Saturday, November 24, 2007

From one Millennial to another: Go. Do. Be.

As one of the Millennials. . .

I was born on the cusp, just inside the millennial generation (you can do the math). And, I am teaching in essence my own generation at the college level. This both gives me insight into the student perspective and poses an interesting challenge for me, because I am at times trapped by the same conditioning.

First of all, who are the Millennials? We are a generally highly motivated, optimistic group of people who find learning and success relatively easily. However, because we are born of the digital era we have one folly, a disassociated sense of physical self.

(A beautiful example of this is the fact that even as a dance teacher I am sitting here blogging, perpetuating an identity that is unrelated to my physical presence— oh the irony).

Although I teach dance (at least that is what my course numbers say), my primary goal is not dance related at all. It is a process of self-discovery and self-empowerment, a reconnecting to one’s identity through action.

In my classes I aspire to teach others to how redefine themselves through movement. And, trust me there is nothing harder to change than physical habits; neuromuscular connections that have been subconsciously driven home day after day are hard to let go.

Dance allows movers to reinvent themselves through posturing and physical action. You can actually change who you are by how you move. But, be warned, it is a little more challenging than changing the default image on your homepage. Check your posture and what it says about you. Is that who you think you are? Is that who you want to be?

We have the choice to change our mental and emotional landscape through our physical make up. The millennial generation suffers from a shifting identity, a sense of self that is extracted from one’s physical make up and has been siphoned into cyber-identities. You become your projected avatar, but what of the physical body behind the screen?

Dance is an opportunity for one to reconnect with the physicality of identity and actually BE one’s desired identity. It takes Olivia Newton-John’s “Let’s Get Physical” to a whole new level.

So if you are a millennial like me. . . my advice for you is:




Monday, November 05, 2007

Political Music redux

I can see it now. I have pols to match everyone in Spinal Tap:

Nigel -- Bush (mine goes to 11)
Drummers that spontaneously combust -- Gonzales
Interfering girlfriend -- Hillary
Bass players with cucumbers in their pants -- Cheny
Incompetent manager -- Pelosi

Just another dysfunctional band.


Sunday, November 04, 2007

Political Music?

We are in the middle of a political season. The Dems are all attacking Hillary and the Reps are trying to deal with the popularity of Ron Paul. It is great entertainment but where is the music? No one has a theme song. There is no melodic motive associated with anyone? Remember the power of Jaws? and that was only two notes.

This shows that there are no creatives in this race. At least Gore got a Nobel Prize for doing a MOVIE and he isn't even running. Now that proves he is a smart man.

I think I might just start pumping out motives for each candidate. How about the powerful motive from Beethoven's 5th? Da Da Da Dum. Hillary? Giuliani? Nah, too profound for either of them.

This might be hard.

I'll get back to you.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Talk about un-singable!

As someone currently in the twenty something generation, I can say that "rock" tends not to be in heavy rotation on my ipod, instead my music is commonly typified as alternative, electronic or R&B. But, these songs tend to be even less singable than rock! Try emulating the exact descants of any R&B singer-- now try it in a group. You will quickly come to realize that it is a soloist's art form.

No group singing here.

So we are caught in an even worse state because our music is often not about the melody at all, but rather about the rhythm guitar's lick, an laid back electronic environment or a cool drum and bass hook.

Minutes of a song can go by without words at all.

Plus, the drive to find hip, new unheard of artists keeps the unifying power of our generational music to a minimum. Avid music listeners pride themselves on having deep cuts from the most obscure, indie bands possible. (It's a hobby like collecting and trading baseball cards). But, when you go to a piano bar, guess what? . . . no one else knows the songs.

So what should we be singing in our generation? Well, all I know is that Justin Timberlake's "Sexyback" is hardly piano bar friendly. So we opt to sing "Sweet Caroline" or "Sweet Home Alabama" instead. You bet we know the words.

Man are we a mixed us generation.

