Tag Archives: homewood

how the iPhone has made me a better musician

(and student, and teacher, etc.)

so those of you who know me know that i am obsessed with my iphone. i won’t lie, i can’t, it is a fabulous piece of machinery. and while i love it for all of the ridiculously goofy things it can do (and that whole phone business) i’ve tried to incorporate it into my life as fully as possible. now considering that i am a full time musician, student, graduate assistant and teacher, those are the things that need the most help. so how do i do it?

imani’s favorite, can’t live without iphone apps:
General
so of course, i couldn’t work without the first page apps from Apple: Safari, Calendar (i’ll talk more about this in a sec), Camera, Weather, Maps, Calculator, Settings and Contacts. these are all on my first page and are opened pretty much every day. in my dock i have iPod, Phone, Messages and Mail (which at last count has six email accounts in it). the one probably used the most would be Calendar because if i don’t schedule everything very carefully, well…CRASH! i am using MobileMe right now which i love mainly for the calendar sync. I have a MacBook, an iMac and my iPhone all with calendars on them. syncing between the three is vital.

Music
i am always on the hunt for great music apps which, i think, are few and far between. but the ones i have, i have totally embraced. this includes stuff for performing, practicing, listening and music reference.

  • Tempo is possibly the best metronome i have ever seen. it has a beautiful interface and is, possibly, more functional than my other metronomes. it goes up to 300 bpm, you can choose from a variety of time signatures (unfortunately only meters of 4 and 8 but if you want something like 5/2 or 8/16 just do the math), the accent can be placed on any beat and the beat can be subdivided into eighths, triplets and sixteenths. it also has a visual element (it flashes) which you can remove. my favorite part came with the new update. you can add specific tempi to a setlist. so if you’re working on multiple pieces you can save each one and then come back to them without having to reset the metronome. it has pretty much replaced my lovely little Korg and now that i have multiple instruments, i can keep one in one case and just carry my iPhone. i always have a metronome.
  • all the same can be said for Cleartune, a beautiful chromatic tuner. it has a great interface, works extremely well (i use it with my baroque bassoon), the calibration can be changed (i keep it always on A4 = 415.0) and you can change the temperament! as i enter into the world of early music, i have found this extremely handy. i keep my other tuner in my modern bassoon case, set to A4 = 440 and i never have to worry about re-calibrating.
  • Oxford Concise Dictionary of Music pretty self explanatory, the dictionary boiled down into app form. while i’m waiting for a much more comprehensive dictionary (i’m looking at you Grove! you got my email!) this is definitely worth it. i, myself, have the Oxford in book form and pretty much rely on that but i have played on this app and it’s easy, well designed and has all of the terminology any student might need.
  • Reverse Chord Finder a beautifully designed handy little chord dictionary that allows you to play the chords on the piano and then gives you a list of chord names with inversions, etc
  • Composer of the Day a cute little app put together by the folks at Wittenberg University with, you guessed it, info on composers each day! it includes audio samples, a short little bio and not as well known composers.
  • Ghostly Discovery and now for something completely different. i found Ghostly in an App Store “music discovery” list and figured i’d try it out. i pretty much use it every day at this point. it creates a playlist based on variables that you enter (laid back, agressive, etc. then followed by tempo) from their catalogue. so no, it’s not all of the music in the world, but the music on their label is diverse, interesting and now takes up a big chunk of my recently played playlist (as i bought three albums from them in the first week) find some new music, it’s good for you!

School/Organization
now these are a mix of music things and general things, stuff to help organize your life and make teaching lesson plans just a little bit easier.

