Friday, November 30, 2007

Why he matters

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I don't care if he was an anti-abolitionist; I don't care if he hated Lincoln; I don't care if he was a wimpy, retiring, asexual (or closeted) hypochondriac obsessive-compulsive.

I don't care. I am absolutely convinced--the evidence is incontrovertible--that he loved, admired, and respected the black musicians he painted. I don't care what he said--I care what he revealed.

And what he revealed was the absolute bedrock conviction that this was great music, great art, commanding and heroic in its personality, conception, and execution, and a priceless and essential part of the art that could make America great. Some day.

I believe that too.

Now playing: Dervish - The Hills Of GreanMore, Intro - The Hills Of GreanMore

By their acts shall ye know them.

Can we just agree that fundamentalists of any denomination are very far from God?

Calls in Sudan for Execution of British Teacher

Protesters reacted angrily today after the sentencing of a Briton whose class named a teddy bear Muhammad.

Now playing: Dervish - Packie Duignan's

Character counts

I have now taught at two different institutions where this egomaniac has coached, and in both cases have watched while over years upper administration worsened the situation, by enabling his behavior, until his departure cost millions. He's a great coach--unless you think character actually matters:

The controversial [coach] mixed expletives with anecdotes Thursday evening at a reception held in his honor.

During the two-hour reception held to recognize the thousands of dollars he's given to [University] Libraries, he talked about his love for books and joked about a recent hunting altercation that's made national headlines.

"If any of you come from farms and ranches where your father allows you to hunt, I'd appreciate it if you'd let me know, just as long as your dad isn't a lyin' son of a (expletive)," he said to a crowd of mostly students after signing scores of autographs.

Students gathered in the [] library Thursday for the opening reception of "A Legacy of Giving: The [Coach] Exhibit." Students . . . brought basketballs for [Coach] to sign. They said they plan to give the autographed basketballs to their fathers for Christmas.

Two people have said the basketball coach or his hunting companion hit them with birdshot on two occasions last month.
He did the same kind of thing at my former institution (choking and slapping students--some not even his players, throwing chairs onto the court and lamps at secretaries, abusing anyone who disagreed with him but utterly unwilling to accept criticism himself), and was enabled to do so, for so many years that when the inevitable came and he was fired, it was six times more catastrophic than necessary, or than it would have been were he any other employee of the university.

Some things matter more than winning. To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen to Dan Quayle on John Kennedy:

"I've known great leaders; I've served with great leaders. Coach, you're no leader."

Thursday, November 29, 2007

"The Office" (workstation series) 73 (jamming at the margins deadlines edition)

Jammed with work at the closing margins of the semester, that is: student advising, Madrigal Dinners start tonight followed by coffeehouse session, pub session tomorrow, teaching session Saturday, writing recommendations, counseling students who've had progress setbacks, nailing down TA assignments for next semester, still planning/writing curricula and concert programs, transcribing and re-arranging brass parts, writing/recording weekly radio program, planning events (radio, live, electronic and print promotions) for CD release parties, reading & ranking dossiers for candidate search, advising student teachers, reading and ranking conference proposals, organizing TMEA workshops and round-table on world music pedagogy, and...oh yeah, by the way, writing this fucking book.

On the other hand, I had the following conversation with my much-admired boss 2 days ago, just after he returned from the national accreditation organization's executive-committee meetings. He had asked several colleagues to put thoughts in a memo regarding mission, future, cultural-diversity obligations, and teaching to shifting student profiles in advance of that meeting, so as to have a sense of his own faculty's perspective. I responded with typical excessive prolixity. Following up on that meeting weekend, the boss and I conversed thus:

Boss: It occurred to me, as we were talking about our obligation to broaden our teaching, that that needs to happen throughout the curriculum.
Dr Coyote: Yes! It's not enough to diversify our faculty--though of course that's important. If we really want to act upon the lip-service mandates for "diversity," then we have an obligation to realize that diversity in our curriculum. Not only the personnel but the topics of our teaching need to reflect a globally-diverse world.
B: Yep. It also occurred to me that, just as European culture tended to take over minority cultures, maybe we've been guilty of that in the world of music teaching too.
DC: You mean, university music teaching has been guilty of a kind of colonial imperialism?
B: Yeah.
DC (gobsmacked): !
Understand, this is a very bright, very imaginative, yet very practical guy (former trumpet player, middle-school and college band director, already with a successful track record as Dean elsewhere in the Big 12), who is an absolutely masterful and very courageous yet even-keeled administrator (I continue to learn huge amounts about management and patience from him), with almost none of the "fog and pomposity" (thanks, Quantzalcoatl) which upper-administration suits tend toward. I admire both his skills and his intellect a great deal.

But I never thought I would live to see the day when the director of a 500-student university music program in North America would cop to the reality that, yes goddammit, we fucking well have been guilty of the same cultural imperialism that has tainted every aspect of European global communications ever since the Age of Exploration. Until we tear out those attitudes of dismissal, exploitation, and destruction which have shaped our arts and education policies every bit as much as our trade and foreign policies, until we begin to act in a more egalitarian and just fashion as teachers, we are still culpable.

15 years ago this guy tried to get me thrown out of the Indiana University musicology program, and when he was unable to do that, tried to require that I do twice as much musicology coursework as the catalog called for; that's how much he despised (and now, i believe, feared) these same musics: the ones I wanted to study and for which I wanted to claim equivalent value and beauty.

That my current boss "got there"--that I have the privilege of finally, after 30 years, working in an environment in which my boss is expressing the political insights and resulting pedagogical obligations which almost got me thrown out of graduate school 15 years ago--is the reason I'm still here, rather than in any of the half-dozen other jobs in sexier places for which I've been head-hunted.

Dharmonia and I are incredibly fortunate.

Now playing: Zappa - 03 03 03. Honey Dont You Want A Man

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

"The Office" (workstation series) 72 (lit-review edition)

Jammed to the rafters yesterday and today. But the book's literature review and table of contents are done, and two chapters are sketched in their entirety.

Below the jump, dawn on the South Plains, including the westering moon behind sunrise-lit clouds.

Now playing: Susan Frank - Needle Cases

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

FZ was my hero

Quick hit: Someone sent me a couple of mp3's of the '78 Saarbrucken concert and it just kicks ass. I have a soft spot for the '88 band (the "last tour" band that gave us Broadway the Hard Way, The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life, and Make a Jazz Noise Here), the uber-funky '72 band with Chester Thompson (d), George Duke (k), Napoleon Murphy Brock (s/fl), and Ruth Underwood (perc), the lunacy and humor of the '78 Live in New York band with the Brecker Brothers and Terry Bozzio (d) including Terry's brilliant comedy turn as "Da Devil" on Titties 'n' Beer (best exchange: FZ "Devil, I'm only interested in two things; see if you can guess what they are"; TB "Uhh...I would think...uh...Stravinsky...and, uh..."), but Jeezus this '78 Saarbrucken band (FZ, Ike Willis, Denny Walley (g), Peter Wolf, Tommy Mars (k), Arthur Barrow (b), Vinnie Colaiuta (d), Ed Mann (perc) could play!

