Monthly Archives: March 2008

Live blogging my ASTA proposal

As if anyone would be interested:

8:59 PM Proposals for presentations at the 2009 American String Teachers Association annual conference are due tonight by 11:59 PM. That gives me three hours.

I had more than that. So far, I have taken my daughter to her dance class (instead of letting my son driver her), done grocery shopping, answered email, read other people’s blogs, corrected the misspellings in my last post, renewed my ASTA membership so I’m officially a member when I submit the online proposal, and moved from the dining room table to the living room couch for more back support. I don’t have cable, due to my channel-surfing addiction; I went cold turkey a few months ago. So I put on an old Hitchcok movie (Jamaica Inn) from a box set borrowed from my parents. But my son and a friend just came in, and with my blessing they’ve switched to Shoot ‘Em Up, a bad-but-fun flick with Clive Owen (mmmm) and Paul Giamatti. But what the hell is Paul Giamatti doing in an action movie?

9:08 PM OK, now I’ve wasted time by blogging. What to propose? Should be something to do with improvisation. Now the last time I went to an ASTA conference, someone else did a presentation on basic Music for People techniques, so there may be competition for that.

9:10 PM “Fuck you, you fucking fuckers.” Clive Owen just said that line into the camera. This movie really sucks.

9:11 PM Well, last time I went to an ASTA conference no one did anything on ornamentation or Baroque performance practice. (Of course, this was several years ago. Maybe everyone’s doing it now.) But I have taught a course on improvisation in the history of Western art music, and I actually know something about Baroque ornamentation.

9:14 PM The other thing I’m into is using multiple looping pedals when improvising. That could be cool, too.

9:15 PM Clive had another line. “Fuck off.” Brilliant writing! And now he’s on his bus taking his shoe off.

“You know why a gun is better than a wife?” Paul Giamatti asks his flunky. “Because you can put a silencer on a gun.”

I always thought Clive Owen wold make a great James Bond. Daniel Craig was great (and ultra hot), but I still would have picked Clive. Paul Giamatti just shot another woman. “Fuck me sideways.” Wow.

9:18 Maybe the technology stuff would be useful. But also a pain in the ass to drag to Atlanta and around the convention location.

9:23 PM But I love playing with all those looping pedals and whatnot.

9:25 PM Clive Just shot Paul. Why would anyone run straight at a guy with a gun pointed at him? Oh, turns out Paul was wearing a bullet-proof vest. He’s recovered enough to take a cell-phone call from his wife. (The one you can’t put a silencer on.)

9:28 PM Need to come up with some titles. Argh. I don’t feel like thinking or creating right now. Suppose that will be easier if I figure out what the presentation is.

9:33 I could do something on improvisation in the history of classical string playing. And the other thing that’s really interesting to me right now is using improvisation to become more comfortable with one’s instrument and to practice composed pieces.

9:36 Holding a baby, which for some reason Paul is after, Clive is in the process of shooting 20 or 30 bad guys to death. Bad line, certain to include the word “fuck” is sure to come once they are all dead.

9:38 Paul got the awful line. “We really suck, or is this guy really that good?” Geez, they both must have needed money. Or somehow thought this would be another Kill Bill.

9:42 PM Two hours and seventeen minutes to go.

9:44 PM Clive just killed a guy by sticking a carrot in his eye. He really should have been James Bond. I mean, if you can do that, you should be licensed to kill.

9:50 PM Bad guys find Clive making love to the beautiful woman. While staying, er, coupled, rolling around the floor, and eventually standing, Clive kills each of them while bringing the girl to, um, well, you know. Once the last guy is dead, Clive makes the Bondian quip, “talk about shooting your load.”

9:55 PM Of course, I could propose the title I usually use, and have used for years when doing a guest improv workshop: “Expressing Yourself Through Sound: Improvisation for Everyone.” But I am sort of sick of that title. Two hours and three minutes to go. (What’s that Johnny Cash song?)

10:10 PM I’m not much further along. But the movie is getting Bondier, and just featured a skydiving chase.. My son says, “well, he didn’t get to be James Bond so he made his own Bond movie.” Giamatti does make a good Bond villain. If only he had better lines.

It occurs to me that maybe this live-blogging of my own writing process and a bad movie at the same time isn’t such a good way to write a proposal after all.

