Thursday, December 21, 2006

Obiously downtime

I see that Dave and Beth are not very argumentative right now. The semester has ended and we are all exhusted. Why? We are aLL dealing with students right now. What is the problem? Can it be that everyone has LIFE PROBLEMS? I think so. In a perfect world, there would be no pressure from
1. What class should I take.
2. Do I really need this class.
3. How long do I have to do this stuff?
4. Am I cool if I have a degree in a couple of years.
5. If my baby is sick?

There are so many additional questions. They all matter and all need to be addressed.



Friday, December 01, 2006

The Office

I just watched the last episode of The Office and saw an employee trying to impress a co-worker in any manner possible. At the end of the episode, he was playing banjo and singing in a BGs high range. To all a forced expression.

I have always known that talent is a real attractor. True talent is always an attractor but professed talent is weak. I don't know which is more distructive. I believe that individuals who fake talent are a dead end. But the truly talented can make a mess of others lives but be out of touch with their own worth. Duke Ellington gave up baseball to play the piano because it attracted the girls. Lester Young gave up the drums because it took too long to pack them up before the girls left.

Is beauty a talent?

I wonder if the reverse is true. Talent in women seems to take another track. Is being too strong a problem? Is this one of the pressures that hold back women from showing their real talents?

I have two daughters and they are strong, centered, and talented. Not necessarily a result of my involvement. It seems different from their perspective than mine. Interesting.


Friday, November 10, 2006


Martha Graham said "Only through discipline can you attain true freedom." But freedom of what? Freedom from guilt of not doing it right? Freedom from having to practice something over and over? Freedom from getting yelled at? Freedon from others judgement?

Now. . . my dog, Maximus, has a little discipline issue. He is in the "puppy adolecent" stage as I like to call it. But, why would he have incentive to change? Dogs after all "don't do guilt" and wrong is an intellectually relative term that I fear he can't quite grasp. So, why be disciplined? Isn't it far more exciting to just run around and follow the whims of the moment? Scratch when you want to scratch, sleep when you want to sleep, bark when you want to bark and bolt when you want to bolt.

Can you imagine going through a day following your inner impulses in such an unadulterated manner? Perhaps you should try it. That's it. . . go ahead! Live it up!

. . . but don't blame me when the sh*t hits the fan!

No reason for what you love.

Why is it that you can support a team and at the same time "hate" another team and it is OK? For example, I had a student tell me that she hated the Dallas Cowboys because it was the favorite team of her x-boyfriend. Well, I guess this is enough of a reason. But isn't hate one of those intolerant reactions? Not in sports or musical taste.

Don you like the Beatles?
They look stupid.

So goes many of the arguments in our world today. In fact, the number one justification for finding something bad is that it is boring. So is my car mechanic but so important to my life.

Personal taste usually needs to be tempered or it is irrational. But sports -- no reason is needed. The college football season is closing and all my friends cheer their team for no reason or the weakest of reason. Such fun. Well USC plays Oregon this tomorrow -- I cheer for anyone who plays USC why? Because I went to UC Berkeley. Is this a reason for such faithful support? In anything else, no. but ..........

Go Bears!


Friday, November 03, 2006

Has Elvis Finally Left the House?

I guess it was inevitable. I read in the L.A. Times that Cobain earned more income posthumously than Elvis! The first rock icon who showed the way to connect music with mass culture has finally been eclipsed. But I guess the real irony is that Cobain -- the king of grunge is really underneath it all a capitalist. So Cobain is now the master of the house. Who's next? A grim thought if you have to it requires posthumous existence (is there such a thing?).


Wednesday, October 18, 2006


So if you are a trained musician you are superior? I posit that anyone who thinks to the same depth in their disciplines is surfing on the same big waves. (Sorry for such a cheap metaphor).

I know that the "total" musician is probably the most balanced intellectual (wow! what a conclusion) will surface well above most in our culture. But is there an over balanced individual? Isn't balance like perfection - anything else than perfection (balance) is less than imperfection. Wow, this is complex.

Regardless, being a musician (and literate) is a very cool place to hang out.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Music and Your Neural Net

Some studies at UCLA a few years ago show that formally trained musicians listen mostly from their left brains while untrained listeners use their right brains. It would seem to me that since we all began as untrained musicians we all listened mostly from our right brain (affective). Those of us who studied formally migrated to the left brain (cognitive) as we learned to analyze what we were listening to. The bundle of nerves that connect the right and left hemishperes is 10-15% larger in trained musicians!! So... what does that say about our discipline? I would guess that we can move quite easily across our brain to solve problems with whatever hemisphere is most suited to the problem. I always figure those that migrate to the left brain and get stuck there will be university teachers and have half-baked neural nets. If you can move back to the right side with all the tools gained from the left side you might create music someone else is interested in listening to. But.... above all, this all shows that learning music will grow new and more sophisticated neural nets few other disciplines can match. Learning music may be a solution to creative thinking in all things.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Music Theory will kill my creativity!

