Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Study Questions for Hewett, "Music: Healing the Rift"

1.      Although Hewett examines the entire musical realm, he defines his discourse in terms of Western classical music. Why?
2.     Why is the term “world music” a misnomer?
3.     What does Hewett see as a reason for the “unhealthily hermetic character” of modern music?
4.     Why does Hewett see as ironic the attempt by modernists like Boulez to rebuild the musical realm?

Chapter 1  Depths and Shallows
  1. Historically, in what regard has its social function been an important component of music’s identity?
  2. When music began to be transported from one location to another, what new formal aspect was created?
  3. As the Age of Sentiment shifted criteria from taste to sincerity, how were musical forms affected? The notion of “pretty”?
  4. What was lost as certain features of music became highlighted for particular attention?
  5. What ironies are suggested when Couperin is accepted into the canon while Liszt in not?
  6. Is all folk music admired?
  7. What is the artistic response to a middle class that does not want to be highbrow all the time?
  8. “In traditional societies, music cannot be a matter of personal choice.” Why?
  9. Enumerate other ways in which our Western conception of music differs from that of traditional societies.
Chapter 2  Words, Words, Words
  1. In what regard is music “cultural fly-paper”?
  2. As music evolved from a public to a private endeavor, what changes did it undergo? Conversely, what changes emerged in the public music experience?
  3. Characterize Stravinsky’s and Schoenberg’s opposing concepts of music’s content. Which 19th-century figures would agree with one or the other of the two composers?
  4. How did composers and promoters respond to music’s becoming, increasingly, the province of professionals?
  5. How did 19th-century musical trends develop in the 20th century? 
Chapter 3  Things Fall Apart
  1. How has classical music historically viewed the musical Other? In what regard is this view more complex that the view held by tradition musical cultures?
  2. In addition to a gloomy Viennese mainstream, suggest a second vein in which modern music developed in the 1920s.
  3. Before Western music embraces a novelty, it customarily neutralizes it. Which musical cultures was Western music able to embrace readily?  Which cultures, conversely, proved problematic? For what reasons?
  4. As we read in Levine, “mass culture” poses problems for modern music. How was jazz regarded, positively and negatively, in the first decades of the 20th century?
  5. Hewett suggests an underlying cultural agenda behind Schoenberg’s 12-tone system. What is it? Why is his point curiously valid?
  6. What qualities in Balkan folk music allowed Bartók to constitute his later compositions in a wholly different light?
  7. In retrospect, what salient characteristic dominates the music of the 20th century’s giants?
Chapter 4  Multiplicities
  1. How did fascism and Stalinism respond to the modern?
  2. How did mid-century composers respond to the absence of a simple, agreed-upon ordering of music?
  3. How do middle-class audiences frequently respond to compositions that lack melody, harmony, tempo, or form?
  4. What is the ironic result of the cult of “pure” music?
  5. How do composers like Carter and Ligeti manage, in some regard, to make their music a collective experience?
  6. How is Boulez’s highly mathematical system problematic in a way that Schoenberg’s is not?
  7. How does one best describe the institutional unity shared by the highly personal constructions of modern composers? How does this differ from 19th-century Vienna, for example?
  8. What danger do we court in our neutrality? 
Chapter 5  Text, Body, Machines  Depths and Shallows
  1. Explain the distinction that Hewett makes between craft and technology in modern music. 
  2. In the first half of the 19th century, sincerity and simplicity were acceptable modes of musical discourse. What spectre arose in the second half of the century? With what unfortunate and enduring results?
  3. What key elements of classical music composition does electronic music eliminate? What “metaphysical duality” is lost as a result?
  4. How does a score differ from a blueprint?