Boy do I miss Frank. Boy do I love his music.
Now playing: Zappa - 09 09 09. Bobby Brown

"The Office" (workstation series) 71 (proposal deadlines edition)

Back in the satellite office today. Yesterday was a lot of department business--meeting candidates, lessons, writing recommendations, transcribing and printing scores and parts--so today is going to try to be more about own research work.

I set an internal deadline, way back in May: that I would have a book proposal for the minstrelsy project submitted to a targeted publisher by Dec 15, the putative end of my sabbatical. The past 7 months have been hard-core work--not vacation--in various stages (and not including the myriad other tasks both short- and long-term necessitated by running a department), and largely documented in this blog:

I: May-Aug: very extensive reading in the secondary literature. This is when I completed assimilating known historical record and existing scholarly studies. Typically this period both refines the original (intuited) thesis and also maps gaps in the scholarship to date--meanwhile hoping not to discover existing work which obviates the projected contribution of the proposed work.

II: September: very intense primary-source research in the Museum where most of my painter's works, sketches, and ephemera are held. This further refines the thesis, checks it against the primary-source material, and--in the case of a thesis of real original value--deepens, enriches, and confirms the validity of the original intuition.

III: October: back at Base Camp, head-down and grinding through gathered material, rendering it into easily-accessible and integrated form, trying to be ready for a "sweeping-up" trip to the Museum in November. That latter trip would be intended to fill gaps in the September material, and it necessitates that all that material be in collated form so that patterns and gaps are visible. This is when I made the decision to build the project as a wiki, so as to be able to manipulate, link, re-order, and keep track of the original writing and the raw research material.

IV: November (again, multiple interruptions for tours, conferences, CD release, and other "day-job" obligations): return to the Museum, for the "clean-up" week, meet with series editor who is interested in the text, and to participate in a conference and concert on the occasion of my painter's 200th birthday. Filling in gaps, laying the groundwork for ongoing oral- and family-history research with area genealogists and members of the African-American community, further testing and articulating the now-drafted project shape and Table of Contents.

V: Dec 15: submit the proposal. My target publisher includes the following for a "typical proposal": "table of contents, one or two sample chapters." Over the last 7 months I have generated over 100 thousand words of original writing on the topic--but a simple mass of prose (bits & bytes) is not a book. My typical research method tends to be comparatively comprehensive: that is, I tend to have difficulty finding the "through-line" for a book such that I know, early in the process, what I can afford to eschew. Rather, I tend to have to work through all the existing literature, to write every bit of original prose I can think of, and then to discover the through-line through the process described above.

I'm comfortable with this method, if only because (a) it gives me command of the material and confidence in my own thesis and (b) empirical experience suggests that I wind up with good results. But it is rather akin to saying "I think I'd like to raise a crop of tomatoes," and sowing an entire field with a mixed-bag of every kind of succulent, watering and weeding the field for an entire season, and then, preparatory to harvest, mowing down everything that isn't a tomato.

But now the lines of tomatoes are emerging: I have a table of contents, a "pilot" chapter (just took delivery of the beautiful desk copies of the annual which carried this article), and a nearly-complete literature review. That last is almost never a focal point of a publication, but it is a necessary stage to a dissertation or a book, because it maps the territory and demonstrates to a committee, or a review board, that the proposed work makes an original contribution.

The December 15 deadline was self-imposed and I could always blow past it--but I intentionally gave the date to the series editor, so she would expect the proposal, and so I'd be forced to make it.

Gotta get to work.
Now playing: Dick Gaughan - Father's Song

Monday, November 26, 2007

"The Office" (workstation series) 70 (home stretch edition)

Home stretch of the semester now, so quick hits today.

Patsies win. NYT thinks they look vulnerable, because they didn't win by 40 points; I'd counter that yesterday suggests they can win even on an off-day, with Moss double- and triple-covered. And, that Belichek and Brady would both be very competent combat commanders, because they just do not fuckin' panic.

Managed to culture-jam Black Friday--e.g., didn't buy anything.

It's only in the class-days between Thanksgiving and Finals that you see kids actually studying. But it's kind of encouraging to see some of the iPodded Paris-Hilton-sunglassed kids sitting and studying with a technology as archaic as flashcards. Because there's still a place for the intellectual sharpening that flat fucking memory provides.

Celtic Ensemble shaping up--and just in time: Thursday begins the run of Madrigal Dinners, Celtic Christmas comes up in just about 2 weeks. Program is pretty extensive: focuses upon Galician dance music (and dances) and songs, but also includes some evergreens that are in the group's book every semester: Cotswold Morris dances, and a Breton an-dro avec klem. They've had a hard job this semester, with me largely absent, and assistants running rehearsals. Thankfully, my girls have done a great job of keeping the players and dancers focused and moving forward. Next semester should actually be a relief for all parties.

Recently finished a new (to me) biography of Robert Graves, one of the great poetic lunatics of the 20th century and, specifically through the medium of his "historical grammar of poetic myth" The White Goddess, an influence on not only poets but also Anglo-Celtic folkies and neo-pagan types. It's a sprawling awkward book, informed by Graves's encyclopedic reading of North European and Mediterranean myth, but it's not scholarly. He's wrong about 'most any factual stuff, and his interpretations of images, pottery, names, and archaic alphabets are almost completely erroneous--but as a handbook/blueprint that lets us watch the poetic trance in action, it's unmatched. Miranda Seymour's biography is far better-informed because of her much more extensive and complete access to family, personal papers, and unpublished material--and by the death of that consummate neurotic/messianic Laura Riding, the first and scariest of Graves's poetic muses, who in any era except post-WWI would have been recognized as the self-hypnotizing charlatan that she was. Seymour effectively links Graves's life--and his psychological masochism, his sense that a true Romantic poet needed to suffer in order to create--to the horror he encountered on the Western Front and the guilt that he carried for the rest of his life. The biography is thus reminiscent of John Garth's Tolkien biography, which makes much the same case.

Graves, Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg, and the early Chinese poets Du Fu and Han Shan, are the heroes of my own poetic firmament. Here's a poem in honor of Graves, the season, and a sense of place:

A Centering Calm

At the turning of the year
Sky closes in – gray and dank
Cold sharpens
Leaves fall

Geese call and circle
Seeking the stubble fields
Orion wheels and looks to the South
Dreaming of warmer climes
The Morning Star shines low and bright to the East

Mammals seek warmth, light, heat;
The rocks darken, trees rattle
Grass grows lank and dry

The boundary between heat and cold, light and dark,
Bends thin and fragile:
The thickness of a bed sheet, a window pane, the tender epidermis
As sentient beings turn inward,
And the heart, as the season shifts,
Contracts and conserves:

A centering calm emerges.

The old year fades.
Now playing: Dick Gaughan - Revolution

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Dharmonia's home!

I got nothin'. Or, better, I got too much to do and no time to post. But, to keep the thread, here's a beautiful jig set by the fire-breathing young Galway concertina player Padraig Rhynne, recorded in the Custy's shop just off O'Connell Square in Ennis. I heard Rhynne's disc over the sound system in Tigh Coili's in Galway City and he rocked my world.

