Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Sunday, October 31, 2010
From all of us here at Musicological Musings to all of you there, checking your RSS feeds and NOT dressing up as Snooki, we'd love to wish you a very modern art Halloween. Like Phish's legendary Halloween shows, we have a tradition  of surprising and delighting our long-time fans. For your viewing enjoyment, we have created aura-rich Picasso and Mondrian pumpkins, presented here in both still and moving  representations. What would Benjamin say?
– Last year, we were unable to bring you this post due to severe rottage.
– Despite giving my DSL connection all day, the video still hasn't uploaded. I'll try again when I get to school.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Lying to the young is wrong. Proving to them that lies are true is wrong. Telling them that God’s in his heaven and all’s well with the world is wrong. They know what you mean. They are people too. Tell them the difficulties can’t be counted, and let them see not only what will be but see with clarity these present times.
Say obstacles exist they must encounter, sorrow comes, hardship happens. The hell with it. Who never knew the price of happiness will not be happy. Forgive no error you recognize, it will repeat itself, a hundredfold and afterward our pupils will not forgive in us what we forgave.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
The "before" picture...
The "After" Picture
Overall, it was a unique experience that I was very glad to have shared! For those interested, here’s a link to Nat’s website: natevansmusic.com
Friday, September 10, 2010
Flip on your radio and search the stations. What do you hear? I’m willing to bet that, regardless of where you are in this great country, you have just encountered a slew of hideously overproduced pop and/or rap songs, a big dose of rock form the last thirty years, a handful of “country” (the parenthesis are to indicate that, unless you are very lucky, no radio station near you is playing Hank Williams Sr., Waylon Jennings, or George Jones), and one classical station that has a very dedicated following of about 50 or so people (most of which are music professors). Now, venture on over to iTunes and look at the current top selling artists. You see Katy Perry (a Christian-pop star turned bisexual), Enrique Iglesias (who despite his awful music, will always be my hero), and some dude who is, apparently, from Florida (and is also a popular rapper). Considering our country's current trends of musical consumption, I am left to wonder if truly artful music will ever be in the limelight. Although this was initially a rhetorical question that I have recently been asking myself, I just received my answer.
America’s Got Talent, is a popular television show that spends the summer searching for the hottest new act to headline in Vegas and to take home the million-dollar prize. There are magicians, Geek shows, dancers, comedians, and many, many musical acts. As you can imagine, the majority of the musical acts are terrible. And, since three non-musical people serve as judges, it is a wonder that any musician of worth ever makes it through. (Just to clarify for anyone who is too proud to admit they might actually get a kick out of this, the judges pick acts to advance in the early rounds and then their criticism is meant to guide the audience in their voting, which determines admission to the last few rounds. And although I doubt that anyone reading this blog would leave a rude comment correcting me, I will go ahead and acknowledge that Sharon Osborne was Ozzy’s manager and is largely responsible for him having a solo career, although the only times he has ever been tolerable is when Sabbath or Randy Rhodes was there to serve as a distraction).
Last night, the final four acts of the 2010 season were announced: Michael Grimm (whose voice sounds like whatever the lovechild of velour and sandpaper would sound like, and I truly mean this in the best possible way); Jackie Evancho (a wunderkind opera singer, who, despite some breathing issues sounds like an angel); Prince Poppycock (a phenomenal operatic tenor that looks like Mozart, that is, if you were to see Mozart when you had a head full of PCP); and a very cool black-light performance group that goes by the name of Defying Gravity. Yes, despite our nation’s insistence on routinely consuming the worst music possible, we have voted three extremely talented musicians (two of which are classical music) through to the final round. All of this comes on the heels of the 2009 and 2008 seasons, which were also dominated by classical musicians (Barbara Padilla, an opera singer, came in second in 2009 and Neal E. Boyd, yet another opera singer, winning the year before).
What does this say about the way we as Americans consume music? If anything, I think it tells us that despite our pervasive, lowbrow interests, we still treasure the art of music. If this is the case, however optimistic it may seem, then it appears there is still hope. If the masses choose to preserve these sorts of acts over guys with trendy hair cuts that play three chords on a guitar and try to sing like John Mayer, magicians that make trains disappear, adorable dancing children, and dudes who stick foreign objects into their skull, then maybe we are approaching an era when the value of culture will be restored. Or maybe not, what do I know? (I will leave it to John to burst my bubble by delving into the Ardornian philosophy of the devaluation of art through mass production).