  • Here, File, File! this app just hit the App Store and i am totally in love. HFF lets you view your computer’s files remotely from anywhere, not just on your local network. the interface is GORGEOUS (the best is your computer sits on a desk with your current wallpaper), it’s intuitive and allows you to look at (and play) all of your files. by favorite-ing them, you can go right to files and folders directly and the search is clean. let me give you an example of when i could have really used HFF: last fall in the Faustus class, RG asked me if i had a recording of Mahler 9 on my iPhone. i, of course, did not. but had i HFF, i would have connected to my iMac (also known as my giant repository of music) and we would have been set to listen to the last movement, and cry. a fabulous way of accessing all of your files and necessary if you have more than one computer. may need a little technical assistance setting up, depending on your router but totally doable. get it now while it’s 30% off at $6.99!
  • Dropbox the same can be said for Dropbox — i use Dropbox and HFF in completely different ways and for some people, all they may need is cloud storage. well i find Dropbox to be the best, especially when it comes to sharing files. during my intersession class, i created a Public folder with all of my videos, articles, etc that my class was able to access (since i did not have access to WebCT) and it was much easier than printing out everything.
  • iTranslate a universal translator that really translates! there is the free version and then iTranslate Pro, the difference between them being no ads, landscape mode and a favorite phrase list but both versions have text-to-speech add ons (which i don’t use but look good). i have used iTranslate for my German translation work and it has done quite well, having words that some of my dictionaries don’t have. if you don’t mind ads, just get the free version, they’re pretty unobtrusive. also, if you turn on the keyboard for the corresponding language (Settings –> International –> Keyboards), the iPhone will do Auto-Correct in that language (with corresponding diacriticals!)
  • Google/Inquisitor both really great search engines (Inquisitor is from Yahoo!), Google has a voice search option that works very well. both search engines search through all available engines and have very clean, useable interfaces.
  • 2Do this app has earned a permanent spot on my first page. a checklist app with more than checklists, i use this to organize all assignments for classes as well as my everyday tasks that need to be accomplished. it is full powered, again, with a beautiful interface and syncs with iCal (thankfully! i lost everything on my iPhone but the 2do backup was there & ready) while there is a free version that works if you have minimal task needs, i strongly recommend the full version that comes with unlimited groups/tabs and push notifications.
  • Things for those of you with more intense GTD needs, there’s nothing better than Things. i think the screencast explains it better than i ever could but i couldn’t live without it. granted both the iPhone app and desktop app are pricey ($10, $49.95 respectively) one could do with just the iPhone app if necessary. the integration between the apps and iCal, however, make it well worth having both.

other apps that i love include WorldCat, Pastebot, Simplenote, and Wikipanion. keeping everything on all of my computers synced and having access to everything keeps me prepared for, well, anything. could i get along without all of this? absolutely! i still rely on my handy Moleskine notebook. but if the technology is out there, why not take advantage of it? i mean, as spacey as i tend to be in conjunction with my intense OCD, i need it.

please list any apps that you think fit into these categories or that you just love!

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the end of intersession (and what i learned)

last week was my last week of teaching and it was filled with so many emotions and feelings that, honestly, i was a little terrified. i felt like throwing in the towel pretty much every day — i was starting my own classes as well, a balancing act i could not have prepared for no matter how hard i tried — and i was worried i was running out of ideas and steam.

it was odd that i would feel so helpless during this last week considering that week had the topics that interested me the most. they seemed to be the most enjoyable classes and who knew the thing that would get my class the most riled up was an argument over whether or not Disney’s Snow White was a strong female character?

i ended the last class early after a very live conversation about the state of Broadway today and expressed to them how grateful i was to have had this opportunity and to thank them for being so patient with me. they gave me a round of applause which was unexpected and sweet. on the way out, i talked to one of my students about NYC and musical theater. he seemed very grateful for the class and enthused. that kind of validated it for me, all the back-breaking, ass-kicking work. that night i came home to a flurry of emails from my students, not only with their final papers attached, but with well wishes for my (academic) future.

so the other day, my good friend (and very talented teacher) Gina called me and in our conversation, she asked what i had learned from this whole experience, which, to be honest, i had never really sat down and plotted out. so saying it out loud was as new to her as it was to me. i told her that i learned not to take things so personally: i know what it’s like to be a student in a three hour seminar and i am never really a ball of sunshine. it would be a mistake to not draw upon my experiences as a student and let them influence me as a teacher. also i realized that i needed to trust and be confident in my own knowledge and i think that’s a very difficult thing to do. i still worry about it. i’ll be teaching two new classes in MH4 this semester (one new for me and one new for the course) and even though it’s material i covered in my own class (Gershwin and Weill), i still worry that the words that will leave my mouth will not correspond with reality in any way, shape or form. but they will and they do. and no one wants to learn from an insecure teacher.

so i couldn’t be happier that intersession is over. the weight was massive and now that weight has to be transferred over to my own studies. but i am thankful and blessed, hopefully a littler smarter, a little wiser, a little more relaxed from this endeavor.