I have heard this over the years as if being analytical about one's music will diminish the excitement or raw expression of playing music. So what is lost when one knows more? Does not knowing about music theory ever become a plus? It is like thinking and speaking with a limited vocabulary. I have found that the more I know the more I can interact with music on so many different levels. I think that I actually hear more than those who have not taken the time to learn the complexities of music and its construction.

But alas, I do love closing my eyes and just playing. This never goes away. It only gets better.


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The music of 9/11

So, what music was most prominent on 9/11? What music represented the American spirit and reflected the passion we feel for the tragedy of that day? What I heard most was God Bless America. That disturbs me. When we worry most about the religious zealotry of the middle east should we not promote our own secular independece from religious polity? Why then do we sing a song that stresses God's role in American initiative? Is our religious right more right than the islamic religious right? Does our music speak a truth we are not willing to state in political rhetoric? Maybe our music is more honest.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

TV in the cafeteria.

I can hardly believe the new discussion on our campus. It is an email discussion of whether there should be a TV on and the sound up for the students in the cafeteria. Some want to turn it off to better represent the educational goals of "true and worthy discussions" not meaningless programming and commercials.

Can you believe this is even important to teachers? They suggest that the TV be turned off and background music be used. Dave suggested ear-grating Christian death metal music played really loud.

So TV is not appropriate but background music would be appropriate - as if we could all agree on the "perfect" music.

This entire discussion was started by a philosophy professor. Is this a philosophical issue? I think the sociology department is the area that should address this issue.

As a musician, I love the complexity of a cafeteria where people are trying to be quiet, expressive, hungry, bored, etc.

Should the music change for those eating Sushi? Hamburgers? Salads? Brown bag? etc?


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Free Music

Well it may have finally happened. Music used to be forced down our throats on albums and later CDs (although some concept albums actually worked). The wildfire of illegal downloads and sharing eventually made the production companies rethink their approach. Apple found the first truly viable solution with its iPod and iTunes. We could actually buy the song we wanted, stay legal and be very cool all for just 99 cents. Today a new company, SpiralFrog, may be offering the ultimate solution with free downloads. All we have to do is bear some advertisement while the music downloads.

Music companies now longer deal in music but in advertising. Music is just the lost leader in the process. How much more corporate can corporate music become? I say we all stop listening to music and make music instead. Why should all the rock stars people worship get all the fun. Sing along when the national anthem is played (just ignore the weird looks). The only place in the last few years I've heard people actually sing together is at the ball park after seven innings of self medication. Play spoons, or kazoo. Reclaim the right to make music, the best free music of all.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Fall Hopes

The fall semester is right around the corner. Beth at Fresno City College and Dave here at MiraCosta along we me are now focused big time to start classes. We have been hoping for renewed strength to find the "talent" and dive in. It is always surprising who shows up with hope in their eyes. It is such a blast to feed the dreams.

So all you future rock stars, get in line and work, work, work.


Sunday, July 16, 2006

Blog obligation

I am surprised that I usually have so much to say and I find that this blog is begging for input and I sit with a blank mind. Right now, I am teaching a course for teachers who plan on teaching online. In the class is one of the pioneers of online teaching. He started teaching online the same year I did. He wrote one of the best Learning Management Systems to deliver his courses. I use it. What is this about? And, my daughter who is a blog member here is also in the class. They contribute so much to the course but, THEY DON'T NEED TO BE IN THE CLASS.

Regardless, I act cool like any teacher should.

What a weird world.


Monday, June 19, 2006

America Sings?

I flew to Hawaii last week and tried to pass the boredom of the flight by actually reading the airline magazine. And unexpectedly I learned something that underpinned my belief that American has lost its voice. The three most sung songs were listed:

1) Happy Birthday
2) Auld Lang Syne
3) For He's a Jolly Good Fellow

So... what does that tell us? That on any given day there are probably hundreds of birthdays. And.. from my experience in restaurants that song is not well known.

ONLY ONE DAY A YEAR is the second song relevant! So what do people sing the other 364 days?

And... to think there are so few jolly good fellows is disturbing.

Sing along!


