Category Archives: the future

pupils are not taught pizzicato

con•serve (verb) – protect (something, esp. an environmentally or culturally important place or thing) from harm or destruction

several times in the past two weeks, i’ve been presented with the question of how to fix the conservatory. the first thing i say to myself after being broached with such a question is, “is it worth saving?”many call it a giant pyramid scheme while others refer to it as the thing we need most right now in the world. many think my view on the dilemma is pretty radical (destroy it all) but this stems from the idea that there is an inherent badness in the institution we have created.

the definition of conserve above sounds important and places at the heart of the conservatory some sort of validity: we are preserving our institution, that of art music with a capital A, from harm and or destruction. but in the recent past, we have become the destroyers. the western classical art music tradition is one so tied to the past that conservation has become an addiction. unlike our predecessors who lived in the music which we now revere, we shun the music of now. yes, it is being made, produced, consumed but not conserved. and we have no excuse. the likes of Ives and Cage are not newfangled — in many ways they’re severely outdated. it’s been a hundred years but, as in geologic time, that seems like a nanosecond.

the great museum of the conservatory conserves bad habits and outdated ideas. many are failing because they don’t live in the real (non-musical) world. so what do we do, do we tear it all down and start again? for me, as much as Bach shaped my life, what squarely placed me on my way was Berg. and composers will survive, they always do. Bach was lost to us for 150 years and then, as if it had been predicted, came back to us. there’s no need to “conserve”, we are not mother hens. the only ones who can destroy our art is us.

none of that answers my initial question and i don’t think there is an answer. as a product of this system, i am very grateful but i am also grateful for the fact that i refused to let myself be swallowed up by it. there is an inherent protection in teaching our students everything about our world. they will learn to take care of it, do what’s best for it. trust in that and let it be a living, breathing thing before the conservatory turns into a mausoleum.


sorry i’ve been away for so long. as you can guess, i was busy. but my thesis is finished and i am a new woman. if you’d like to read the document (Poetry of Women, History of Men: The Role of Women and Gender in Benjamin Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia), you can find it here: let me know if it was worth all of the work. 🙂

i’m not only back to blogging but back to writing prose as well. i’m writing a short story entitled “Memoirs” about a young girl who lives on the edge of reality and recounts her childhood through music. you can find it on my facebook:

more to come, folks!


courage, amie.

well today i got rejected from my first Ph.D. program. i don’t know how i feel just yet and i don’t think i’ll be musing on the subject for very long or often (either on my own or on this blog). i have to go about my day, take a look at myself, take a look at the process and try to be as emotion-less as possible. it’s hard. but taking pictures and playing chamber music with friends helps.

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oh, the places you’ll go! [AKA my torrid love affair with Apple]

somehow, during my 12 hour day chock full of classes, rehearsals, ceiling repair, and three, count ’em, three different bassoons, i wedged the Apple live event into my schedule. granted, i could only follow the liveblogs for about 15 minutes but that was just enough time to learn about Apple’s new creation, the iPad. all jokes aside about the name, i was initially impressed and excited to hear more.

well here i am at work, hearing more. no multitasking or face front camera? problems. i can live without flash, blah blah blah HTML5, you get the gist. so like many, i’m a little underwhelmed but, with the help of my twitter friends, i realized the possibilities.

dear apple,
you have no idea how many musicians/music students would buy this if it could do the following things. now granted, part of this is up to the developers (thanks for releasing the SDK) but you can help:

1) put textbooks in iBookstore! i’m about 100% positive that NONE of the texts that i’ve used in my 8+ years of college/grad school are available in iTunes U and if there were they wouldn’t be so geared towards individual fields of study. and when i say textbooks what i really mean is…

2) SCORES! what i would give to have a device like the iPad and be able to see my library of scores, to be able to carry it with me. now yes, i will always buy physical scores and mark them up (the same way with books, textbooks and parts) but to be able to catalog my entire library, play parts on the road without having to cart around my entire library…the list goes on. i would spend a ridiculous amount of money to buy scores in digitized form to use on this device.

3) pen input: one of my former professors at Appalachian State is working on a music theory program that integrates tablet use which allows professors to track not only how their students are working in real time but see their thought process in regards to analysis. well…you can’t do this without pen input. if there were some way to have a program with staff paper that you could write on, do theory & ear training exercises on, a way to write out Schenker graphs and of course save them…i think schools would invest in them wholeheartedly, along with individual students.

of course a lot of other things come with that like connection to printers via USB, etc but i believe you can do it, Apple.

i have sunk a lot of money into Apple: a Powerbook G4, MacBook, iMac, three iPods (2nd gen, Shuffle and Touch) and 2 iPhones. this is the least you can do for me…i’ll wait.

(and i’ll fangirl for life, i promise.)