  5. In their attitudes towards the score, how do contemporary composers and performers differ from their counterparts who worked before the end of the 18th century?
  6. The increased fetishization of the score has what result on performance?
  7. What expressive need does the violence of modern music serve? What is its opposite?
  8. Why did most mid-20th-century composers ultimately abandon attempts at styles of notation that gave performers more choice?
  9. In what respects are the solutions of John Cage, Luciano Berio, and others, problematic?
  10. How have some composers attempted to reconfigure the relationship between text, performance, and audience? With what result?
Chapter 6  Authenticities
  1. In its futile attempt to reconstitute a historical unity, what result has modern music achieved instead?
  2. In what respects have the paradigms of modern music changed in the past 30 years? What are some characteristics of the recently new plurality?
  3. Since so few specifics characterize the bulk of modern music, is it sufficient for it merely to aspire to seriousness?
  4. What traps make authenticity a slippery criterion?
  5. What contradictions inhere in discussions of the authenticity of world music?  Jazz? Baroque and classic repertoire?
  6. When composers scrupulously avoid expressivity, what ironic result ensues?
  7. When obliquity becomes a composer’s goal, what dangers lurk? 
Chapter 7  Expression Makes a Comeback
  1. What reasons does Hewett offer for spending more time on modernist music than on neo-tonal music?
  2. At the start of the modern era, when tonality was seen to be not a law of nature but a convention, what changes occurred in its status within a composer’s available choices? With what results?
  3. How does Hewett characterize sentimentality? How does minimalism avoid genuine sentimentality?
  4. Hewett describes the music of several American composers. Which are you moved to investigate? Why?
  5. How does Hewett distinguish between discourse and gesture?
  6. What lay behind the 19th-century dream of a music without conventions? As modernism strove to realize that dream, what new conventions did it create?
  7. What characterizes modernism’s fraught relationship with the past? 
Chapter 8  The New Naivety
  1. In modernism’s continuing dialogue with the past, what form of memory produces a deep discomfort?
  2. What other processes tinge the “desire to re-enter a lost paradise” that characterizes the new tonality?
  3. Repeated patterns, and references to tonality, make possible un-classical classical composers. For all that they reject, what do they still desire?
  4. What function did the “web of allusion” serve during the period of common practice?
  5. What does Hewett see as the result of a musical discourse consisting solely of evocations?
  6. How have the sampler and the fader affected modern music? 
Chapter 9  Rediscovering Music
  1. When it seeks public funding, what double bind does classical music encounter?
  2. When music loses its social function and becomes an autonomous realm, how do performers and listeners then participate?
  3. How is modern music faring in its strenuous efforts to maintain the integrity of its realm and not be taken over by expressivity, evocation, words, and images?
  4. Discuss the two parodic inversions that music has undergone in the past decade?
  5. What is the unspoken assumption of their music that composers fail to question? Why is this dangerous?
  6. Why does Hewett feel that Western classical music offers the last best hope for the future of music? How do you evaluate his reasons for denying comparable status to one or another of the rival claimants for musical “depth”.
  7. How is Hewett able to state that classical music is both historical and contemporary?
  8. Within the concept that music only serves us well when we submit to it, what advantages does classical music hold over other musical practices?
  9. What results will ensue if and when we are able to make musical culture active again rather than passive?
  10. What advantages are there to being musically bilingual? Why does Hewett embrace this condition?
  11. Hewett invokes Leonardo and Jung to suggest an essential component that is missing from our contemporary experience of music. What is that component?  How are we to compensate for its lack?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Final Project