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intersession days two & three [AKA laugh at my jokes!]

i think the most insightful things i could learn from this class are really about me and my capacity to make this my future. with each passing class, i become a little more relaxed and i try not to carry my stored anxiety about imparting knowledge. it’s difficult but getting better.

i felt bad for my students on wednesday because we spent the first half of the class talking about Wagner and his impact on drama. not what they were expecting, but they seemed to latch on to the complex ideas of integration theory and the Aristotelian orders of time. it’s funny because i have to keep reminding myself to “un-complicate” things — there is no reason why any of these students should be concerned with Neue Sachlichkeit — and try to let them know that while i know they are intelligent enough to understand these concepts when explained, all they need to do is be familiar with them. then i usually make some wisecrack about German being a debbie downer and we all relax.

the discussion on minstrelsy was probably the most frank we’ve had with the most participants while still being a little hesitant. but the comments that got to me the most were those about seeing artists with whom they were familiar (Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, et al.) under this new guise of blackface and how shocking it was to them. as someone who’s grown up with these films, that’s a reaction that is new to me and it was really nice to talk about it.

i think teachers dread their first monday and first fridays. as a student, i understand what those days are like (the word is awful) and today was no exception. i had a bunch of absences, of which i was aware, but those who came looked like they had been hit with mack trucks. i’m so glad i started with Gershwin — something about recounting the plots of Strike Up The Band and Let ‘Em Eat Cake out loud that always leads to hilarity. and then came the break. during the break, i asked if they were enjoying the class and apologized for beating them over the heads with a LOT of terminology. this led to a really spirited discussion about experiences in the theatre, what we like and don’t like and everyone laughed and shared. i was really surprised — it gave me the opportunity to get a little more personal. they enjoyed my Der Freischütz wolf call story and i didn’t know people could get so caught up in Beauty and the Beast the musical. the second half of class which started with Brecht was surprisingly rowdy, though i loathed having to talk about & describe things like non-Aristotelian drama and Gestus. turns out, many of them were familiar with Weill, partially because actor and Writing Seminars faculty member John Astin apparently talks about Die Dreigroschenoper almost every day.

(and yes, i mean that John Astin.)

in any case, the class enjoyed listening to a little Lotte Lenya and watching clips from the LA Opera’s 2008 production of Mahagonny, more than i could have expected. i didn’t finish my lecture, got started with Blitzstein but let them loose to finish it on monday and i was incredibly pleased.

i have to remind myself of what it feels like to be in their shoes, i mean, i should know. it’s just as hard to be a student sometimes and i don’t want to ask too much of them. as long as they get one thing out of this, then i’ve succeeded. unless that one thing is about Wagner because then, well, i’ve pretty much failed.

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intersession: day one [AKA wits, skits & tits]

this was it. today was the first day of my intersession class, The History of the Musical and my anxiety about teaching was amplified by my returning home to baltimore sunday night only to find that the water in my bathroom pipes had frozen solid. luckily, that issue had a very straightforward solution but it raised my heart rate. i got to my classroom early to get all of the A/V stuff together (it worked but my projector’s color scheme is off and everything is purple?) and survey the landscape. one by one, students came in, unsure of what they were walking into…

the class maxed out at 21 people, a great number. i did my introduction and had everyone go around and say their names, their major and why they wanted to take the class. i got some surprising answers. many had theatre/dance backgrounds, many knew nothing about musicals and the class interested them and many just like to watch musicals. i didn’t know people still did that in this day and age. after the intros, i told everyone to stand up and push all of the chairs to the side. that can only mean one thing…THEATER GAME. thanks to the sound advice of my colleagues, i picked machine to do on the first day. i put everyone in groups of four (myself included) and each group had to form a machine with their bodies, sounds and all while the other groups guessed. they seemed rather into and came up with some great ideas. when i proposed the idea of doing one every class, they responded with a resounding yes. i think it was this that broke the ice for me.

after that, class was standard fare. i think my lesson plan was cohesive, they asked a few questions and responded to the few questions i had for them. i feel the first class will always have hangups as they have no material assigned beforehand so i didn’t let it bother me that i was doing most of the the talking. i felt bad that i was assigning Wagner’s “Art and Revolution” to read for the next class (and told them so) but you know, such is academia.

