Friday, January 18, 2008

Day 08 "In the Trenches" (shout-out for Friday edition)

Quick hit today--last day before a long weekend, so the undergraduates were fidgety and low-concentration. This usually translates as requiring form staff a ton of moving around, lots of comedy, the "Friday shout-out", and a realization that they're only going to be able to take in a certain amount of focused data. Today was more on "Isms" (especially "nationalism") as they play out in music of Chopin and then Liszt. I like to play them the Liszt Nuages gris (1881), because it's so radically progressive (barely in a key, motivic development as organizing principle, sound/timbre/phrasing as crucial organizing factor), and because of its very late date--helps the students make a connection between the Chopin piano "modernism" (for the 1830s), the Liszt "modernism" (1880s), and the Debussy "modernism" (1890s).

We wanted to be sure we were on our "A" game, because it was bruited about that the new TX Commissioner for the Arts would be getting a tour of the building and might visit the class. So we had all our technology together, made sure nobody was too hung-over, made sure to shock the kids awake in the first ten minutes of "class business" (e.g., "you don't have to do a reading quiz over the long weekend - yay! - but you have your first Listening Quiz on next Wednesday - boo! - but let's have a shout-out for Friday and the long weekend - YYEEEEAAAAARRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHH!" and so on): usually this in turn helpful in getting them to focus for the 35 or 40 minutes we try to hold their attention. Of course, the suits didn't show up--but we still got more done.

Below the jump: view out the office windows. When I was hired and given the tour, they showed me this office, which is spacious, well-lit, private, and has two windows and a southern exposure. I was naive but not unexperienced, and said "Why am I being given this nice office?" My senior colleague, chair of the search committee that had hired me, smiled, pointed out the window and said "See those football hashmarks painted on the parking lot?" I knew that meant the marching bang rehearsed there, and that during "marching season" (roughly mid-August to end-December) I wasn't going to be able to hear myself think. I've actually learned to block it out, such that when someone calls me on the office phone, I can converse reasonably coherently, even if they can't hear me.

But, one nice perk: there's an adult female squirrel who uses the windowsills along the front of the building as a highway to get from tree to tree. For two seasons now, she's learned that if she sees me at the desk, she can scratch at the window and sunflower seeds will be forthcoming. The kiddos in student conferences tend to find it pretty charming.

Charles Ives "100 Greats" goes up tomorrow. Weekend will be working on contract writing for a Music Appreciation text. If you're traveling, be safe!

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