More tomorrow.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Sayonara, Mate

John Howard, the immigrant-bashing, Aborigine-persecuting, Bush-enabling, xenophobic, opportunistic asshole the Aussies, in an embarrassing mis-step, repeatedly re-elected, finally gets his ass kicked bump bump bump down the stairs. Fuck off, dude--the idea that that country, with its immigrant and convict and genocidal history, should ever have been led by a pandering pipsqueak like you was always an obscenity.

Friday, November 23, 2007


Don't buy shit today!

Don't buy shit just because the corporate media says it's a "bargain" and because that gutless venal punk George Bush says that's how we "fight terrorism".

Cook something, make something, read something, teach something, fix something, play something, learn something, write something, clean something, believe something, but

don't buy shit today!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The day that's in it (and Fuzzy People 23)

In recognition of the day that's in it:

Here's the menu:

Turkey: brined overnight; stuffed with apple, onion, rosemary; roasted at 500 for 30 minutes, then slow-cooked at 260 for another 2.5 hours (for the carnivores);

Vegetarian chili: onion, stir-fried tofu, black beans, chopped tomatoes, and very much garlic; made it up and now a staple;

Mushroom tofu stroganoff: out of Ed Brown's great Tassajara Recipe Book (first of the cookbooks after the brown "Bread Book" and "Cook Cook"--bibles for both cookery and Dogen's Instructions to the Cook);

Onion soup: learned the recipe by osmosis while talking my way into a head-cook job at age 20;

Mashed potatoes: learned probably from the cradle--my people's "ethnic" cuisine, but with the added improvisation of a very large dose of garlic and buttermilk;

Garlic roasted fresh green beans (are we sensing a theme here?), learned out of the Silk Road cookbook (a great one)

Mexican cornbread with kerneled corn and jalapeno: never made it before, but I'm daring enough to cook biscuits for Southerners and cornbread for Mexican-Americans

Dessert: pumpkin, chocolate, and chocolate-pecan pie

Aperitifs: Cranberry martinis (3 vodka : 2 Pama liqueur : 6 cranberry juice)

With dinner: Yellow Tail shiraz, Vampire pinot noir

Cordials: Irish hot whiskeys (lemon, clove, honey, Power's whiskey, hot water)

Here's the toast:

"Thank you for the families we create. Thank you to all creatures who gave their lives for this meal. May all beings be fed."

Here's Mr Man, tiptoeing his way along the dry spots out of the snow. Thanks to Chipper for the "Fuzzy People" appellation.

On a day of plenty, let us pray for, and work toward, a world in which all are safe, warm, and well.

More photos below the jump.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Why the "asterisk" is irrelevant

Ain't it great the way all the sports-bloviators are whining about how the Patriots--the baddest motherfuckers in pro football this year--are "running up the score" and how "unsportsmanlike" it is? These would be the same guys who insisted that Belichek videotaping signals like every other team in the league put a permanent asterisk next to their defensive record. Brady, Belichek and Moss's response: "OK you mothers, you want to say there's an 'asterisk' on the defense? Try offense, bitches!"

Monday, November 19, 2007

"The Office" (workstation series) 69 (Holy crap! edition)

I am not a good bureaucrat. I don't like paperwork, I hate following regulations, and I don't like to file things. Any organization, deadline-making, or GDT effect in my day-to-day life is purely and simply a product of (a) a sense of responsibility to those people who are depending upon me to make the deadlines and follow up with the forms and (b) the (to me) miraculous filing, organizing and finding capacities of a computer operating system. I don't lose too much stuff any more, and I make the deadlines: kids who ask me for recommendations get them in time, new course proposals are on-time and correct, proposals are complete and timely. But it don't come easy or natural to me.

Hence, messy office. I just don't quite get there with all the stuff to file, versus all the stuff to do (to be fair, my office also serves as repository for instruments, Dharmonia gear, all the books that don't fit in the home library or are better accessed at school, Celtic Ensemble hats and Morris sticks and T-shirts et al, and so on). I'm sort of a devotee of that old carpenter's rule about filing bills, receipts, and invoices: on the pickup's dashboard for current stuff, tucked behind the visors for urgent stuff, and on the floor under the clutch pedal for generic stuff. Or else of the theory that anything that sits on your desk for six months without starting a fire is summarily out of date.

But it was getting to be a problem: starting to be embarrassing when colleagues would come in to consult--and it was fixin' to be a real problem, when next fall's graduate candidates and assistant-professorship candidates started coming in to see me. I had the plan all sabbatical long that I was going to clean up--or at least go in there with a shredder and excavate. But, of course, I didn't get to it: was too convinced there was too much else to do.

And then I was gone for 9 days working on the minstrelsy project. And Dharmonia, with the able assistance of the Dearly Deported, and Mac Tire, and Dr Iaido, and Taiyo, and various other friends and students whose kindness, generosity, and loyalty I truly don't deserve, effected the following:

New paint;
Books sorted;
Papers (literally, yards of it) sorted;
New desk!;
New rugs--beautiful tatame;
Personal and "Musicology" bulletin boards outside;
Student paper archives sorted;
New shredder;
and lots more.

I was blasting into the School to get to Celtic Ensemble rehearsal (straight from the airport), when Dharmonia said, "No, I really think you need to stop by your office first." Had no hint of anything afoot until I saw the nice new laminated signs and posters on my door--and even then I was so jet-lagged I thought "Oh, cool, she laminated my posters." Then we stepped inside--and I Was Gobsmacked. Unbelievable burst of energy to have a clean, tidy, and professional space to work in.

In this photo: it's degrees on the wall, plus some awards, plus my Dad's MFA diploma from RISD. Above the (new!) brown bookcase, a collage final project by a former student in the Ireland seminar. To the right of the bookcase, a rack of archaic audio gear used for ripping vinyl LP's (of which I've got about 2500 in a storage unit) to mp3. Above, a bulletin board with snapshots and sketches of heroes: James Brown, Robert Johnson, Eugene Debs, Allen Ginsberg, Gearoid O hAllmhurain, Kate Bush, Paddy O Brien, Dick Gaughan, Duke Ellington, Mac Rebennack, Malcolm X, Peter Flanagan, and a wonderful two-fer: a sketch of Gary Snyder by Robert Crumb. Below that, a mask from the "V for Vendetta" comic and film: the only Hallowe'en costume I'll ever wear again ("Remember, remember the fifth of November/The gunpowder, treason and plot/I know of no reason/Why gunpowder treason/Should ever be forgot").

I am beyond-words grateful to my friends, students, and life-partner for doing this for me.

More (in approximate clockwise fashion) below the jump.

Below the bulletin board, to the right of "V": a small Buddhist postcard reading "Fall down seven times/Get up eight times." Then a large-scale roads-and-topography map of the Republic. Below, the old VDT for the computer the Uni bought me in 2000, now mostly employed as a paperweight and rattly old hard-drive storage.

To the right: bookshelf with the student papers I'm required to archive for a year, and various readings packets and other teaching masters. Below the map, one-off decal, made by bodhran buddy John while he worked at the high-end pickup-accessories boutique, with a Lone Star flag, which reads "Texas, Land of Wretched Excess." Below that, cheapo Lexmark printer out of which I've gotten very good service (always glad to keep components out of the landfill if I can).