11:53 PM Got the thing submitted, just in the nick of time. Actually six minutes to spare–pretty good. Who says I’m a procrastinator? “Improvisation as a Mode of Learning: Developing Instrumental Comfort, Musical Vocabulary, and Creatively Practicing Classical Music.” Somewhat of an awkward title, but I think the abstract is pretty good and with all the improv workshops and classical experience I have under my belt, I think I have a good shot.

Speaking of shots, Clive, despite the fact that Paul had broken each of his fingers, still managed to kill the rest of the bad guys and shoot Paul through the chest. Earlier, he had shot the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, who had set up a baby farm to grow candidates for a bone-marrow donor, which is why Paul was after the baby.

Wonder if he’s seeing anyone?



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What laptops are good for

One of our students made this interesting observation in her comment on my previous post: “But on the topic of [laptop] computers in classrooms, I find no problems with computers in an actual classroom setting- mainly because you can not pay attention just as well without a computer as you can with one.”

Good point. I found many ways not to pay attention when I was in school, long before anyone ever imagined laptops and Iphones and text messaging.

In defense of laptops in the academy, I admit that mine helps me get through dysfunctional faculty meetings. College professors will argue, endlessly, about the most trivial of issues, going around in rhetorical circles. Someone disagrees with your position? Must be they didn’t understand your argument, so make it again, at greater length, with more intensity. They still don’t get it? Repeat ad infinitum until someone calls the question.

I find that by multitasking during our nearly three hours of music faculty meetings per week, I’m able to follow the conversation, participate when appropriate, get something done when some of my colleagues are in listening-to-themselves-talk mode, and remain calmer and less frustrated than I was in the pre-laptop era.

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The Music of the Laptops

Clickety clack. Tap tap tap. Clickety clack. Taptaptaptaptap. Clackclackclackclackclack.

I looked around. What was that noise? Where was it coming from?

It was fairly dark in Kresge Auditorium. I had arrived at the University Band concert a bit late, pleasantly surprised that they were between pieces, so I had been able to slip right in, neither having to wait (impatiently, it would have been in my case) outside the door, nor being tempted to violate the classical-music tradition (and School of Music rule) that one enters a concert hall only between pieces.

I’d been delighted to discover that the next piece was Music for Winds, Piano, and Percussion by James Beckel, principal trombonist of the Indianapolis Symphony, a marvelous composer, and an adjunct faculty member here at DePauw.

The music started and so did the noise. What the hell was it? As my eyes adjusted to the dark I looked around and saw the culprit.

A young woman at her laptop.

DePauw requires every incoming student to purchase a laptop, loaded with University-selected software (some proprietary to DePauw). And we pride ourselves that the entire campus, even the concert halls and theatres, is wireless. The dorms, the lobbies, the bathrooms—I don’t think there’s any indoor space where one cannot connect to the Internet. And with so many wireless transmitters in so many buildings, many of the outdoor spaces are wireless-accessible as well.

So there she was, typing away. But how was she making so much noise doing it? Most keyboards, especially on the University-mandated laptops, are very quiet. But this was a very percussive sound.

She was sitting a the far left end of the row in front of me, and there was no one else to the left of me, so I quietly walked over (we were towards the back in a relatively unpopulated area), and quickly had my answer: four-inch nails, which curled forward. They were making the noise as they hit the keys.

I whispered to her, with my professorial and paternal authority-figure energies combined, “I’m sorry, but you are making too much noise. You need to stop typing or go outside.” The trick in this sort of situation, where you don’t have any official authority (or aren’t sure that you do) is to speak with total confidence. She gave me a look that combined surprise with who-the-hell-do-you-think-you-are attitude. I whispered, “thanks,” and walked back to my seat, hoping I hadn’t whispered so loudly that I had created more distraction that I had stopped. The young woman evidently decided that I might be whoever the hell I thought I was, and/or that I was right about the noise. After a bit of consideration, and a quick bit of typing (probably signing off to whomever she was exchanging instant messages with) she closed the lid of her laptop.

Beckel’s piece was wonderful, as was the rest of the program. But every once in a while thoughts of Margert Soltan, of University Diaries, and her frequent diatribes against laptops in the classroom, floated into my mind. I must write a blog entry, I decided, about the four-inch nails and the instant-messaging student. Here’s to you, Margaret.

(Maybe the nails were only two inches.)


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