Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous Mutterings’ Category


April 25, 2012

Someone sent me a link to this incredible beat boxing site. I was instantly addicted! The (secretly) best part was how I instantly felt cool and hip.

One of my classes is currently playing with it and submitting their compositions to me for extra credit. While it’s not directly related to our topic (folk musics of the United States), it nonetheless engages them in the compositional process (on a small scale) and makes them think about the details of a song as well as the overall arc. For non-musicians, which means most of my class, this is sometimes a hard concept for them. As I demonstrated Incredibox to them today, I could see light bulbs going off all over the room.


Support the animals!

October 5, 2011

I love lip dubs and would love to do one. In the meantime, I enjoy watching them and thinking about their communal and participatory nature.

Here’s one from the Wake County (NC) SPCA. Great job by a dedicated group of volunteers. And I love the little pup at the end. After you watch this video, run right out and donate your time or money to your local animal shelter. I know from experience that many struggle to meet the needs of the animal community, especially at times like this when families are abandoning pets because of their fragile economic situation.

Rock on!

September 10, 2011

This article in the New York Times (“Beyond Baby Mozart, Students Who Rock”) describes a program in which children learn to play music in a way that will have the elitists spitting out their hemi-demi-semi-quavers with their tea and crumpets. They will surely put a fermata on this idea and claim that what these children are learning is distinctly not music or musical skills.

And here’s why. It’s not classical music (or even good sturdy Sousa marches). It’s not written notation. It’s not rigid conformity to said written notation. Instead it’s popular music, songs chosen by the kids themselves. It’s learning by ear. It’s composition and song writing with a big dose of improvisation. And for many kids, that means it will not be torture.

This innovative program, Little Kids Rock, is intriguing to me. I believe that any educational approach that invites children into the world of music–any kind of music–and sustains their interest is worthy of our consideration and support. I don’t care if it’s Bach or the Back Street Boys or Boyz II Men. Get them interested, honor their choices and tastes, and allow their musicianship to grow from that.

I would be curious to know, though, if at some point in the program, Little Kids Rock begins to offer what we usually think of as the fundamentals, such as reading notation and understanding rhythm, meter, and harmony. Otherwise, the program could become a stunt, a cool trick to get 25 kids in a room to play a song together but not necessarily enough to create a lasting effect.

Performance Space

July 25, 2011
IMG_3439 by pjbishop93
IMG_3439, a photo by pjbishop93 on Flickr.

Saxophone player along the banks of the Seine River in Paris.

Hello Goodbye

July 16, 2011

Jon Pareles of the New York Times wrote an interesting Review of Paul McCartney’s concert at Yankee Stadium. I found myself singing along to it, but feeling a wee bit old at the same time. I’m encouraged, though, That I can keep rocking “when I’m 64” (or 69, as he is). Thanks, Sir Paul.

And yes, Jon, that Don and Phil reference is to the Everly Brothers, whom Paul and John studied carefully in their formative years.

Trumpet Warmup

July 8, 2011
IMG_1182 by Foxboro Music Photos
IMG_1182, a photo by Foxboro Music Photos on Flickr.

The door

July 5, 2011
The door by pjbishop93
The door, a photo by pjbishop93 on Flickr.

If you shut the door to all errors, truth will be shut out.
– Rabindranath Tagore

Writing Music History

April 18, 2011

My American popular music classes will be discussing what acts from the first decade of the twenty-first century should be included in a future textbook on the subject. We have taken a poll within the classes, but we would like to expand the pool of responses. Can you help us by taking a short survey?

Click here to take survey

or go to

If the link doesn’t take you to a survey page, you can answer the question here in the comments section. Just list the 5 acts (individual or group) that you think must be included. You can also tell us what criteria you used to make your selections (optional).


Creating an Arts Spirit

October 22, 2010

I was only there to video the workshop, but I found myself entranced by Bill Rowell’s opening remarks and by the other speakers during the day. I recommend this video to anyone interested in any kind of teaching, music or otherwise.

I have been reflecting on the portion of the talk where Rowell referenced William Schuman and I wondered how we might apply that to musicologists. Are we musicians first, and teachers and historians second? Is it necessary in our field? Why is teaching so rarely discussed in our dozens of graduate-level musicology courses, when that is ultimately what most of us will do?

Stay Tuned

September 15, 2009

Here’s a shout out to my buddy over at Auto-Pain 2.0. Not everyone has a Handel on this hip-hop stuff, so kudos to him!