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Greetings to my fellow music aficionados and fellow bloggers. You are now reading this because I have graciously been given the opportunity to periodically share my personal musicological musings with all of you. But before we proceed onto any esoteric or convoluted postulations that I hold, I think a brief introduction is in order. My name is Tyler Fritts and I am originally from eastern Kentucky. In 2007 I earned a Bachelor’s of Arts in General Music from Berea College. In 2010 I completed my Master’s of Music in Music History and Literature from the University of Louisville. My thesis identifies techniques utilized by Luciano Berio for the amalgamation of western art music with various and diverse vernacular musics in Folk Songs (1964). Once uncovered, these techniques aid in understanding the symbiotic interrelationship, as well as the significance of this interrelationship, that is created by the juxtaposition of music and culture.
Currently, I am pursuing a PhD in Musicology/Southern Regional Studies from the University of Memphis. The program at the UofM is an interesting one as it provides a healthy helping of standard historically based musicological rigor while simultaneously emphasizing ethnomusicological principles and practicum. As the name suggests, students of the program concentrate on a popular or vernacular music (and its accompanying culture) prominently associated with the southern United States. I, for example, plan to focus my research efforts on exploring the role of politics in the traditional music of Appalachia. Other students of the program choose to delve more deeply into areas such as the Delta blues, the Memphis recording industry, and the musical evolution of Hank Williams, just to name a few.
Apart from my highfalutin academic pursuits, I have gained practical ethnomusicological experience through my work as a traditional music archivist and as a field researcher. Concerning performance, I have been involved with an African and Latin percussion ensemble, a Balinese gamelan ensemble, and an Irish traditional group. It is my because of my ethno interests (not because of my staggering intellect and uncompromisingly good looks, as I may wish to think) that I have been invited into the Musicological Musings family.
I look forward to offering another perspective on music and the culture that surrounds it. Future posts will include, but will not be limited to, the experience of field research and archival work, reactions to ethnomusicological sources, and the role of music in today’s America.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
In the interest of being consistent with my blogging, I'll not post for a month, and then post twice in three days. I've been reading Attali's "Noise," and wanted to stew over a few things. 
I've studied with a professor who has thought extensively about music according to the ideas of Rene Girard, so I've had a chance to come to terms with perhaps the most disturbing thought in the first two chapters of Attali's book, that music is a simulacrum for ritual murder. That train of thought is another blog post altogether, since agree or disagree, it forces you to consider the nastier aspects of music that most of us don't like to confront.
The thought I want to deal with today comes from the section "Music and Money." Attali states that in either the sense of classical economics or Marxist economics, "the composer of the score is unproductive." Attali explains that someone is productive if their labor "contributes to the accumulation of capital, which creates surplus-value," and that someone is unproductive if their labor "if only of interest to the purchaser for the use-value of its product." A composer is unproductive because not only do they not produce capital, but there is no exchange of use-value. Ignoring the fact that Attali believes that some composers are unsalaried workers since they work on commission (something that obviously not every composer does), there seems a basic economic contradiction in this model when applied to classical musics. A composer is unproductive, since they don't generate wealth; however, for someone to generate wealth "as the employee of someone in the entertainment business," there is almost always a score. So, for wealth to be produced, there needs to be a composition, but the creation of that composition is fundamentally unproductive.
I understand that Attali believes that composers "create wealth in the capitalist mode of production while remaining outside of it," but what about other modes of production?. It was a heavy idea to chew over at 8 in the morning. How does this contradiction change how we think about composers or the act of composing? Should it? Feel free to comment.
Monday, August 23, 2010
To nearly everyone who reads this, today (or last week) marks the start of another academic year, and the start of my first year on the *other* side of the desks. Although I am partially envious of my friends who have gone on to their PhD programs, I have a few friends who are also teaching for the first time this semester. I'm hoping that we can trade ideas (and horror stories) (and funny stories), and that I can learn enough about the terminal degree process that there aren't a lot of surprises when I get there. If anyone wants to contribute a post about their activities this semester, either teaching or learning, drop one of us a line. The next post will probably be from Tyler, the newest regular contributor to our blog. Until then, I hope everyone has a good first day! I'll leave you with a great cover of Van Morrison's "Into the Mystic."
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
The clergy maintained that Galileo
Was a wicked and senseless man.
(Galileo was senseless.)