Looking west along the wall with the windows--both of which look out south to the parking lot where the band rehearses in Fall semester. Means I get some fresh air, but it also means I learn all the band shows. There's a female squirrel (nicknamed "Rocky") who uses the window sills that run along the building as a highway--but has also learned to stop and rattle the screens until I leave some pistachios out for her. This side of the window, a Tibetan image of Manjusri, the "Buddha of keen awareness" wielding the sword that cuts through ignorance: patron deity for my teaching (and an endless source of curiosity for the Asian students, who can't believe that somebody who looks like me might be a Buddhist); below that, a beautiful batik print of Basotho xylophone players given to me by my sister. Beyond, one of the several old-fashioned wooden armchairs I've salvaged from elsewhere in the building: I'm a sucker for a solid-built old wooden chair. On the bookcase above the file cabinet: racks of reel-to-reel audio archives, gear for the Celtic Ensemble's Morris side.

Above: ratty old printter which I haven't yet figured out how to recycle, CD display racks free from Oasis per thousand-discs-ordered, and (Hooray!) BOOKCASES!

Looking straight north down the "L" that turns the corner from the desk (the kids who don't know me well hate the L-shaped floor-plan of the office, because when they open the door they can't see me. Claim it scares them). Many more BOOKCASES (Hooray!) to the left, display wall on the right. From top left, if you were facing the wall: beautiful poster of painted Turkish pottery, souvenir of a concert of asik music we played to celebrate Henry Glassie's new book. Various posters from concerts of African and Irish music we played at Indiana. Great hand-lettered poster by Reverend Thompson commemorating a concert he and Mason Brown played for us here. Giant poster from a large multi-event Irish arts festival we played in the Netherlands around 2003 and which I schlepped all the way back by hand.

It's nice to have a "clean, well-lighted" and peaceful place to work.
Now playing: Richard & Linda Thompson - Bird In God's Garden

Sunday, November 18, 2007

"The Office" (workstation series) 68 (jiggity-jig)

Home again, Home again
Jiggity Jig.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


Too burnt to post at length (listened to papers all morning, gave an hour long paper, then turned around and played an hour-long concert), and a very long day on Southwest tomorrow headin' home, but here's what we played at the end of this:

The model was a snapshot of the musical world of central Long Island--rural and urban, black and white, middle-class and working-class, abolitionist and anti-abolitionist, parlor barn-dance--in the 1840s.

Dorsetshire March - Published in the 1768 Gillespie MSS, popular Revolutionary-era march, found in my artist's manuscript papers

Miss McLeod
/Hop High Ladies - first the original Scots reel on flute, followed by the banjo song it became in the Ozarks and on the Missouri River

Musings of an Old Bachelor/Merry Girls of New York/Shep Jones' Hornpipe
- Three tunes associated with my guy: the first composed by him, the second a transcription, the third by a friend who he painted--I'm sitting about four blocks away from Shep Jones Lane right now (fiddle & piano)

Old Dan Tucker/Get Off the Track
- The first one popularized by Dan Emmett's Virginia Minstrels in 1843, but almost certainly borrowed by him from an early, maybe Ohio River source; the second an abolitionist contrafact (new words to the same tune) by the Hutchinson Family Singers, New Hampshire-born media stars and fervent abolitionists. They used to provoke riots (pro- and anti-) when they sang this song in the late '40s (clawhammer banjo, solo vocal, plus chorus)

Good Morrow to Your Nightcap
- A simple Bminor hornpipe, its title commemorating either the last jar of the night before, or the first of the morning-after "hair of the dog" (mandolin & whistle)

Old Folks Quadrille
- From Stephen Foster's Social Orchestra of 1854,l an immensely popular collection of amateur music for which he made $154 as a flat fee and no royalties

Oh Susanna
- Written by Foster at the age of 20, in 1847, and quickly adopted by the Gold Rushers of 1848 and '49, the "Forty-Niners" (mandolin and chorus)

Waltz from Lucia di Lammermoor
- more "at-home" music based in the amateur taste for simplified versions of Italian opera, in this case Donizette (piano/violin)

The Century Hornpipe/Harvest Home/From Mr L Robinson's Collection
- Three dance tunes from my guy's MSS collection, the middle one a very well-known Irish tune (mandolin, flute, fiddle, piano)

- Another for violin/piano from The Social Orchestra

Follow the Drinking Gourd
- song attributed (probably apocryphally) to a Underground Railroad-era escaping slaves; more likely a heavily rewritten post-Civil War version of a folk-song, with the "code" retroactively embedded--but still a great song (mandolin/voice)

On the Cars of the Long Island Railroad
- wonderful little scordatura (AEAE - "high tuning") "train piece" for fiddle composed by our guy

Jump Jim Crow
- probably the most famous--and notorious--blackface minstrel song of all. There were hundreds of variants and literally thousands of floating verses, many containing the noxious racial caricatures of the time, but many more taking a more "tall-tales of the frontier"and/or gleeful-nose-thumbing-at-power approach. We chose one rife with braggadocio but absent the racism. See Rip Lhamon's Jump Jim Crow: Lost Plays, Texts, and Manuscripts of the First Atlantic Street Culture (clawhammer banjo, vocal, chorus)

The Battle Cry of Freedom
- in 1861 fresh-faced young boys still believed they could sign up for the "crusade" against the Peculiar Institution, and that they'd still be home by Christmas. By 1863, the carnage at Shiloh, Antietam, and (dear God) Gettysburg had put paid to any such idealism. Now, I hear this song not as rabble-rousing patriotism but as a lament whispering down the wind, full of the naivete that sends young men out to die, thinking it's "glorious" (mandolin, voice, fiddle, piano)
Arkansas Traveler - authentic media craze in the 1840s: it came out of the South, but the tune, and the comic dialog bits interpolated within it, took over middle-class parlors in the North too; there's a copy in our painter's MSS. Sample dialog:
[City Slicker]: Say, friend, have you lived here all your life?
[Sly Rube]: Waal…Not yet!

[CS]: Well, where does this road go?
[SR]: Don't go nowhere, stays right where ‘tis.

[CS]: Why don't you fix the leak in your roof?
[SR]: I ain't goin' up on the roof in the rain!
[CS]: Well, why don’t you fix it when it's not raining?
[SR]: If it ain't rainin' it don't need fixin'!

[CS]: How do you get to Little Rock?
[SR]: You cain't get there from here.
[CS]: Say, you're pretty dumb, aren’t you friend?
[SR]: May be… but then, I ain't lost!
Home Sweet Home - A sentimental song adapted from an Italian opera melody in the 1850's by Sir Henry Bishop. The ubiquity of this song in middle-class parlors before the Civil War marks the near-final stage of the transformation of American culture from a community of yeomen, farmers, artisans, and aristocracy, and the rise of a bourgeois. What we lost!

