release with the list:

April 18, 2007 -- Music by Smetana and Bach are at the top of preschooler’s favorite classical pieces, according to the producers of the animated television series Disney’s “Little Einsteins.” For the first time, the show has put together a Top 10 List of classical music pieces that are the most appealing to kids.

The writers and producers of “Little Einsteins” conduct hands-on research for every episode at schools with kids 2 to 5, where the show’s creative team can see first-hand which music is striking a chord with preschoolers before the show goes into animation production.

According to Eric Weiner, Executive Producer of “Little Einsteins,” “Kids respond to all classical music, and are attracted to it naturally, very early in their development. However, there are definitely some pieces that are not only appealing to them, but also stays in their minds long after they hear it. Kids express this by dancing, humming and singing along, and we have monitored those reactions and which music gets the highest marks by these kids.”

The top ten list:

1. “The Moldau” from Ma Vlast by Bedrich Smetana
2. “Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B Minor, Menuet and Badinerie” by Johann
Sebastian Bach
3. “Humoresque No. 7” by Antonin Dvorak
4. “Symphony No. 9 in e minor from The New World: Largo” by Antonin Dvorak
5. “Morning” from Peer Gynt Suite No. 1 by Edvard Grieg
6. “Symphony No. 8, ‘Unfinished’” by Franz Schubert
7. “Symphony No. 40” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
8. “Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, 1st Movement” by Johann Sebastian Bach
9. “Wedding March” by Felix Mendelssohn
10. “Triumphal March” from Aida by Giuseppe Verdi

Weiner explains, “Music is organic for kids. We went into a school to test our show and we were warned that the kids there have no music program or music exposure and cannot sit still for very long. We played a classical piece for them and they immediately stopped what they were doing and started to dance.”

About the show: “Little Einsteins” is a half-hour animated series on Disney Channel (8 AM ET/PT seven days a week; additional airing at 8:30 AM on weekends) that follows the global adventures of four young friends (Leo, June, Quincy and Annie) and their versatile shuttle named Rocket, who takes them around the world on a quest to complete important missions while learning about music and art along the way. Classical music and works of art are intrinsic to each mission, and every episode invites interaction from viewers at home who are asked to sing, hum and pat along to the featured symphony and seek a detail while traveling through a master work of art to help their onscreen friends with the mission of the day.

The show is produced and animated in New York City.

And here is what I said to the reporter (I'll wait to announce identities until after the story is published):

My first reaction is to wonder what list of works they started with to winnow down to the top 10. How many pieces did they test on the children, and what criteria did they use to select that initial list? That would reveal any biases, such as the clear bias towards tonal music and orchestral music. Second, at least five of the pieces are used regularly in cartoon music: #1, #3, #5, #9, and #10. The reactions to those pieces might have more to do with Bugs Bunny et al than with the material of the music. The criteria used to measure interest is fine, though scientific studies by Laurel Trainer and others are more rigorous in the application and retesting to check for other artifacts. #6 and #7 don't specify the movement used, even though the other multi-movement works listed do specify which movement was used. It is interesting that of the eight specific works, four are in triple meter or compound meter and the other four are in simple duple/quadruple meter. #6 is in triple no matter which movement is used, and #7 is likely quadruple if the first movement is used, so we have a perfect 50/50 split between 3 and 2. This is rather suspicious. Next, there is an interesting conflict within the producer's quote. He says he was told the children "cannot sit still for very long" and seemingly contrasts it with "started to dance." There is a big debate going on right now in classical music circles about the social expectations for audience behavior. Should audiences be allowed to clap between movements? What about dancing in the aisles? One of my colleagues, Eric Edberg, gave a recital where he encouraged the audience to get up and move. This motion is a natural reaction for young children, but frowned upon by adults, even of college age.

Finally, (much more than 2 cents, sorry!) I support the exposure of classical music to children, but would be leery of naming pieces that are universally loved. My kids were scared by orchestral music when they were 2 or 3, because the sounds were so diverse and loud. My son loves choral music and jazz, my daughter prefers solo piano and brass quintets. This despite the fact that both study a string instrument and both are exposed to the same music at home. Any teacher or parent should explore a wide range of musics with their children to find out what they like.