The Future of Classical Music
Final Project

Groundwork Deadline: Tuesday, November 4, 2014, 11 a.m.
Final Project Deadline: Tuesday, November 25, 2014, 11 a.m.

Groundwork Goals

  1. Begin learning how to write for Wikipedia
  2. Create and populate your user page
  3. Formulate 3 – 5 possible topics for your Final Project
  4. Enter your topics on the Class Blog

1. Begin learning how to write for Wikipedia

  • Figure out what a “wiki” actually is
  • Create your own account on http://wikipedia.org
  • Bookmark and read the following:

2. Create and populate your user page

NB. The easiest way to accomplish much of the formatting is to copy it from another “Edit” page to your own.

* Place the following links on your watchlist:
 * Add your name, using 4 tildes (~~~~) to the list of class members at    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Ijmusic/Futureclass
* Add some information to your user page, like
  • Your musical background and outlook
  • The music you are most interested in
  • A link to your own home page
* Give each section an appropriate heading

3. Formulate 3 – 5 possible topics for your Final Project

      Wikipedia boasts millions of entries on a variety of topics, but the music of our time needs greater representation. What aspects of your music does it lack? Appropriate definitions? Noted artists? Significant regional developments?
Keeping in mind the Guidelines that you have read, devise 3 – 5 possible entries that you might compose as your Final Project. Wikipedia adheres to strict guidelines: an army of editors patrols daily! They will summarily delete all copyright material, which includes text, music, and pictures copied verbatim from another Web site or book. Articles with only one source are marked for “Speedy Deletion.”

      You will need to document your sources: remember, Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, thus, a secondary and tertiary source. When you jump through all the hoops, though, you are rewarded: Immortality!

      Voceditenore has been our angel. Reading and heeding the following information will save you a lot of aggravation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_talk:Ijmusic/Futureclass

4. Enter your topics to the Class Blog before 11 a.m. on Tuesday, November 4, 2014.

Late entries not accepted.

Final Project

Final Project Deadline: Tuesday, November 25, 2014, 11 a.m.

1. Post to our Wikipedia User page, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Ijmusic/Futureclass, the link to one or both of the following:

* A new article
* A substantive addition to, or edit of, an existing article

2. Send me, by e-mail, your list of blog and Wikipedia entries, with URLs.

Late submissions not accepted.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Suggestions for Longy

This is my first year to join Longy, and I am comfortable and glade to study here. After the discussion with Dean Chin and everyone in our class, I feel that with a few changes Longy has a chance to get better.
In my opinion, the first suggestion for Longy is about the orchestra. As music college students, we need a great deal of performing experiences not only in the symphony orchestra, but also in other types of ensembles to accumulate the experience in varied repertoires. For example, there are three concerts for orchestra this semester, but some of us only get to perform once or twice. I feel that if we had more and various ensembles, it could rise up our competitiveness and music standard.
My second suggestion is for “String Seminar”, I believe it is an important curriculum to make us become a professional musician, and that is why I have a high expectation on it. We have had presentations on Feldenkreis Technique, professional head shot, and the stage deportment classes so far, which presented great and important information for students. However, even though we have had a great instructor and good quality class, the content of the curriculum is different with the title of curriculum. In “String Seminar,” I would like to have more master classes and connections with other strings, which can bring me some specific knowledge, skills, experiences for strings.

What is more, there are some awesome and meaningful programs such as, Teaching Artist Program, in Longy. Addition to these teaching programs, I was wondering if we could set up the program of academic cooperation with the professional orchestra or musicians. Take “Side by Side” for an example; the children can learn the music from their teachers by rehearsing together in the orchestra. If we use the same idea to create the course, we students will gain a big progress and better training in music.

Continuing to nurture Georges Longy's vision

Following our discussion with Dean Chin in class almost two weeks ago, I spent a great deal of time pondering our charge to provide constructive feedback on Longy’s curriculum. As a student who has wandered Longy’s halls for almost six years--in that time weathering both the entire undergraduate program and over half of the Masters program--I feel that I am in a unique position to give specific feedback based on my own experiences. There are suggestions I have regarding additions and changes to the curriculum. However, there are aspects of Longy’s current system that I feel are absolutely indispensable and should continue to be top priorities even amidst a curricular overhaul. I have classified my ideas into the categories, “to keep,” “to add,” and “to change.”


  • High expectations for musicianship training are necessary not only to produce great musicians, but to maintain Georges Longy's original vision for a European-style conservatory that fosters a thorough understanding of theory. The Fundamentals and Harmony classes are extremely challenging, but that’s why they’re worth the time and effort. As a Longy undergraduate program alum, I am proud of the hard work I did in those classes, and think I am an infinitely better musician for it. As classical musicians rightly explore branching out from concert halls into people’s living rooms and elementary school classrooms, it is more important than ever to seek a high-level understanding of our art. It is only through musicianship training that we can give the best possible performances and information to our communities. (This is not to say no good music comes of instinct; but the better you know your subject, the better you can share it.)
  • Longy's Dalcroze Eurythmics requirement is worthwhile. My dalcroze experience was another transforming component of my undergraduate training. I feel that dalcroze complements Longy’s fundamentals classes, and that it helps you put music in your body. Rhythm makes more sense to me because of the work I did in dalcroze. I also became a better performer, not only because I learned how movement relates to music, but because I was forced to be brave enough to express my thoughts physically. Eurhythmics is also a helpful tool to have in your back pocket for teaching children rhythm.