Home tomorrow.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Chair recognizes the tin-eared Jr. Senator from TX

Junior senator from Texas, a gutless Bush rubber-stamper who’s both a sycophant and too stupid to know when to shut the fuck up, gets Bob Wills’s name wrong. Out here West of I-35, just down the road from Wills’s home-town, where the surviving Texas Playboys—some of them now in their 90s and still ferocious—put on an annual Wills Birthday Bash, that’s political suicide. Especially when Junior has the egocentric imbecility to try to show off his musical “knowledge.”

Texas has produced a large number of our nation’s most famous musicians,” Cornyn announced, and then proceeded to misidentify the father of Texas swing, the late Bob Wills of the Texas Playboys, as “Bob Willis.” Murmurs spread through the crowd. “Excuse me! I don’t know why I said Bob Willis,” the embarrassed lawmaker apologized”

Because you couldn't read the pronouncer your handlers gave you, to make you sound like a "Texan," dimwit.

What a punk.

Apropos that, a real country musician, and author of a notorious—and notoriously misinterpreted—redneck anthem, has about had his belly-full of those faux-cowboy bitch-ass towel-snapping preppie blowhards who think that real Americans will cower just because Junior, and The Dick, and Rummy and ‘Berto and Ashcroft and Atwater before them, tell us to:

“The folks don’t have a say-so anymore. They’re being force-fed-- music, yeah, but every other darn thing too. I supported George W. I’m not exactly a liberal. But I know how that Texas thing works, who those oil folks are and what they wanted in Iraq...

“The thing that gets under my skin most about George W. is his intention to install fear in people. This is America. We’re proud. We’re not afraid of a bunch of terrorists. But this government is all about terror alerts and scaring us at airports. We’re changing the Constitution out of fear. We spend all our time looking up each other’s dresses. Fear’s the only issue the Republican Party has.

Junior would last two minutes in either a real debate or a real redneck bar where Merle Haggard is on the jukebox. Except as a bitch-slapping comparison, it’s an insult to even mention “John Cornyn” and “Texas music” in the same sentence, much less the same Senate hearing room. Hell, any W Texas junior high marching band’s brass section could out-reason Senator Cornyn, and kick the shit out of his fucking asinine anti-music arguments.

And, Chris Bowers, probably the smartest and certainly the most readable of the hard-core stats-and-policy-wonk bloggers, has a good analysis of the cultural foundations of “red versus blue” politics.

People with a “red” entertainment preference…don’t like most contemporary music and they don’t watch VH1 or MTV…They are more likely to listen to country and gospel than other people, but their favorite music is classical.

People with a “blue” entertainment preference…like lots of different kinds of music (except country) and they watch MTV and VH1.

People with “purple” entertainment preferences like mysteries and thrillers best. Rock music is their favorite - they don’t like classical or folk music as much as other people.

[Let's don't talk about me, except to say that, if resistance to diverse and unfamiliar music is a mark of the right wing, then I'm somewhere out there falling off the left-hand edge of their Flat World.]

To me, the thing that leaps out of the statistics and his commentary is the fear theme: the fact that people who are hard-core social/political conservatives, in addition to watching daytime TV and preferring “clicky-clicky” action-adventure films, have these preferences because they are afraid of cultures different from their own. How else explain their terrified reaction to “world” music? Howie at DownWithTyranny points out:

Over 90% of conservatives said they never enjoy reggae, electronic music or Latin music. Over 95% said they never enjoy world music and punk music.
If less than 5 per cent of self-identified conservatives ever enjoy world music or punk music, it’s because they’re at base afraid of it; it’s like the wingnuts who had screaming fits at Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” during the Super Bowl. If you’re afraid, as Chris Rock put it, of “40-year-old tittie”, then you’re way too much of a coward to describe yourself as a cultural or political leader, and you’d be better-served to retreat to your gated community where the only Brown People you ever see are cutting the grass on the other side of the armored glass. You wanna say, like Frank Zappa, “motherfucker, it’s molecules moving molecules; what the fuck are you afraid of?” Or, as Robert Crumb put it, “it’s only lines on paper, folks!”

That’s why I teach music, punk: because it is a big world out there, and screaming with your panties in a twist about “Islamofascism”, and rubber-stamping every single infringement of the Constitution, every single theft from the poor, while mispronouncing Bob Wills’s name and pretending to be a knee-slappin’ good ol’ boy, is not going to hold it at bay.

I want my guys out there, tearing down the walls and making their worlds bigger.

You’re next, Junior. Can you hear light-colonel Rick Noriega knocking? I assure you, it ain't no brass band.


Now playing: Bob Wills & His Texas Playboy - Swing Blues No. 2

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"The Office" (workstation series) 67 (Big Apple edition)

Too much to do tonight for a lengthy blog post, but here's a couple of shots from today's visit, via LIRR, to the Big Apple and the New-York Historical Society. More or less at the "no stone left unturned" section of the archive research. I know what's there, and not there, and now I'm just making sure that I'm not wrong in some conclusions and theses.

Another image below the jump. But here's the money quote, the one that popped out and nailed what I'm doing and what it means:

Credo of this book:

"I want to recover the sound, the look, the improvisation, the participation, the humor, the rhythmic "cutting", the body, the defiance--in short, the funk--of the street musics, the music before blackface, that Rice and Dixon, Sweeney and Emmett saw, and by which they were entranced, and out of which entrancement--an old, old and yet still current story in American music (just ask Eminem)--they began to observe and imitate and emulate and evolve. Because I believe that it is there--on the salt-crusted, foul-smelling, Tower-of-Babel-multilingual, elbow-jostling, sideburns-wearing, crowded liminal urban wharves and street corners and back alleys and newsboys clubs and young men's coffeerooms and variety theatres--but also at the hay-baled rural harvest dances, and horse-smelling post-road taverns, and sweaty young-person's cotillions, and in the twisting and sashaying ears and hands and bodies of fiddlers and dancers and juba-patters and curious youngsters cutting the latest figures and first discovering the bodily pleasure that polyrhythm could provide and which came back from the City in the steps of the eel-spearers and clam-diggers and and wandering laborers and fiddle-playing coachmen and itinerant bones-players and hardshoe dancers--that the Anglos Sweeney and Emmett, Dixon and Rice, and before them the African-Americans Bobolink Bob and Old Corn Meal and William Henry Lane, and before them the un-named creole street-peddlers of "Dancing for Eels 1820 Catharine Market," and back before them the black drummers and fifers in the Continental and King's armies of the American Revolution, first glimpsed both the artistic possibilities and the raw social-economic opportunities, the "wheeling and turning", that the American popular music synthesis might somehow provide.

Most remarkable of all?

They were right."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"The Office" (workstation series) 66 (access-to-revolution edition)

Still plugging away in the archives. Today was a day filled with misfires and wrong turns. Support staff at the museum is fantastic, but a whole bunch of misinformation led to missed meetings (and no meetings).

Never mind: good work in the archives, and nothing found to subvert theses. Tomorrow into NYC via train, to visit here, and check out MSS and other ephemera in their collection.

Also have to be plugging away with preparing paper (45:00 minutes, general audience) for Saturday symposium, and the repertoire for the after-symposium concert.