Monday, June 12, 2006

Narrow winding road

Thank you for having me as a part of this blog. It is such an honor to be interacting with two people I admire so much. And I admire them for the usual and the unusual elements of their personality. For instance their ability to be completely absurd. A lost art form for many people. Imagine: Hawaii, a light blue Chrysler Van, the Megill twins at the helm driving around the beautiful island of Maui. The road narrows, then narrows again, and yet again until the width of the van tempts the cliff to our left. And then the sign: NARROW WINDING ROAD. And while most would balk at the perilous nature of the road-- the Megill twins "sing the sign" to the beatles tune, "Long and Winding Road."--go ahead and sing it to yourself--Narrow winding road. . . Being a family of musicians and singers we break into the song-- descant and percussion hits included. The perilous turned absurdly funny. And of course centered around music.
Thanks for having me on board guys.
Now if only I could get the song out of my head!!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Welcome Beth

Well, we have a new blog member. Beth Megill (yes she is related) teaches Dance at Fresno City College. She has taught at the University of Wisconsin in Stevens Point. She travels all over the world and works in Mexico with a dance company each summer. She is the only dance choreographer that is conscious of the elements of music that I know. So she will be putting in entries from a new perspective. Beth has some interesting projects which we will all want to follow.

Dive in Beth.


Friday, June 02, 2006

The Foundation

The site of the music building has been leveled and they are preparing to pour some cement. Dave and I Seway past the site just to see what is happening. The hole makes no sense to my eye - but Hey! I'm a musician. They say 15 more months before we can make any music in the "new building" (which of course is just growing.)


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The semester ends

The crunch is on. Students now feel the need to produce. It is amazing how those who learn over time receive the most. The crammers are trying to produce but I know that they will not retain a fraction what they are dealing with at the moment of their need. How does anyone know what is important until they "feel the need?" Crammers have no sense of need except to "pass the course." I wonder why the student population remembers enough to be good at their discipline. What did they want to know and what did they temporarily learn something to pass a class?


Sunday, April 30, 2006

May Day

I was just wondering how much music in the rock tradition has a sense of calendar. I know that there are some Christmas songs, a few patriotic songs (Born in the USA is not one of them). There is an entire anti-politicial tradition. But nothing I can think of for the liturgical calendar (Praise songs excluded). Just try and envision a Punk Valentine song, or Easter? Hmmm . . . something to think about. Lent? Good Friday (maybe Jesus Christ Superstar), others?


Sunday, April 16, 2006

Taxes and iTunes

Well, it looks like taxes for the middle class will remain the same. Don't you wish you made 500K a year. What savings you could have with such a salary. Regardless, there is now pressure to increase the fee for a download from iTunes. Is it because the Beatles now want to be a part of this revenue? I say, haven't we heard the Beatles enough? The songs do not change and they sound the same regardless of the "remastering". The news is that these tracks will once again be "re-re-mastered" so that everyone can purchase the entire library one more time.


Thursday, April 13, 2006

Intervals and beyond

The music majors have just finished intervals and are moving onto chords and figured bass notation. For those that have survived, they now see all the elements of music theroy they have been fighting coming together. In fact, as they begin writing music in four parts (like four singers at the same time) they see it all happening. One of my students sees it all now and says "it was worth it" to get here.

I celebrate his success but know that he now has very few people with whom to share this new found knowledge.

The more you know the fewer people around with whom you can share. Having a twin brother and going through this process and beyond I was lucky.

I guess everyone needs a friend in learning.


Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Building is Down

Well, the old music building on campus has finally been pulled down. The choral room was all concrete steps (to rehearse on). This room was on the poor soil side of the hill and it looks like it was so heavy it just broke the building in half. It took them forever to break it up and get it out of there. 30+ years of teaching in that building has officially ended. Now we are looking for the new building to go up with good studios and a decent recital hall.

Funny feeling watching it go away.


Sunday, March 26, 2006

Oral and Literate Traditions

I met with my honors section today after we listened to our college orchestra play compositions by African American composers. Do you think that soon we will have rock stars trying to write for the orchestra to seek legitimacy in the high art culture? Didn't McCartney try that and didn't he get knighted? It seems to me that the classical music shell is a bad fit for the more oral traditions of jazz and rock. I just remember a quote from John Lennon (I think) that when performing for a royal audience he said (approximately) If you like what you hear just rattle your jewelry.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Spring Break

Here I am on Spring Break and I have onliine students who bug me because I am not online at least twice a day to "teach". I guess Spring Break is really Time to Catch Up (TCU). Rather than going to FL there is a small percentage of students consummed by TCU. I admit, it is difficult for me not Check-in and Grade (CG).

So here I am CGing for the TCUers. What a vacation.


Sunday, March 05, 2006

Are Elevators Next?