Can you imagine? "Does anyone know any Goldfrapp?. . . I thought not, well onto the Beatles, Let it Be."

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Is Rock now old people's music?

I was with Don on the Alaskan cruise and he pointed out the disjuncture between the young players and the music they were required to play. I also wondered if rock was more appropriate for those listening. When I looked around the room I would have to say that rock was certainly the music of those who now populated the cruise line (hence the popularity of the piano bar guy). They had a club bar on the ship but it didn't seem to claim the interest I would think it should have had but then realized there probably weren't many on the ship there to dance to the DJs.

So in my career it seems I started (with Don) to play music for the generation older than I was and now see young players doing the same for my generation. For those who think their music is for all time -- think again.


Monday, August 13, 2007

Fall returns

After a summer on a cruise in Alaska and directly to New Orleans (wow what a weather contrast) I am back and ready to start the new semester. My teaching schedule will be mostly online -- who would have thought I would be teaching online when I started with orchestra and jazz band over 30 years ago.

On the cruise I heard several musicians playing tunes from the Real Book (still after all these years). These jazz standards were not really understood by these young musicians. I wish they would have played "their music" instead of what they thought the old timers on the ship wanted to hear. These tunes were 30 to 50 years old at least. I sat in on a tune when a good jazz pianist happen to be in the lounge (we played a Miles Davis tune).

In the piano bar was a "sing along" performer. He played songs from the 60s to the 90s. He was a good entertainer. Funny how all the old songs in the Lounge were singable but no one knew them. In the piano bar the songs they all knew were songs that could not be sung by a group (especially in their condition).



Wednesday, July 25, 2007


What does it mean when you are a dancer and all you want to do is sit?

I means. . . sit.

And don't make it a five minute "break" with plans to stand up again. Let it feel definitive.

You'll stand up again-- if you really want to.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Dance hard

Beth's last post should have been created by a musician (she is one so what is my problem?). So I will talk about dancing for those who do not dance.

Children bob up and down when they hear music. Many think it is learned behavior from their parents; but, how many parents teach children to dance? They do and then we are all surprised and we dance along to keep them dancing. Beth said they move out of excitement -- to the music?

Perception is so mysterious. What is in the head of that child? Why do people have to have iPods plugged into their ears?

Beth is a free spirit dancer. I would love to be as free with my body movement. Why? What is this about?

We would all love to be able to play the piano.

We would all love to be able to sing a song and mean it.

We would all love to dance our hearts out.

We would all . . . . . .

I don't know what this is but we are all afflicted by it.


Sunday, July 01, 2007

four door isolation unit

I have just recently completed the book "How to live well without owning a car" by Chris Balish, and I am here to say: I approve. And while his financial and health related points are both wonderful and convincing, the point I found most profound was the argument that living without a car makes you LESS isolated and more connected to the people and the world around you.

We often think that having a car connects us, gives us the freedom to go where we want, see who we want and live how we want. But the truth of the matter is we typically end up sitting alone, in traffic singing with the radio-- for hours of our lives at a time. We are too busy to hang out with friends because we spent our time hanging out by ourselves in our car.

Here is a test.
When was the last time you sung along with the Radio or a CD in your car?
When was the last time you sang along with an actual person no matter how formal or informal?

As a culture we are becoming more comfortable with being alone, protected within the walls of our four-door or our SUV. And, in result I will suggest that we are less comfortable being with other people and communing with other people. Many of us have the seedling desire to be a part of a performance ensemble, but we have become far too comfortable moonlighting in our sedan.

So, if you insist on singing ONLY in the car, I suggest finding a friend who will go and sing along with you?

Plus, you can split the gas bill.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Working with Dancers

My daughter Beth who is a contributor to this blog is now developing an online course for dance appreciation. It is so interesting to see how dancers see the world differently than musicians. There is, however, one common interest -- dancers and composers and musicians together is the most fun. I produced a concert where composers wrote and performed their music live while the dancers performed to the live music. What a high. It was the best of all performing worlds. Talk about multi-media (no electronics necessary).