  • My first suggestion for a curricular addition is a Sight Reading and Practical Musicianship Seminar. This ideally would be mandatory for every student in their first semester at Longy--and during that semester, the students would not participate in chamber music or orchestra performances (resulting reduced enrollment in orchestra could be alleviated by having more chamber orchestra concerts in the fall semester). My reasoning for this addition is that I found it extremely challenging connecting my solfege and dalcroze training to my playing. It would be beneficial to Longy students, particularly undergraduates, to have an opportunity to work on musicianship in a hands-on setting. This might require some dividing up of instrumental groups so that string players, wind players, singers, and everyone in between can receive training specific to the peculiarities of sightreading on their own instruments. Late in the semester, the seminar should take the shape of a large, conducted ensemble. Learning to follow a conductor is a separate but related skill. I realize implementing this course could be logistically difficult, but feel confident that it would help to support Georges Longy’s original concept of a school that promotes a thorough understand of music.
  • Dean Chin’s news of a possible songwriting course sparked a related idea for me. I feel strongly that it is important to step into the composer’s shoes at some point in your musical life; experiencing the creation of music for yourself changes the way you make decisions as a performer. I think this is potentially a wonderful offering and nominate Dr. Paul Brust as a potential instructor (especially as he already teaches the courses Drama in Song: Anatomy of a Theater Song and Words and Music: Analysis of Song). However, I think a broader step worth considering would be adding a composition requirement to the undergraduate and graduate curriculum. Three existing courses that could also feed into this requirement are John Morrison’s Composition for Performers, Peter Aldins’ Orchestration course (which includes some arranging and could be formally expanded to Orchestration and Arrangement), and Greg Hopkins’ Techniques of Jazz Composition and Arranging.


  • Dean Chin mentioned the possibility of consolidating the Teaching Artist Program requirement to one semester. I think this course of action could be justified as long as every student still has real-world experience in Teaching Artistry during that one semester. I always found TAP interesting and thought-provoking. However, upon going out to do my project, I realized no amount information imparted in the classroom can prepare you for your first experience in the real world. Therefore, I propose holding approximately five informational classes at the beginning of the semester to impart essential and basic concepts. After those five classes, project planning should commence. One or two classes to try out ideas would be helpful, as would two or three planning sessions with a mentor. This way, the whole course could be accomplished in approximately a semester. For interested students, an advanced TAP course would be worthwhile after the introductory semester. This is another possibility Dean Chin mentioned in class.
  • There are several worthwhile subjects that would be helpful for today’s musicians that I think should be mandatory at Longy, but in which I feel students don’t necessarily need an entire semester of study unless they deem it helpful for their particular career goals. For these things, I recommend Longy use the Department Seminars, and combine them into school-wide seminars a few times a year. Subjects I classify in this category include training in the use of music notation software, audio recording, video recording, video editing, website making, and resume writing (some of these subjects are currently covered in TAP, but this would help students learn these concepts while still shortening TAP to one semester. Also, most of these concepts pertain to self-marketing, which I don’t feel is appropriate to include in a class about how to teach and share music). These “primer” classes should recur annually, so every student is exposed to these skills.

Perhaps these suggestions are excessively ambitious or even impossible, but I make them genuinely in the spirit of the quality education I received as a Longy undergraduate. I believe the pursuit of Georges Longy’s mission is a worthwhile one, no matter the logistical trouble. To anyone who read this entire post, thank you very much for reading my thoughts. Happy music-making to everyone!