Well, it happened tonight. A rap song, "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" from "Hustle & Flow" won the prize for best song at the Academy Awards. I remember the first time I heard a Beatle song in an elevator -- impossible! No, not impossible simple the place popular songs go to die. Hip Hop and Rap have been popular for quite a while but not enough to break into the staid format of the Academy Awards. And now not only a rap song but one that needed to be toned down to even be performed at the Oscars. I wonder how long it will be before we hear rap in the elevator? And what will take its place in the controversial slot of popular music?

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Research Conference

Dave and I took two students to the Research Conference today (hosted by the Honors Transfer Council). The conference was hosted by UCI and they were very generous with scholarships and food for the event. Our students Ghita and Jocqueline both presented on topics of the Tsumani and Petroleum reserves respectfully. What a great job they did. This is a great event where young scholars can practice presenting to the educated community. It was great for all who participated.


Friday, March 03, 2006

Academy Awards

As an artist I find it difficult to follow all the awards shows. Popularity is a strange engine in our culture. Where is the incentive to create a powerful expression? Is the goal to go and walk the red carpet and be voted the best . . . . . .? This year the "best films" are somewhat political but still in the running to say one is truly superior to the others.

Ask any songwriter or movie maker. The best song or movie ever is the last one they just finished writing.

Sorry no tuxedo or gown, no thank you speech, just the creative juices of the moment.


Saturday, February 25, 2006

When is it new or the same old thing?

I think that instrumentalists that look to be the best in a large ensemble has vastly different goals than the instrumentalist that is working to play in an ensemble that requires improvisation. I used to play clarinet in a concert band where I could hide and play the "part" notated in front of me. When I moved to a jazz ensemble (especially a small group) there was so much more required of me to participate. I needed a vastly increased knowledge of theory. I was also required to listen to the other performers so that I did not "collide" with them musically.

I find it interesting that educators are not in agreement on the “best musicians”. An orchestra conductor is not interested in musicians who want to improvise. Improvisers often cannot play an accurate performance of a notated score. So aren’t these musicians different?

Personally, I want to play what I want when I feel the need. I temper it when other musicians are in the room. I play exactly what is printed in front of me when the pay is good. I guess it then becomes a job.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Volti Subito

Even though we do a lot of online teaching we still work in front of an audience at times.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Old Men and Rock

Well, the Super Bowl again catered to the Boomers.

Here we had a group of musicians that would have never been taken seriously when the Boomers were young. Remember that Pete Townsend (I think) wanted to die before he was 30 because it was so old! Now we have these old rookers that for some reason still get audiences. Could it be that the youth today are forced to live through the nostalgia of their parents the same way we lived through the Swing music of our parents? I actually like swing but it certainly was not the music of my generation.

To me the real irony is that early rock was so connected to sex appeal and those who made it big then should be so interesting (sexy?) today. Their sex appeal is now sex repel. At least the Stones have been creating new music throughout their career but their image is still one of the bad boys so obviously now the corporate boys! Alas, it must be hard to give up the spotlight.

It is clear that the Boomers still control the market. Otherwise the Super Bowl would have catered to today's youth. Rock is not necessarily the music of the adolescent class but the leading market class. The Grammy's only reinforced that. What a tragedy to be young now and not have the marketplace paying any attention to you. But Boomers, just you wait, there is a bigger population buldge coming up (milenials) who will make you a forgotten generation. They will set cultural taste, music, clothes, sports, food, drug of choice, the look of sexy, everything -- and all the Boomers can do is watch.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Rock History Hits the country

It is interesting having a blog. There are those who have much to say and want to persuade and others who want to rant.

Dave and I started this blog just to show a day in the life of a teacher software developer. We make this blog available across all the classes that use our course software. To date this is now a national blog and growing. The last courses we have developed are Jazz History Online and just released Rock History Online. These last classes are perhaps our most exciting. The team that helped develop them is tops. The reason for studying history has become more clear with each course we have developed. Amazing how teaching remains so exciting after 30+ years with the move to online delivery. It has made us question everything all over again. I can't tell you how much has been thrown away. Good stuff.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

New Semester

The number of online students has increased considerably. We now have students in our classes across the nation.

We are now averaging about 2000 students each term. Look at the polls in your class to see how they respond to the content.


Sunday, January 08, 2006

The new iPod

Well, I got a new iPod and began to explore iTunes more seriously.

I have to admit I am less interested in the music than the video podcasts. I can't believe that the video is so clear and it seems even bigger with the high quality sound. I am amazed at the creativity of a new generation of vidiots. The folley is great and the ideas over the top (I like bad humor). It will be interesting to see if I still will be using it in a year and if I fill it up any time soon (60G). It seems we may be losing the concept album soon. Do any of you actually buy a complete CD from iTunes?