One thing I've learned on conference and research trips is to refrain from being so penurious that I don't do anything at all. "Poverty mentality" is the phrase Dharmonia and I use to describe what happens to you if you're (voluntarily) broke for enough years--as a graduate student, a working musician, or other freelancer--that when you're not broke anymore, you still have a hard time treating yourself with some financial decency. I still suffer from it, even when I'm on a grant that's funded by somebody else: I'll picnic in the room for dinner, eat the free steam-table food for breakfast, all to avoid running down the capital on the grant. That's partly poverty mentality and partly (I would argue) simple economics: I don't want to piss away so much money on over-priced lunches and dinners--at which I will always overtip, because of my nausea at the way that most Civilians short-change wait-staff--that I curtail an additional trip.

My attitude about a research grant comes out of my experience with record companies: one of the most valuable pieces of advice I ever got from a music business lawyer (the great Sam Ardery of Bloomington Indiana) was "don't short-change yourself on the contractual advance. The more money the company invests in you up-front, the more they'll continue to invest in order to recoup that advance." Same thing goes for a grant: the granting agency (public, private, corporate, government, or university) is investing bucks because they expect to get something back--not dollars, but more likely repute, outreach, recruitment, and so on. What they don't expect us to do is spend it all on meals and peripherals. And, considering that I'm used to living about 60% lower than the university's mandated per diem, it's not much of a burden.

But what I have learned, when I'm on the road by myself and especially in boring places, is to find at least one interesting and local place to eat, and--ideally--at least one good bookstore. Most typically the local place to eat is easier, because I'm reasonably happy with anything that's different than what I can get at home (though eating with Quantzalcoatl and Co. in Albuquerque and hearing them describe our table as "foodies" was a novel experience), like, say, the Canterbury Ale House:
Finding a good bookstore is a little tougher. Of course, that's partly a result of my criteria: I don't give a shit about the Barnes & Rubble's and Borders, etc--not because they're not good, but because shopping there I might as well be shopping at Amazon, but the problem with the chains and the websites is that they can't usually make me aware of things I don't know about.

The website recommendations (of Amazon, Netflix, Youtube, et al) will almost never bring you to things you won't actually know. My interests are too esoterica, or the mass-marketing of the giant chains too generic, for the recommendations to do me much good.

Which is why a good bookstore is fantastic. And a good bookstore that's an independent which has a good representation of my topic areas (see the header for clues) is even better.

And a good bookstore with all those attributes that also has a big used-and-remaindered inventory is even better.

And when it's across the street from the Canterbury Ale House, it's the best.

You could almost forget you were on Long Island.

Which is the horrible fly in the ointment. When Dharmonia and I are traveling--especially when driving--we'll go through some righteously back-of-beyond places, like, say Sudan Texas, or Earth, or Shamrock, etc, and I'll say "Jesus, am I glad I'm not a sixteen-year-old in a town like this." Because what's charming, or interesting, or funky, or simply exotic twilight-zone Americana when you're in your forties, with a good car and a degree and a profession and a house and a retirement plan, and you simply know enough about the Big World Out There to realize that there's not only life beyond Sudan Texas, but that with the right combination of smarts, focus, imagination, and effort, you can actually find the life Out There--is simply horrifying, stultifying, and infuriating when you're sixteen and you can't get out yet. If you're lucky, you've got parents who take steps to compensate for the (geographic or sociological) isolation, or a high school teacher who reveals to you the worlds that books can open, or a coach who insists that when you go on road trips you have to try new foods or take the tour or stay with a host family, or a best friend who's an exchange student. If you're not luck, you get clueless adults who are working too hard or themselves too stunned by their (geographic or sociological) isolation, to help you get out, and you wind up driving up and down and up and down Main Street on Saturday night, hoping for a fight to break the monotony, or breaking into the High School to steal test masters because you think it's easier to cheat than to just do the fuckin' work, or surfing the Internet and joining hate groups of other in-disguise sixteen year old would-be skinheads who are as enraged as you, or working 40 hours a week outside of school so you can buy a new car to drive up and down Main Street.

Long Island isn't Sudan Texas--but you damned sure have to drive to get to anything. And the shores and the historic districts and the museums and the good ball parks are almost all in the wealthy towns. You can't walk anywhere: you have to drive to get to anything, and when you do get to places where you can walk, or look at the ocean, or get some sense of the history and topography and natural ecology of this place, you're where the Rich Folks live.

And you're just a visitor.

This is why ownership is at odds with education. The owner class wants bored drones who'll sit at home and watch Cops or Fear Factor--not people who learn things, and question things, and acquire the skills and brains and confidence to change their fucking situations.

And that's why I'm a teacher: because it's the most revolutionary, tear-down-the-walls, betcher-Ass-this-is-class-warfare task I can perform. I don't want my guys driving up and down Main Street, or working 40 hours a week at a dead-end job to buy a new car, or breaking into high schools, or joining hate groups in the Internet.

I want them to learn, and experience, and question, and develop skills and brains. And then I want them to tear down the walls.

Any of them. All of them.

Monday, November 12, 2007

"The Office" (Workstation series) 65 (archives edition)

Back in the archives.

Filling in gaps and answering questions that arose in the September visit. So far, it's the ongoing process of looking for things you want not to find: namely, bits of information that will/would contradict the hypotheses you've been formulating.

The hypothesis is fairly simple, but in multiple steps:

Given the relative dearth of written observation or reportage on the earliest roots of black-white minstrelsy (which is conventionally dated to 1843, when the Virginia Minstrels became a virtually instantaneous pop music phenomenon, but which has roots going back at least as far as 1827, to the first performances of George Washington Dixon and Thomas Dartmouth Rice), it is difficult to understand either the process, the performance practice, or the sounding results of early Anglo-African music. We have some information about how it looked, however, because in the first era of pop music publishing (in the form of sheet music), the visual imagery on the cover of the sheet music helped to sell the music inside. It is a remarkably consistent iconography, showing the bent knees, arms akimbo, waving hands, and twisted spines associated with the dancing.

The primary reportage on how the music sounded is based on how it looks on the page: in the form of the sheet music which was published in the 1840s as the idiom moved up the social scale, off the streets, and into the parlors and piano benches of the middle class. This sheet music notation, which has been "squared off" and standardized so as to fit the standard format of solo vocal (sometimes with a harmonized chorus) and easy piano accompaniment, may possibly tell us about the melodies that were employed, but can tell us nothing about the music "pre-squaring", and, most essentially, in performance. One thing we have known about African-American performance as far back as it has been in any way documented is that (a) it always involved dance as well; (b) it always involved participation and responsive improvisation; (c) it was capable of "cutting" or (to use a later terminology) "ragging"--that is, syncopating, or polyrhythmicizing, virtually any idiomatic music. The great ragtime professors said they could "rag" (it was a verb, before it was a noun) any music. Some of the very early cylinders of ragtime and pre-blues music similarly display an ability to blur bar lines, create hemiola, and, indeed, to create layers of rhythms--or polyrhythm. This is an ancient African technique, and is the cornerstone of a satisfying musical texture in West African traditional musics: a complete and satisfying sound is one that combines two or more interlocking rhythms (also a metaphor for satisfying community life). It is thus completely reasonable that a propensity to "polyrhythmicizing" simple melodies--a tendency which also shows up, albeit subtly, in Anglo-Celtic monophonic fiddle music--should predate the recording era, predate "ragging", and in fact constitute the fundamental "Virginia Essence" which was the described core of minstrelsy.