A few thoughts from a "Longy Lifer"

What would you add, change or remove from the current curriculum at Longy?
There are many things about the TAP program, or EEP as it was called when I took it, that I really admire. I think that it helps set Longy apart and shows a strong commitment to music education and preparing us to be equipped for the world of music as it is today and will be tomorrow. I was excited by what the Dean mentioned in class last week about potentially having students specialize with the TAP program, exploring the areas of Teaching Artistry that directly relates to what the student is interested in as a career path.
For example, since coming to the Boston area my sister (Longy alum) and I have founded a music school in Arlington called Klassical Kidz Music Studio. We were able to start this up while still in school and over the past 6 years it has really grown. We now offer three different programs within the studio, Little Players for students ages 3-5, Klassical Kidz ages 6-10 and Youth Chamber Players ages 11 and up (or special permission). All our students start with lessons and an age appropriate ensemble experience, learning how to make music right from the start. We have built up a strong reputation within the Arlington Community and our end of the semester recitals have been received, with over 100 people in attendance; it has been very rewarding experience.
I think it would be amazing if Longy could offer some business classes, particularly focusing on things like finances, marketing, hiring employees & web design. I think that it would not only help the students that are interested in starting their own business, but would give students the opportunity to be skillful with technology and have the tools to better their careers with it. I know that I personally would have loved to have been exposed to such information while starting up my business.
Some of our students getting ready for recital time! We rent space from Longy for the exciting day!
Research and Materials
I found it interesting that Dean Chin brought up the fact that they are considering changing Research and Materials. I think that having a required writing class is a good thing. It is very important for us to know how to clearly put our thoughts and ideas into written form. I wonder if it might be more beneficial though if instead of writing a reach paper, we all work on a thesis expressing our own personal vision or musical mission statement. How we plan to make our musical voices heard in this world. And if I may be so bold as to suggest a teacher for this class, Professor Jackson would be a brilliant choice!
I love Longy’s commitment to music education and I have learned many things during my years here that have helped me become the teacher that I am today. I could see it being useful in the Pedagogy classes though to have two sections, one for students new to teaching and one for students with past experience. I thoroughly enjoyed working the instructor in the upper string pedagogy class, but I and several of my classmates with prior teaching experience would have loved to have had the time to get more in-depth and as there was a very mixed level of teaching experience with in the class there was not time for that.
I am thankful that Longy has been my academic home for six years and owe a great deal to many a professor and instructor here for investing so much in me. I am very excited to see what Longy is becoming and all the possibilities ahead for this school. Thank you Dean Chin (and other faculty members) for seeking our insight. Good luck to you all! Sincerely, A Proud Longy Lifer

I would change...

“To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”

Bravo Longy for doing, and making me feel I made the right decision to attend.  I will always have some criticism though.

What I would add to the curriculum:
It is my second semester, and I am beginning to understand how the school works and the flow of the curriculum.  Being in the vocal performance program, I will comment on that.  I would like to see other genres of vocal performance explored in our core classes.  It has become clear that the program is classically centered, which is acceptable, and maybe I should have known that going in, but I am not a person to be boxed in to one type of anything.  At least the option to explore other genres would be nice.  

I like the balance of mind/body classes but I think there could be more yoga classes added so everyone can partake.

I would like more guest lecturers, maybe regularly.

I would add a manage your studio class, which deals with the business side and organization of running your own studio, which we all so desperately need. 

What I would remove from the curriculum:
I would lose the seminar class.  It has been too all over the map for me to grasp, and has not really helped in any way.  The few lectures that were helpful could be mandatory meetings for everyone to attend.  The trying to figure out when we are singing or attending is confusing and produces unnecessary stress.  

What I would change in the curriculum:
These removals and adds are very small, almost nitpicky criticisms, but something I feel very strongly about that could change is the rigid borders of the programs.  What I mean is, I have struggled with being able to take the classes that I want to take, outside of my major.  It seems I am allotted my core requirement classes, and if i like a couple electives, I have to take them as extras.  I would like to be able to take orchestral conducting and have it count towards my masters.  I would like to switch out a voice studio for a piano studio one semester.  I would like to build my classes around my major in the way I think my masters program will offer the most it can for me.  

