Sunday, January 24, 2010

Graduate Orals

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:

-what are you going to do next year (future plans), and how did you prepare for that/ what project/course gave you the start for that?

-what's the most impt thing you've learned and how could you apply it to the future?

-discuss thesis (or culminating graduate project) in a very brief way

-what course/event has lead to critical juncture in my thinking?

[These next are more specific for me and my thesis work, but could give some direction for the rest of you as to what to expect:]
development of symphonies, text and music in symphonic form

form, history of genre, where it took place in history, composer, cultural mileau in which it took place, contemporary composers/works

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

New Year, New Ideas

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:

–a cross-blog interaction. The details are still being worked out, so I'll refrain from mentioning topic, participants, etc just now. I do hope that you will all get involved, as one of the perpetual goals of this blog is to encourage conversation, especially among people who otherwise would be unable to share ideas. 

–a long-term study of analysis and value judgement (those hardcore musicologists among you will recognize the name of Dahlhaus's monograph). I want to investigate what makes people think music is good or not. Notice that I did not say "what makes music good," as I am enough of a realist to understand the difficulty of that question, and it honestly interests me less than why people believe the music is good. I hope to involve several of my composer friends; as composers have a different technical understanding, and a different way of listening (as they have to be able to identify passages that "work" or not, and determine why), I hope that they will shed some light on this topic. 

–a long-term survey of people's musical perceptions. Several of you will be receiving facebook requests to answer some questions for me, both about your listening habits in general, and as applied to a couple short pieces/songs (and if you're not on facebook, please drop me a line if you'd like to participate!). This line of inquiry is part of my perpetual fascination with what people are hearing and what meanings they are constructing from the music, but it also has practical pedagogical applications. As I begin to prepare for teaching this summer and fall, I believe that understanding how a "typical" listener perceives and processes music will be invaluable.

As you can see, I am hoping to start more interaction and conversation, and am hoping to pose some general (although by no means simple!) questions: how do we listen? How do we assign value?  How do we decide what we like to listen to? How do we convey these ideas? 

Looking forward to this year with you!