The energy is great. The dancers in this production came from Mexico and others from Wisconsin. The composers were from Wisconsin, Irvine, New York, and faculty from MCC.

Hmm . . . thinking I should do another one of these.


Thursday, June 07, 2007

An adolescent artform?

I worry about rock. Its front edge of development seems to always belong to the youth. As each generation gets older it tends to carry its music with them and not necessarily blend into a larger rock repertory. Young people today listen to early rock some but it is probably more out of the nostalgia of their parents rather than their own interest. But the inverse doesn't seem to be true. I don't see older rockers listening much to the newly emerging styles catered to by our youngest listeners. If rock constantly spins out its new styles to reflect young attitudes and needs will the musc always reflect an adolescent tone? I suppose growing stale is the alternative? Not many young people listen to classical music so I guess staying forever young may not be so bad.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Rap and the Hall of Fame

News Flash! Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five were just inducted into the Rock and Roll hall of fame as the first hip hop group. In my rock history classes I find that students are not in agreement on the place hip hop has in the canon of rock and roll. Has hip hop even been around long enough to earn a place in a hall of fame? Is rap and hip hop more distinct from rock than R & B was from early rock and roll? If so is it not at the beginning of its own canon separate from rock? The cultural underpinning of hip hop is certainly as distinct as the the rise of the adolescent class was for rock and roll. Should there be a hip hop hall of fame separate from rock and is rock now destined to become stale as previous musics have when a new musical style coupled with mass media gains enough energy to break free from its host musical substrate?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Cultural Pockets

Dave and I attended a wedding where the DJ -- a student of ours years ago. He can really make a party work. The interesting moment was the end the third hour where he played some hard core Hip Hop. On the floor were very young girls and couples in their early 20s. There was only a forceful bass note which never changed and a drum (beat) track. Above it all was rap. The young girls (13 years) and the young couples knew every word - and there were many many words. The DJ locked into a cultural pocket that the rest of the room did not know. Interesting. At the request of the mother of the bride, the DJ moved back to late 70's and 80's rock.

The Hip Hop group participated but not at the same level of involvement. But the rest of the group was again on their feet.

So what is good music? Bad music? Cultural identification? Hm.


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Prince and Football

I watched the Super Bowl half time show and was taken by how well the spectacle so often associated with Prince worked in that setting. After the past overly produced shows from previous years it was nice to have an artist whose musicianship took center stage. Playing guitar in the rain was itself interesting. It was obvious that he was singing and playing live. His musicial authority cut through all the spectacle. His guitar playing actually elevated the energy level.

It was interesting to see how the media covered it the next day. Yearning for controversy they of course picked up on the androgynous thread. His phallic silhouette was certainly good news. But all that I remember was that at one brief moment the only sound was the entire stadium singing together -- Purple Rain! -- in the rain.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Non-Critical Thinking

So Dave,

Critical thinking is not critical? Then what should it be called -- Linear Thinking? Uni-dimensional thinking? Educational thinking? I agree that there is little critical thinking when driven by adrenaline in a crisis.

However, isn’t critical thinking fun? Don’t you just love a committee to busy itself with a mission statement for weeks on end just to realize that said statement is meaningless to anyone not on the committee?

I often think about the very process of improvisation. On the verge of beginning a jazz solo I am mystified by the process I must go through to choose the first note to begin the solo. No worry about what will follow only what the first note will be. In every case, I never could decide but when the time came to start I did, not even knowing what note I did play.

So what is this about. I could have stopped the rhythm section so that I could have given it some critical thought but that would only frustrate the audience.

Regardless I act as if I really did know where I started and where I was going.

Lastly, I have heard tapes of my solos after the fact and hear things that I cannot reproduce.