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twelve drummers drumming

well i’m snowed in here in baltimore, which presents the unique opportunity to either a) get a lot of things accomplished or b) do absolutely nothing. you can take a guess how the day played out. in any case, a handful of musical tidbits for this particular season:

  • a fabulous post from the guys over at Amusicology, on, ironically enough, how to get to work on your dissertation. i should really implement this…
  • this is the season when everyone puts out a christmas album (much to my dismay) and my time working at the gap has taught me to guard your music wisely! Pandora is working well as i made a “This Christmas” radio station (after the classic Donny Hathaway song & my favorite christmas song), try it out if you’re looking for some new music.
  • a yule log doesn’t hurt (even if it’s electronic)

this past week has been interesting and has raised a lot of issues and thoughts that, i suppose, need addressing. i’ve been taking a class this semester called Community Engagement and we all had to give final projects at the end of the year. mine took place on friday — a selection of musical theater songs with some theater games and info at a baltimore city middle school. over all it went well but there were moments when i wondered if i knew what i was doing. first, what we were up against: middle schoolers. no matter what part of the country, what class, race or socio-economic strata, middle schoolers are all the same. too cool for everything and hormones, hormones, hormones. so the thought of getting 20 kids to listen to me talk about rodgers & hammerstein seemed highly unlikely. and i was right, partly. the first group of kids (all girls, actually) was really excited and seemed cooperative. the group that followed wanted nothing to do with me and i choked. i learned a valuable lesson, many, actually, and tried to keep moving forward. my performers were unfazed which is testament to their professionalism and willingness.

but how do you lose the academic veneer that you’ve been working on? how do you make music history approachable to 13 year olds? i had an interesting conversation with my performers before we started about how to reach people. in the last year of my undergraduate, my new music ensemble along with students from the drama department took a full version of Stravinsky’s L’histoire on tour. our second stop was a high school in bay ridge (brooklyn) where we performed parts of l’histoire and parts of Steve Reich’s Drumming. they seemed unimpressed, at best. my pianist mentioned that they may just not have known how to express interest because, let’s face it, who hears Reich and Stravinsky live in their high school?

so i hoped in vain that part of this project would hit home and i think it did. an adorable 7th grader came up to our vocalist asking all sorts of questions. made me feel good even if i kind of flaked. (if you’re wondering, i got a B+ in the class which was to be expected). i think sometimes, we’re so caught up in academia and the impractical aspects of our field that we forget about their very practical applications. as far as getting out in the community, i’m a little rusty but i plan on rectifying that (in the form of an internship at the BSO’s ORCHkids program). how many musicologists, professors or what have you would have been able to do what i did on friday or would have even entertained the idea? if middle schoolers and church goers and kids at the Y don’t know about a symphony, what’s the point?

you can contend that point if you wish. my platform is that there isn’t one, but that’s just my take.

for something a little less existential…i was lucky enough to receive, as a thank you for my GA work, two tickets to the Berlin Philharmonic’s Digital Concert Hall from my advisor. i’m taking advantage of this present tomorrow and watching Donald Runnicles conduct Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem. i really have fallen in love with this thing, on so many levels. for the inner tech geek in me, the quality of this is just outstanding, from the website to the actual production. it’s a pleasure to watch and feels like a grand event. and, of course, the music is just first rate. it seems that this is a venture that the Berlin Phil is strongly behind, using it to allow people all over the opportunity to hear great music. their outreach program that is tied in with this (with the help of Deutsche Bank) is also outstanding. so maybe it is related to what i discussed before. programs like this and the Met Live in HD (their cinema showings and their online player) make me slightly less worried about the future. it’s work on both ends of the scale that matter.

well, if i don’t see you before the new year, merry christmas and happy holidays. relax, be safe and love one another. i’ll leave you with a song from my very well guarded christmas mix, James Taylor’s cover of Joni Mitchell’s classic, River.

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from the library stacks 11/5

Mobile Photo Nov 5, 2009 10 24 59 PM

books from top to bottom:

Benjamin Britten
Benjamin Britten: His Life and Operas
Evolution of Communication Systems
Benjamin Britten: The Turn of the Screw
Britten and the Far East
Scandals and Follies: The Rise and Fall of the Great Broadway Revue
Britten’s Musical Language
Britten’s Gloriana
The American Musical and the Performance of Personal Identity
The Origins of Music
The Cambridge Companion to The Musical
The Theater Will Rock: A History of the Rock Musical from Hair to Hedwig
Bach Cantatas for Bassoon

all for 1) my Master’s Thesis (forthcoming 2010), 2) editing my Ph.D. application writing samples, 3) preparation of course materials for my course on the history of the musical in 2010 and 4) my laborious and ongoing study of all things baroque bassoon. bring it.

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#amsphilly09: a countdown

okay you guys, a week from today (tomorrow? how do those things work exactly?) i’ll be piling in my trusty rental car and hitting the road to Philadelphia. i’ve been looking forward to the American Musicological Society conference for quite some time which probably speaks badly on my social life. oh well.

so stay tuned, sports fans! i’ll be posting a lot of pictures of myself, bloggers, musicologists, friends, professors and the city of brotherly love. it’ll be a nerdfest spectacular.

also #amsphilly09 is a hashtag on the twitter. search for it, check it out, use it.

till the great exodus, here’s a little old school fresh prince/dj jazzy jeff (as inspired by the ever amazing Dr. Mark Katz):

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