We have no notations of actual performance practice: we have a bare few sketches of melodies (Jump Jim Crow, Long Tail Blue, Zip Coon, Possum Up a Gum Stump), many of them borrowed from Anglo-Celtic tradition; we have a bare few descriptions of the actual technical details of the music and dancing of early blackface (the verbal descriptions, even into the modern era, of the dancing that accompanied the music are, despite their detail, more confusing than anything else).

But what we do have is pictures: the stylized cartoons from the sheet music, but, much more importantly, the precise, anatomically accurate, masterfully executed, sympathetically rendered, musically informed, and extensive paintings of William Sidney Mount, who knew and admired black musicians, lived and worked on the Catharine Wharft where sailors and fishermen from Long Island's free black communities landed and sold eels and danced to attract trade, knew and frequented the Bowery and Chatham Theatres where Dixon and Rice birthed their closely-observed imitations, and, decades later, when the European market had been primed by the American blackface troupes who swept Britain in the 1840s and '50s and he was asked to supply exotica to feed that market, reached back into his memory--and to the life of the black and white musicians who he grew up with, knew and admired on the streets of lower Manhattan and at the cotillions and barn dances of Long Island's North Shore, and painted works which are the cornerstone of American vernacular painting.

They also depict the cornerstone--the foundation stone--of the black-white synthesis that has sent American popular music around the world for the past 160 years.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

"The Office" (Workstation series) 64 (blogging-remote edition)

Too tired to do much writing--but I'm back here, after another long day on Southwest (Lubbock-Dallas-Chicago-Islip) for another week of research, culminating in a day-long symposium and concert. This trip follows the initial September trip--which was mostly archival--and is intended to complement via interviews, site visits, and relatively focused and selective archival followup.

Incredible and positive visit to AME Bethel Church in East Setauket, the oldest African-American congregation in Long Island, and the home church of people who still have family stories about the musicians who posed for my painter. One of the nice things about getting longer-in-the-tooth as an ethnomusicologist is that you have a little more experience upon which to draw when you go into a new situation, especially one in which you're an outsider or a minority. I started attending African Baptist or Methodist services in my teens (heritage of my '60s activist mother) and so I know some of what you don't do: most principally, you don't sit back and try to be a fly on the wall.

So when the Pastor and his wife and the music director ask you to join them for their pre-service Bible study, you smile and accept. And sit there quietly and smile and nod and comment, even if, as those who know me might say, "That's an awful lot of Jesus for Dr Coyote." And when they invite you into the service, and get to the "Welcome Visitors" segment, and the Jamaican lady visiting who speaks before you gives a beautiful extemporaneous sermon about gratitude, and then the Pastor indicates you, and you say "I thank God for this congregation and their hospitality" and go on to describe your research and your desire to tell a "story that's been left out of the history books" about the crucial contribution African-Americans to the early history of popular music in this country, because it ain't your God's house you're in (that would be the Web of Indra,or the stupas where my teacher's ashes lie), but it's their God's house, and their God got them through 400 years of the most brutal cultural and physical destruction, and you know you need their God's help if you're going to make this connection and tell this story.

And it works, and they say "yes Lawd" and "praise Jesus" and clap their hands as you get warmed up. And they press around you afterward and give you names and take your card and promise to talk to elderly relatives.

And, of course, they sing like angels--beautifully enough to bring tears to your ears.

More tomorrow.

Friday, November 09, 2007

What we do versus what we should: NASM

My boss is heading off to the national meetings of the National Association for Schools of Music. Bold are his queries: balance is my verbose response.

I. “future of art music -- the roles of our institutions in developing public understanding and support”

We need a redefinition of both “art music” and the role of the public arts, in order to redefine our institutions’ role in these areas. As long as we are tied to hierarchized models of musical value—models which seek (speciously) to identify inhering greater or lesser value in one music idiom versus another—we are tied to out-of-date and potentially biased perspectives. It is my opinion that a major factor in the erosion of public understanding and support for “art music” is precisely this hierarchizing tendency: the tendency to say “this music is good for you and you should listen to it and fund it, whether it speaks to you or not; and that music is not good for you, it doesn’t merit study or funding, and so we in education don’t have to deal with it.” In the face of such a condescending and dictatorial perspective on any music that doesn’t “measure up”, is it any wonder that younger and more diverse audiences have lost interest in “art music”.

Perhaps we also need to retire that term. Duke Ellington said “there are only two kinds of music: good and bad.”

We should seek an inclusive, culturally-informed, and functional definition and valuation of musical idioms. If a musical idiom speaks to a group within the population of American culture, if it provides meaning and enhances quality of life for that group, then we in education should both recognize and advocate for this value. Any other criteria for value are dated, biased, and exclusive—and they work against our continuing relevance.

Such a “de-hiearchization” would have pragmatic pedagogical merit: students in the 21st century classroom become alienated, disinterested, and unproductive when the music they care about, the music that speaks to them, is devalued or disregarded. If our curricula, pedagogy, funding, and philosophical valuations include their musics, students become engaged, excited, and productive.

Such di-hierarchization would have philosophical and ethical merit: if we base our model of musical value in functional terms, then we can be more inclusive of a wider diversity of musics—and therefore a wider diversity of the rainbow of American ethnicities and social groups. And we can more effectively, comprehensively, and ideally fulfill our role as public universities whose mission should be to serve all parts of that public via celebrating all aspects of our diverse musical heritage.

Curriculum: we should address a wide diversity of the world’s musics, as well as popular and vernacular styles, in the undergraduate survey classroom; we should recruit instructors and offer seminars which can specialize in diverse musics for graduate teaching; we should permit and indeed facilitate a wide diversity of musical repertoires in recitals and the teaching studio

Clientele and community: we should reach out to local and student constituent communities, celebrate their musics and musical values, and make space in concert programs, general education, and public advocacy for those diverse musics.

Faculty and students: we should facilitate, encourage, and fund programs which permit music faculty and music students to perform service as resources to the community: playing, teaching, and talking about the ways that music creates social, community, and human value. We cannot be isolated in our classrooms, teaching studios, or recital halls. We must reach out: to public schools, social-service organizations, city and county governments, employing every persuasive demonstration of the value of music (by both performing and talking about music). We should volunteer.

Suggestion: Every music program should have a “music volunteerism” office or officer, who can field requests from community educators, organizations, or groups and channel music faculty or students into such service throughout the community.

Rationale: The most persuasive argument in support of music’s irreplaceable contribution to public and individual quality of life is to make that contribution: to demonstrate an inclusive, non-hierarchical, culturally-diverse, and passionate commitment to music as a tool for creating community. Every music program should seek public performance, education, and advocacy opportunities—and such service should count significantly as part of tenure dossier considerations.