Also, I feel the different instrument groups are somewhat blocked from intermingling with each other.  There needs to be more opportunities for all types of musicians to collaborate in a classroom setting, or a social setting.   

Curriculum comments

In general, I am exceedingly happy with my education at Longy.  A year in to my two years here,  I have enough experience to say that choosing Longy was one of the best choices I have ever made.

If pressed, though, one can find flaws with even the most exquisite of diamonds.  In the spirit of nit-picking, there are a few things I wish were slightly different about the education here.

Addition to the curriculum
We students are currently not trained to be musical entrepreneurs. It is not glamorous to talk about how to pay the bills with our music, or about how to market our art.  Bits of this information and training does filter through to students via departmental seminar or studio teachers, but it is not done in a a systematic way.  

Were I to suddenly and inexplicably be in charge of the Longy curriculum committee, I would insist on a required one-term survey course that details how to be a professional musician away from the stage or the practice room.  Topics covered would include: marketing, budgeting (personal and professional), basics of recording, how to network, etc. Students would not leave that course without a functioning web presence that they control, as well as a basic plan of how he or she will balance making rent and making art in the 5, 10 and 20 years beyond Longy.  They will leave that course with a head-shot and up-to-date recordings.  Each student will have been matched with at least one mentor who is creating the kind of art that each student ultimately wants to create.  Students will understand how to deal with the IRS, and what counts as a valid deduction or not.  They will have been coached on body language - particularly anyone who sings.  They will be trained in the art of selling themselves as classical (or MAM) musicians, rather than just advocating for the broader role of classical music in today's society.

Remove from the curriculum
Instead of a "remove" option, I will instead make two points under "change the curriculum."

Change the curriculum
1) I enjoyed Research and Materials, but felt that the first half of the class was fairly redundant with what I had learned as an undergraduate.  (Who gets out of a liberal arts undergraduate education without knowing how to construct a bibliography?)

The curriculum might better serve the students if they had a choice of research-oriented class.  On one hand, students who did not have to author many research papers during their undergraduate degree could take Research and Materials as it currently stands.  Those who felt like more of a challenge could instead opt for the "Published Research and Materials" class, and spend a term creating a paper that will be submitted for publication.

2) I am currently enrolled in term 1 of TAP, and do enjoy it.  The experience of becoming an artist who is able to be a "teaching artist" is a useful mental exercise, though I'm personally doubtful that I'll work in this precise capacity upon graduation.

I would greatly appreciate it if TAP was expanded out to include general arts advocacy training.   I'm not sure what exactly this would look like in practice, but of all the courses at Longy, TAP seems like the best place for this sort of training.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Heading Forward at Longy

Lets start with a little dose of brown nosing to get this blog post off to a roll.  I will say that Longy is the first school that I have been at that I am happy with.  That being said, there are somethings I think that could be improved upon.   I will be speaking more on the vocal performance program because that is the program with which I have the most experience.  The biggest change I would like to see is with the seminar class, which I believe is important to the program but I feel that we could use it more for rotating masterclasses and make participation mandatory at every class.  We wouldn't have to even find different rotating artist but could draw from the different voice faculty.  That way we could be exposed to all the different teaching styles of the voice faculty as well as have a greater sense of community of the vocal faculty.  I feel that there are teachers in the vocal performance degree that I do not really know as well as I should. 

I really enjoy the fact that we have a Teaching Artistry Program at Longy and enjoy the experience of putting together an interactive performance.  I do think the program could be shifted and while it might not work it would be interesting in trying it out.  As we progress into the future of classical music and how to keep it alive we need to learn to experiment out in the world with different form of performance.  Instead of it being a performance at the end of the year at a school or nursing home I would take it a step further and make it a just a performance outside of Longy.  One that you as the student sets up by yourself or with a group and tell them to be as creative with the format as possible.  So creative perhaps that it is more about the process of putting together a performance and trying out a new performance format and less about the success of the actual performance.  I hope this is making sense but I feel that one thing we don't get enough chances to bomb as classical musician.  In the other art forms performers, especially comedians, have more opportunities to completely bomb during a performance.  They have the most freedom in their art form because they have the ability to try anything in their performances and its okay if it falls apart.  I feel that if we had this experience with Tap it could help it could help create more freedom in our own art form and take us further into the future. 