But, as time demonstrated,
He who is senseless is much wiser.
A fellow scientist of Galileo's age
Was no less wise than Galileo.
He knew that the earth revolved.
But - he had a family.
And he, stepping into a carriage with his wife,
Having accomplished his betrayal,
Considered himself advancing his career,
Whereas he undermined it,
For his assertion of our planet
Galileo faced the risk alone
And became truly great.
To my mind, this is a true careerist!
Thus - salute to the career!
When the career is similar
To Shakespeare and Pasteur,
Newton and Tolstoy,
Why was mud flung at them?
Talent is talent, brand them as one may.
Those who cursed them are forgotten.
But the accursed are remembered well,
All those who yearned for the stratosphere,
The doctors who perished fighting cholera,
They were pursuing a career!
I take as an example their careers.
I believe in their sacred belief.
Their belief is my courage.
I pursue my career
By not pursuing it!
Friday, July 9, 2010
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Apologies for the long hiatus, but in between a publication, conferences, and finishing my thesis, I was sorely pressed for time. Activity on the blog will not subside over summer (I've got all school year for that), but will consist of my long-anticipated ongoing feature on contemporary music. Before that begins, I'd like to take this opportunity to talk on a more personal subject. As some of you might know, this year marks the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America.
On that note, it takes a certain kind of crazy to trust a 15 year old with anything, and I'd like to thank all of those who took that chance. The best way I know to repay them is to return the favor, which brings me to the point of this post. As part of acknowledging my debt to both my leaders and the organization, I'm filling out an application to be a merit badge counselor. For those unfamiliar with merit badges, the BSA has a great site here that explains the program, what a counselor is, etc. There are a wide variety of merit badges, and although I am only qualified for one (nuclear science music), many of you might be able to help out in additional ways.
If I have boys, I'll certainly encourage them to do scouts. Until then, this is a great way for me to start paying back a group that gave me so much, and a fantastic chance for people who have never been involved in scouting to help an organization that certainly deserves it!
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Last week, I spent an hour and a half hanging different colored airplanes from the ceiling between the two wings of the music school. It provided an opportunity to think about the sound scape that I was helping install, about the nature of art in space in particular, and about the art consumption habits of music school students. I'm not going to discuss the installations themselves, I'll leave that for the composers, James Young and Leah Sproul Pulatie, to post comments and explain (and also link to any photos or videos they have).
The first thought I had was how nice it was to be helping create something. I am not in any way trying to take credit for any of the ideas or more than a small pittance of the work involved. I simply mean that, despite the fact that I spend most of my day studying music, but very little time making any of my own. It was nice to feel how a composer must feel, as they bring something genuinely new into the world. Despite all logistical and reception problems, regardless of whether or not anyone in the world likes the work, creation is still important. Both installations took inordinate amounts of work, and both will be up around a month, and then will probably never be seen again. The courage to do that work for such a (seemingly, in this late capitalist consumer culture) little material reward is remarkable. I'd do well to remember this, and the small taste of how it feels, as I go on to teach and critique.
The second thought I had was about these works, in their spaces. Both installations were designed for a specific space. Both are spaces that I see nearly every day, and never think of. What I've found matters to me the most regarding these installations is the fact that now, I notice and think of these spaces. It's not merely that there is art happening in them. It is my awareness being broadened, forced to (re-) incorporate marginalized areas that I had before not thought of, areas which will forever be changed (even after the sculptures are taken down) in my mind because of the presence of these installations. I've found that this thinking is more marked with Jame's installation, because of the nature of the space. It is a transitional space, a way of getting from one arrival to another. If anything, it is normally seen as a nuisance, as a space that needs to be traversed before "more" can happen. Now, I am conscious of every step I take, and even find myself lingering in this transitory space, a space I would have no other reason to remain in, to take in more of the installation. I also find myself thinking more about similar spaces I see everyday and pay no mind to.