II. artistic issues for schools of music -- internal opportunities and challenges for professional education and training

Diversify faculty: by ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or by area of concentration. It is not enough that our faculty’s diversity should achieve parity with our student body’s—we should be more diverse: by definition, that is part of the mission of a “university.” NOTE: “diversity” is conventionally understood as dictated by US-government recognized ethnic/minority criteria, in an attempt to correct inadequate diversity within faculties. I would argue that US schools of music are even more guilty of lacking diversity in terms of disciplinary concentrations: we will, for example, allow Black, Anglo, Latino, Asian, female, and/or GLBT populations to study music—but we fail to provide equivalent diversity and minority representation in the permissible fields of study.

Hence, not only our faculty and student demographics, but even more significantly, our topical and curricular categories, need to seek much greater diversity and to dismantle their very severe exclusivity.

III. P-12 music education, especially teacher preparation.

Teacher education in North America is hamstrung by unrealistic and insuperable standardized approaches to testing, which in turn elicit a vicious circle of “canonic information,” teaching to the test, and memorization/regurgitation as standard pedagogies. We need a more problem-solving-oriented, inductive, participatory, investigative knowledge-and-experience model.

Teacher education in tertiary institutions needs to address the above-cited issues of diversity (not only of student backgrounds, but also of topics, themes, and genres studies); see area I above. But it also needs to address new—or very old—alternate models for teaching musical skills and knowledge. Just as there is a wide diversity of musical idioms, western and eastern, new and old, “popular” and cultivated, so is there a wide diversity of musical pedagogies. Most of these diverse idioms have developed quite sophisticated pedagogies which are carefully—after centuries or millennia—tailored to teach the musical skills and aesthetics which a specific idiom believes to be important.

It is erroneous and arrogant to assume that “traditional Western methods” (solfegge, notation, verbal description, incremental learning, linearity) are the only or the best method for teaching these other musical traditions. Teachers need more practical, hands-on, and experiential exposure to diverse idioms’ diverse pedagogies. They should learn less in terms of abstract theory, and more in terms of individual idioms’ individual aesthetics, repertoires, procedures, and pedagogies. Even a short practicum in each of two or three different world, oral, popular, or ancient traditions would provide a wealth of experiences, perspectives, ideas, and inspirations for new and more imaginative pedagogy.

University music education programs should seek to provide this.

IV. What is most important in these and related areas of concern -- the things we should be attending to as a field, as institutions, and as NASM.

See above, particularly as regards interaction of campuses and various (local and virtual) communities.

V. What are the contextual issues that we face, and what can we do about them?

Learning styles: Students learn differently than they did. They process information differently, at different times, via different media, and via different processes of synthesis. Teaching critical reading, critical listening, critical writing, and critical speaking only according to “old” models of literacy is anachronistic, stubborn, and fails to recognize the value, and the intellectual firepower, that students manifest in the new media. They are not “illiterate”: they are differently literate.

Because most public high schools do not teach critical reading, or expository writing, or research skills, of course our incoming college freshmen lack those markers of literacy. Yes, we can take steps to redress some of these lacks, but we should couple this essentially redressive, conservative, “old-school” remediation by recognizing and exploiting the same students’ very real literacy and expertise with new media: Internet searching, social networking, video and sound editing, the use of “mind-cloud” models of knowledge.

Students with the typical peer-group’s fundamental knowledge of these media (facebook, myspace, wikipedia, youtube, web-cams, smart-phones, iPods, blogs, etc) already have very sophisticated abilities in: synthesis, recognizing tropes across art-forms, collage-knowledge, search technology, iconography, interpretation, critique of sources, etc. To ignore these very real and very useful critical skills because students don’t know how or resist learning to write a traditional research paper is a mistake.

Parental/family/social expectations: we are all now familiar with the phenomenon of so-called “hovercraft parents”: parents who have developed the habit of managing or micro-managing large portions of their students’ lives: registration, housing, bills, course selection, homework, life-skills, etc. Both parents and children have come to rely upon these tendencies, but the over-engagement of parents in day-to-day college lives can work against students developing independence, self-discipline, study habits, and a work ethic. Strategies: make inculcation of “independence, self-discipline, good study habits, a professional work ethic” part of the stated mission of the School. Emphasize that such skills and character traits are an essential part of a successful, adult life as a professional musician and educator. Make our intention of separating college students from excessive or invasive parenting a plus and a selling point—in turn, this makes it much easier to resist parental urges for excessive involvement.

Falling governmental support for arts education: As state funding for public education shrinks, various institutions employ various strategies to attempt to make up the shortfall: expanded donor/giving programs, a “corporate” model (now, thankfully, widely discredited), cutting services, sliding scales differentiating costs of more “lucrative” degrees from others less lucrative, and so forth. Typically these schemes all shortchange arts as part of education and public life.

Instead, change the arena of dispute: continue to argue passionately for the value of fine arts education as part of both the complete university experience, and as part of public community life. In Texas, this is easier: band, choir, and orchestra are accepted to be essential parts of primary and secondary education. Seek language and metaphors that connect these elements as essential continuations in the tertiary arena; e.g., “we educators and you parents and your children have all worked so hard, have given so much time, effort and money for so many years, to make music a part of your child’s life; why would or should we abandon the wonderful contribution that music continues to make in the very important years of college?”

This means advocacy: every faculty member, every staff and administrative member, needs to be provided with language, talking points, printed materials, and most importantly a sense of mission that will let each one be, and continue to be, an articulate advocate for arts education. Every student should receive, as part of the sophomore barrier, a “jump-start” class (as well as continual reinforcement in classroom, rehearsal hall, and studio) in arts advocacy. Every writing-intensive course should provide for at least one writing assignment on the topic of “why I think music improves the life of my community” or something similar. These should then be published on the School's website and on a Facebook group. Students should receive credit for such writing and the most articulate and passionate arguments should receive prizes.

Analogy would be to the public-awareness campaigns which successfully changed attitudes about second-hand smoking, public littering, drunk driving, etc. In each case, an issue which was initially presumed to be peripheral or of only marginal public concern was transformed, via clever and aggressive marketing, to one which was seen as a primary public concern “by all right-thinking people.” The “Art Saves Lives” bumper sticker is a good start at this kind of advocacy—but a bumper sticker alone is far too passive a medium to permanently transform public attitudes. Every school, and the organization as a whole, should have an integrated, clever, aggressive, and most importantly positive-themed public advocacy campaign—and every faculty, staff, and administration member, and every student, should be assisted to become its bearer.

What should we be doing to advance music and music study beyond our regular responsibilities?

See area I above. Also, much better conceptual, organization, and administrative integration and cooperation between and across academic and performance areas. We need to teach music as an integrated, multi-media, participatory, liberating, ancient, contemporary, revitalizing force for community good, accessible to participants of every age, background, attribute, and so forth. Our teaching, advocacy, administration, research, and development should all seek to do this.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

"The Office" (Workstation series) 62 (touching-base edition)

Not much time to report (hafta teach a fiddle lesson, meet with student supervisees, continue with logistics for research trip here, play an Irish gig tonight) but did want to touch base.
Here's a few photos of Quebec City.

Now playing: Triona ni Dhomhnaill - Here's To All True Lovers