When it comes to the languages I feel they should be more intensive throughout our years at Longy.  Foreign languages are so important for vocal performance and I feel the more we can get the better for us in the long run.  The good news is there is nothing that I would want to see removed from the program at Longy, just adjusted.  I am happy to talk further with Dean Chin or anybody about ideas that I would like to see at Longy.  I am always better at further explaining my ideas in person then on paper. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Responses for Dean Chin

1. What would you remove from Longy's music curriculum? I have not been here long enough to determine what I do not think works for the program. I can only say that in signing up for classes I was worried that I would not be able to fulfill all the requirements on time to graduate in two years.
2. What would you change? I noticed in the catalogue that Longy boasts of being a "chamber music school," yet in the chamber music course in which I enrolled, there was only one performance for each group at the end of the semester. The chamber music program might benefit from giving two or more performances per group at different times during the semester, though that would obviously mean more work.
3. What would you add? One of the features of DePauw's 21CM program that I talked about with Mark McCoy was the guest artist series. From what I have seen, Longy does not seem to have many guest performers who interact all that much with students. I would suggest finding some way of better connecting Longy's students with professionals.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Orchestral Woes and Returns

In keeping with the spirit of "News from the Front," this post will update situations that have been discussed in class rather than analyze or discuss a new issue.

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra continues to be locked out. All concerts are cancelled through at least November 8th.  While the situation is far from static, it seems overly optimistic to identify the trajectory as being angled towards a speedy resolution. 

Between the last blog entry on this topic and this one, the orchestra's president has resigned. This vacuum effectively forces the orchestra to negotiate with the Woodruff Arts Center, which is currently headed by Douglas Hertz, a man whom the orchestra members feel is willing to "break the backs of employees to achieve further financial concessions."

Whether this portrayal is accurate or not remains to be seen, but the issuing of such a strong statement indicates that the orchestra does not feel it is dealing with a sympathetic negotiating partner.  I fear that this statement means that the orchestra members are digging in for what might be a protracted fight. The mayor of Atlanta and other local organizations have offered support, and a federal mediator is coming in.  However, this doesn't change the fundamental fact: both the Woodruff Arts Center and the orchestra are in very defensive public positions, and don't appear willing to yield any ground.  The Woodruff Arts Center keeps up a steady drumbeat of budgetary shortfall information, while the orchestra continues to appeal for artistic integrity.

In more encouraging news, the Minnesota Orchestra is firmly back on the stage and armed with a contract, which will hopefully allow for the completion of the first full season in 3 years.  The 111th season kicked off with Mahler's "Resurrection" Symphony last week.

Mobius Percussion and their performance of Thank You (___) by Jason Treuting

After reintroducing myself to Drumchattr with last week’s blog entry, I decided to peruse the site once again this week. I found an article written by Dave Gerhart, percussion instructor at the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music at California State University. This article was about the chamber percussion group, Mobius Percussion and their video premiere of Jason Treuting’s Thank You (___).  Mobius Percussion consists of Mika Godbole, Yumi Tamashiro, Frank Tyl, and Jeremy Smith. I had the pleasure of meeting both Yumi and Mika when I attended the So Percussion Summer Institute where they were So’s interns. I can’t express enough how much I learned from the members of So Percussion, Mika, Yumi, and the other attendees when I participated in the two week program. 