Testing the Critical in Critical Thinking

FACCCTS, spring 2004

Non-critical reasoning serves as the substrate for most all of the truly important decisions in my life. All the truly hard decisions I’ve made in my life seem to be only secondarily critical. I certainly married my wife because of strong affective reasoning; my protest of the Vietnam war was certainly powered by strong emotional forces; I irrationally give of my time and resources to the learning of my students because of indefensible impulses of service. In fact, I find it very difficult to find any personally important decisions I’ve made to be based solely on a linear line of critical thinking. So why then are we so consumed to place critical thinking at the forefront of all of our syllabi? I find the disjuncture between “critical thinking” and the normal thinking I do in my life increasingly difficult to bridge. It seems critical thinking should be trumped by a pedagogy that teaches us to use our affective reasoning responsibly. Affective reasoning has the power to make us act; critical thinking merely makes course adjustments.

Certainly to assert our status in the pantheon of academic hierarchy we often posit critically crafted reasoning that may be nothing more than academic spin for our own more affectively based disciplinary doctrines. In our bureaucratic leveraging I sometimes wonder if our critical arguments only cloak our own disciplinary chest pounding. Don’t we all want our courses to exhibit the higher order cognitive domains rather than the lower order drill that assures fluency? There is no prestige in drill, only the power of immediate action.

As a teacher of music appreciation I wonder if we actually learn from our own histories. Why are we not more like those giants of our own canons who do not seem to have led critically thought out lives? We seem to envy their romantic lives neutralized by our own critical inquiry. How do we overcome the inertia of academic hedging and risk the unpredictable world of creative endeavor? Would we really be happy to have the giants of our canons as colleagues or are we playing it safer as voyeurs watching them at a safe historical distance? Can critical thinkers make interesting history?

Do we map this same double standard into our own students? Where are the wildly intellectual students who sit on the opposite side of the academic coin from the more compliant grade grubbers who populate our honors programs? Do our prominent high achievers leverage the understandings of our disciplines or suffocate the universities to which they transfer?

Where is the excitement in critical thinking? Is critical thinking the language of creativity or the language of postmortem editing? Are we being honest with our top students when we consistently channel them into a critically restricted process of discovery which may never generate any creative action? Are we fooling ourselves by thinking that mere analysis of the creative process can ever generate creative behavior? We may as well be taking a course in paradigm shifting.

We are not set up to teach creative behavior. How would one test it when there could never be an answer book? Creativity requires a suspension of judgment. Grades are all about judgment. Creativity explores the contributions of others. Grades encourage self serving competition. Creativity redefines rule sets. The academy employs rule sets. Creativity is messy. Management is neat. What balance is appropriate between creative efforts and managed outcomes?

Perhaps creativity is not what it is cracked up to be. Don’t we need more worker bees than queens? Can a team accommodate more than one creative? How should a team manage its creatives? In our commercial music program we are constantly reminded that our students need to have strong teaming skills. Yet we must also encourage the creatives who strain team efforts. Is there really room for more than one dominant aesthetic purpose? How do we structure our curriculum to groom teaming creatives? Should we?

My first response is that such an effort is not possible within the traditional grade-centric success models now in use. I wear two hats, a music teacher working to prepare students for the fast paced teaming world of media, and a coordinator of a carefully crafted honors program. I see two sides of the student coin. The compliance typical of the honors students is heartwarming. The creative indifference of the personal goal focused music student is disconcerting and at the same time attractive. I certainly teach more to the student unsure of our academic mission rather than the compliant high achiever. Which of these two profiles are likely to populate the canons displayed by our “postgenitors?” Who will leave their mark on the academy, the high speed compliant learner or the expatriated suspicious creative? Can we hybridize the two within a critically crafter curriculum? How in the world would we ever plot measurable outcomes?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Chaumonde's First podcast

Chaumonde has been working feverishly on learning how to podcast for her classes. This is her first podcast and I thought I would share it with you.