My third thought involves how students in music school, who will be in one sense of the word professional artists, received the installation of the sculpture. I understand how it could be annoying to have the walkway closed off, as it forces someone to take time out of their day in order to detour, and I don't honestly know how I would have felt about it if I had been in a bad mood (or not known the composer). I heard a LOT of complaining, which, inconvenience aside, is almost inexcusable. It would seem that, as future professional artists, each student here would be trying to consume as much as possible, if for no other reason than because they are curious. As I learned as I talk, write, and teach about music that I love, and as I ask others for music they love, they are a terrifyingly small number of practicing musicians who are actively listening, and that alarms me very much.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Let us explore a hypothetical:
Assume that you are seeing a live performance of the classic Miles Davis album “Kind of Blue” performed by the original musicians,* exactly how it sounds on the album. You experience this performance in two locations (completely identical performances both times), Blue Note Jazz Club in Greenwich Village and Rose Hall at the Jazz at Lincoln Center complex. To try and create as close to ceteris paribus conditions as possible, let us also assume that any of the ideological, acoustical, and historical material associated with both localities are neutralized, leaving just the music and the visuals. I think you know where I am going with this, the experience of the music would be different. The visual experiences of these localities would work symbiotically with the music in a parallel (identical?) way to music and film.
I understand that the last assertion is a little contentious. The visuals in film are projected two-dimensional images, framed within a set of conventions that allows the music to, at the same time, exist both separate (in that it is does not have to be part of the diegesis) and simultaneous with the image. This allows the music to create a metaphorical relationship with the image; a dialectic between image and music that act on each other creating a synthesis. This is what Michel Chion terms audio-vision, very succinctly summarized by Phil Ford in his review of Michael Long’s book as being, “compounds of sounds, pictures, and words—virtual collections of audiovisual memes assembled in spectators’ minds. The items within these collections are of ever-shifting and indeterminate kind and number; their individual meanings depend on their relations to one another, and those mutual relationships are in constant flux.”
Though a concert hall is typically a static visual (real life experiences of a concert can be visually more dynamic than some film, for example arena rock), the relationship remains the same, or at least similar. Our primary focus in the hypothetical is the music; the imagery is peripheral in our mind. However, in most films the image is in the fore with the music as “background.” This is a very important point that I do not want to just dismiss. In film, even if the image is a static black screen, the music is always perceived as commenting on the image, otherwise it would just be a recording.** In a concert the imagery is affecting our perception of the music.*** Despite this inversion and inequality of roles, there is still a dialectic relationship in which music and visuals interact, changing our perception of both.
I believe we should further explore this relationship vis-à-vis daily life in the 21st century. From birth, individuals are inundated with audiovisual material from films, television, and increasingly the internet. In addition, ipod culture has made it possible for individuals to quite literally provide a soundtrack to their everyday life. Whereas in the early 20th century, framing devices, such as film title music, were needed to “provide the accommodative imaginary space in which a view-auditor recalculates the relationship between ‘real’ sensory input and the interior envisioning required for successful reception of a filmic environment” (Long 34), in the 21st century, viewers no longer need these framing devices to bridge that gap; blurring the line between the real and the imagined. This blurring is furthered by video games and other virtual environments where the individual takes on the persona of a character on screen, becoming fully engrossed into an imaginary diegesis.
Obviously, this is nothing more than some preliminary thoughts, and it may be either totally unoriginal or (for lack of a better word) bogus, however, I think there may be an under-explored intersection between music and vision here that could lead to profound insights into how we understand both.
* I could use an example with musicians that are still alive but it doesn’t really matter, besides I love imagining this possibility.
** This point is brought up by either Gorbmann or Chion, I can’t remember at the moment, but the important point to acknowledge is that it is not a completely equal relationship.
*** Music dramas may complicate this understanding.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Hello fellow U-of-Lers,
during one of my numerous talks with Dr. Christensen this semester, we discussed the oral exam we have to take before we can graduate. I know that they posted an announcement about "practice" sessions Friday (and if someone has those and could comment to remind us all, that would be great), but here is what I've found out...
My impression was that the purpose of grad orals (at UofL, I'm not speaking categorically, although it would be interesting to know someone else's experience) is to fill in holes and get us ready for teaching/ the next step. Following are some sample questions, and I hope you'll forgive any unclear passages, as I was writing these on a post-it as fast as I could:
I don't know how valuable this will be to anyone, but this next nugget will be. Since I've been a student for so long, I have quite an ingrained "test anxiety" reflex. I got the clear impression that I was not something to be worried about or dread. Basically, as long as you are clear, concise, and reasonably intelligent, you should do find. And after two years of graduate work, it's nice to hear that!
Monday, January 11, 2010
I hope that this finds you in good health and warm weather! (I'll take one or the other). Since it's both a new year and a new decade, this seems like an auspicious time to let you know about some of my plans for the blog: