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Random Things

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  • Citizen creative placemaking: my personal backstory November 20, 2017
    When I was an undergraduate college student, I took a class that changed the focus of my life. This is a pretty broad brush to paint on a set of morphing decisions I’d been making for years, but bear with me – I’ve got a point to make. I started out my college career as … Continue reading →
  • Thinking about the role of music October 24, 2017
    So I haven’t posted in a while. Okay, since March (!). But it’s been a busy busy time – I started a new position a year and a half ago and we’ve been developing a new office. It’s taken more time than even I would have anticipated. Great times! I may at some point blog … Continue reading →
  • Chuck Berry -curating sounds and memories March 20, 2017
    Update: (okay, it took less than a couple of hours to get to this, but you knew I would). I have to include this wonderful retrospective by Peter Guralnick about his interview with Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Fats Domino in New Orleans in 2011. (You think of trying to interview them as … Continue reading →
  • Total randomness – how else to deal with this year’s Oscars? February 28, 2017
    I’m a fairly rabid reader of The New Yorker, for what it’s worth. And today’s article on the glitch in the Best Picture Awards at the Oscars this year struck me as one of those moments where we create our own soundtrack. Since I’ve been posting on this blog more regularly lately, I thought I’d share … Continue reading →
  • RIP Clyde Stubblefield February 21, 2017
    There are far too many losses to the music world, this year, and every year – maybe last year just sensitized me to it or maybe we’re getting to that generational shift? Either way, today I’m sharing the soundtrack that’s guiding my morning and a brief obit from Digital Music News. Let the Funky Drummer … Continue reading →
  • Remembering Al Jarreau February 13, 2017
    Just a quick post today. Al Jarreau was one of the voices of my childhood and teen years – one of the happy, beautiful voices that countermanded all the emotional art rock I consumed at the same time. This tribute was put together by Wisconsin Public Radio – there’s a request by his family to … Continue reading →
  • Thinking about protest music, the Women’s March, and Joan Baez February 7, 2017
    Rolling Stone published an interview with Joan Baez yesterday about the Women’s March and protest music. While I strongly recommend reading it, there are a couple of highlights I’m thinking about. There’s a lack of music as a positive, uplifting (Baez’s word) force right now – protests are focused on anger. This movement needs an … Continue reading → […]
  • On protest music in the current age 1.28.17 January 28, 2017
    I’ve renewed an old research interest – protest music. Not terribly a shocking interest for an ethnomusicologist in the crazy times we’re seeing, but it’s been a recurring theme in my toolkit of research subjects. John Mellencamp (whose work I don’t normally look at) just released a really interesting song that takes on inequality, protest … Continue reading […]
  • Mourning 2016 Musicians – Glenn Frey January 18, 2017
    This is just a brief post but I anticipate more of these to follow – every one of the artists I miss deserves a post of his/her own. So I’m still not over last year’s losses. And by that I mean the musicians lost to the world when they died last year. For me this … Continue reading →
  • A guest blog from my new housemates August 5, 2016
    I broke down this week and did something I avoid – I went to the local animal shelter (because I can’t go without bringing home new friends). Even worse, I went into the kitten room and was immediately accosted by two small feline persons who informed me in no uncertain terms that I was taking … Continue reading →

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A number of items have been jumping out at me lately and it seems time to put some of them out here.

1. My home discipline, ethnomusicology,  is going through what I think of as a healthy periodical debate about how it defines itself. This is particularly interesting at the moment because with the economy the way it is and looks to be for the foreseeable future, as an academic discipline (and here I’m not including independent research but institutionally driven as in the traditional tenure track academic) ethnomusicology, like most humanities and social sciences I’m seeing, is going through a kind of contraction right now. To whit – “traditional” positions seem to still pop up (though more occasionally) and more generalist positions seem to pop up but room for cutting edge research seems less interesting. (I’m willing to be very wrong here. Someone please argue with me, since this is the side of the academy I live on)

2. Music as a performative art is going through huge changes right now, also in large part due to the economy. This is a trend I dealt with in my dissertation, though I wasn’t very direct about it. Globalization is becoming a big force in this transformation and I’ll be writing more about this bit as the summer progresses.

3. Issues of technological change seem to becoming more and more embedded with performance practices across the board. I’ll give an example here out of my private piano studio. I was hunting down a copy of a piece for one of my students Le Petit ane blanc, which is the second movement from Jacques Ibert’s Histoires about a month ago. It’s a tough piece to get a hold of in hard copy – the only available hard copies are through Boosey & Hawkes and one can either buy it in the whole collection, Histoires ($57+ U.S.) or in sheet music form ($21+ U.S.) – yes, you heard me right – $21 for a three page piece of sheet music from it’s French publisher, Leduc through its distributor, Boosey & Hawkes. OR. You can buy a (slightly blurry) out of copyright edition from a downloading publisher in pdf form for – $1.99 U.S.

Now, given I’m very cost conscious for my students about what I ask them to spend on music, and given the economy, which affects no only their budgets but their willingness to pay me to teach piano, it’s not too hard to guess which version I recommended that my student buy.

So what does this say about ethnomusicology and contemporary culture, much less musical technoculture in the U.S.? It’s transforming the whole music industry from publisher to label to my own ways of running a private studio. The ramifications of this are huge. Huge.

I’ve been thinking about this issue since fall of 2006, the first time I ever taught a class on technology in contemporary life at a university when I first discovered, and went nuts over, YouTube. I know I wasn’t alone here – I’ve seen countless presentations and articles on this convergence both within my own discipline and across media and internet studies over the five years since then. I gave my first paper on this topic (available via my academia.edu page for those of you who are interested) in 2007. The question that still stands out to me that I got after that paper was something to the effect of “did you write this because it’s a trendy topic.” I don’t for the life of me remember how I answered this but I do remember being slightly stunned that the questioner didn’t see how transformative this kind of dynamic technology would be for the foreseeable future for music production and that this will affect all of us across the world.

I’d welcome comments and thoughts.

Hope you all are enjoying lovely weather!


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