i’m not sure why this post is as colloquial as it is, possibly because it’s 12:43 in the morning or because the only way i can relate this story, at the moment, is from a place of pure giddiness. over the course of the next three weeks, i hope to learn a lot about myself as a teacher and as a student. maybe the next few classes will be a little more revelatory.

wednesday’s class is “Wagnerian form and the Early Musical” and “The Continuation and Effects of Minstrelsy” about which i am very excited. that might be the first time in my musicological career where “excited” and “Wagner” appear in the same sentence.

and because i fouled up and didn’t show my dance clip of the day in class, here it is for all of you..a little Fred and Ginger, the best way to start a semester.

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i’m gonna teach you but good! [courtesy of Scrubs]

first off, merry christmas, etc etc. it’s a little hard for me to write that as this is the first christmas eve that i haven’t spent at my parents’ house, doing my usual christmas eve ritual which includes decorating our tree at night while listening to Ravel’s Bolero on LP. i’m still struggling to deal with it (sniff sniff)…

since my winter break has been curtailed by, well, winter, i’ve been in my house writing lesson plans for my upcoming intersession class and watching hulu. with most of my favorite shows on hiatus, i’ve been trolling around for something to keep my attention. this brought me to the new season of Scrubs [med school] on ABC. i had always liked scrubs before so i figured why not. little did i know that i was going to learn a lesson from the television.

it’s hard to envision what kind of teacher you’ll be. i’d like to think i’m a cool musicologist who imparts only the most awesome historical information. well in the classes i have taught, i’ve gotten a few laughs and dropped a little knowledge. i’ve taught classes before but not on this magnitude. three hours is a test for anyone. so what kind of teacher will i be (besides, hopefully a good one)?

i’ve always considered myself a tyrant. and i say that in the nicest way possible. i’m a tough grader and don’t really allow for craziness but only because something in me wants the students to know that they can give more, not to settle. maybe that will relax over time but i don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting that. what i don’t want is to be a dr. dorian — too concerned with being liked and wanting to nurture. all teachers want that to some extent or they wouldn’t be teachers, but that kind of thing scares me.

you know what else scares me? not feeling prepared or knowledgeable. i feel like people can see right through that and what i am concerned with is having students leave with something new and positive. it seems to me that it’s a delicate balance between mentor and dictator that works best. and what really helps is if the one teaching really enjoys what they’re doing, which, under all of the terror, i do.

this is probably way too early for me to think about these things as i am in the most nascent, proto-stages of what i hope will be a long career. but you know, if you watch enough TV it can either make you think or…turn your brain to rot. /PSA.

i will actually take a vacation for christmas (maybe to new years) so with that, sing me off, jingle cats!

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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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unfortunately, i can’t work without conductors.

yesterday in mh4’s class on music in Nazi Germany, we had the pleasure of watching two fantastic clips of Berlin Philharmonic conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler. besides learning about his orchestral conducting style, he has only come up in my life twice, and it is for those two times that i will always think of him:

1) this history 4 class
2) when the Peabody bassoon studio went to our teacher’s house for a holiday party, played musical charades and my team spent seven minutes trying to guess our “thing”. i finally guessed “Wilhelm Furtwängler” which was the answer. i never forgave my teacher for that.

however, his interpretations of Beethoven and Wagner are worth noting. while Wagner and i have a love/hate relationship, i can be persuaded to listen, especially if what i’m listening to is Die Meistersinger.

today in music and lit, the very venerable and very french Pierre Monteux reared his head out from the lofty pages of Mann’s Doctor Faustus and i was compelled to make a connection between him and Furtwängler. while i could (there is an, albeit, later video of Monteux also conducting the prelude to Die Meistersinger) we talked about Stravinsky (Monteux’s tenure with Le Sacre and Mann’s allusion to L’histoire) so Stravinsky it is. but before Petrouchka, my non-musical association with Monteux.

1) this music and lit class
2) the pierre monteux school in maine that one of my best friends attended. it was there that she met the person that she would introduce to me later that year, who, would become my boyfriend. he, too, is a conductor. (thus continueith the cycle.)

sorry to keep you waiting, here’s Monteux conducting Stravinsky’s Petrouchka with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

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