I was very eager to read Dave’s critique on the new piece. He explained that Jason Trueting, a member of So Percussion, wrote  ThankYou (___) as a performance art snare drum quartet, utilizing the snare drum in unconventional ways. As I continued reading, Dave had mentioned controversy,  negative reactions, and 27 “thumbs down” on youtube.  I then immediately thought, “What is going on?” I’ve seen two out of the four percussionists live, and they are quite amazing musicians. I’ve also been coached by Jason at the So Percussion Summer Institute and have heard a number of his other compositions. Heck, all four members of So Percussion just premiered a piece that involved breaking twigs on stage with the LA Phil and Maestro Dudamel

As musicians, there have been many times when we’ve heard someone make remarks such as, “classical music is so lame.” “I just can’t understand it.” “This stuff is just so boring.” Maybe it is because I’m a percussionist, but I’ve never imagined someone thinking that percussion can fall into the “Lame” category.

Hearbroken, I went directly to youtube to take a listen to theVic Firth  produced video that was videographed by another alumn of the So Percussion Summer Institute, Evan Chapman. I thought it was amazing. The vocals added an extra texture that I really found interesting. I loved how the composer thought of whistling and buzzing into the bottom of the snare drum head to produce harmonics.  The whole thing was great and really inventive in my opinion.

I have posted some of the negative comments below:
“What a waist of such nice snare drums…”

 “Why would they insist on whistling if they are never on key? Don’t get it.”

“Okay you guys just lost a subscriber if I want to see the drum corps videos I will search it up bye”

“Plenty of people think lots of things are good that aren't, as they're perfectly entitled to. I personally don't find the use of space very musical and while there are plenty of creative ideas, the execution is lackluster. Why would I get excited about 4 players like this when I could hear 1 Bobby McFerrin or Zakir Hussain. Maybe an unfair comparison...but I wouldn't start whistling into my snare drum until I knew there was nothing left to accomplish on the head of it.”

Jason retaliated very eloquently, replying:
“Hello. I'm a bit late to the party. I wrote this piece, I play in So Percussion and had the extreme pleasure to get to know and work with Mobius through So’s Summer Institute we have each summer.  I really love what they did with my piece and had the chance to be at the video session and make the collages that are on the wall behind each player.

I really appreciate you all watching the video and sharing thoughts- even the more aggressive commentary.  I guess “garbage” can now make my quote sheet.

The percussion community is generally a really open minded place and it is wonderful that Vic Firth puts up videos of composers that span really different styles.  To me, it is pretty obvious that Mobius is playing the piece at an extremely high level and I feel no need to reply to any of those comments.   But I did think I would put my thoughts out on the compositional commentary/criticism and share what I was thinking.

I am always happy when someone has a response to my music, good or bad.  I think that means I did my job of putting my ideas out there.  I would never think that everyone would like what I make.  I don’t write “popular” music, so that isn’t even my goal.  One of my goals is to raise questions and it sounds like maybe I did that for some folks.

It seems like maybe some viewers read pretention into the sounds I used, like the coins and the humming/whistling.  Maybe that’s because the piece is framed as a snare drum piece, so whistling or humming feels out of place.  One purpose was to make the harmonics of the drum sing or to get the snares to rattle in the freer sections and listen to those sounds collide as a collage of sorts.  I find those sounds really beautiful and I guess I tend to leave it there.  Any sound is always available to use as percussionist in the lineage that I am coming out of.

When I write music, I think in layers.  With the snare groove built up, I needed something to happen with longer durations on top and I chose 3 sounds- a whistle, a high hum and a low hum.  If anyone is interested in seeing a score or seeing how the piece was constructed, let me know. I’ll send some tidbits your way.  It is made with some flexibility built in and I think that can be real freeing as a performer.  As someone who performs a lot, I find lots of joy in making music that way.

Anyhow, thank you for watching it.  And thank you to Mobius and Evan Chapman for making it sound and look so good. “

A number of these comments believed that the performance was not “good” music because of their musical preferences.  One commenter mentioned unsubscribing from the Vic Firth youtube page and will find their Drum Corps videos elsewhere. Another person wondered what the purpose of a snare drum quartet would be if listeners had the option of listening to tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain

It seems to me that most of the comments are from percussionists of some variety. I felt very sad that a supposedly open community could be so harsh and judgmental in regards to different art forms of the same family. Shouldn’t all musicians support one and other? Can’t there be a place and purpose for all different types of music in our society?