Friday, February 27, 2009

So there

Train Horns
I guess I'm safe in my profession for the time being! I'm curious to know if others really don't hear it--the high-pitched squeal was pretty loud and annoying to me.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Tridentine YouTube

It's no secret that YouTube is endlessly useful for teaching purposes, whether it be obscure television shows, documentary footage, or simply opera clips when you are too lazy to find the video.

One more possible use: I think we would all agree that when you're teaching that part of a music history sequence that involves medieval plainchant, and you have to explain the structure of Roman Catholic Mass (the Proper, the Ordinary, etc.), it is pretty hard to make a dynamic presentation. There are lots of Latin terms, for one, and it seems like there are lots of arbitrary rules that don't make sense.

Enter YouTube! Just before teaching this stuff myself, I realized that one can find all sorts of videos of the traditional Tridentine Mass in Latin. With a video of the Mass, suddenly everything makes a lot more sense, and you get a sense of how all these seemingly random chants work in practice.

I ended up using this one, recorded in 1941 with a proper all-male choir. It's even subtitled, which makes it easy to find sections. (Sometimes the titles are a bit off, so be careful.) The downsides are that it is in black and white, is a bit fuzzy, and the musical settings of the Ordinary are, as the description delicately puts it, "of its time."

If you want full color and better quality, there is a contemporary video done by a conservative parish in Paris. I went with the older one because it seemed a little more, well, medieval, but either would work well.

These videos are, of course, somewhat propagandist, produced by organizations opposed to Vatican II liturgical revisions. The comments sections and some of the narration involved with these videos are fascinating, especially to a non-Catholic such as myself. One could easily ignore these in class, but I actually tried to use it as a teaching moment: in the wake of Summorum Pontificum, there is a lot of impassioned discussion of the liturgy out there, and it can be a good window into how the Roman Mass got to be the way it is.

Monday, February 16, 2009

A week in the life of...

Monday: The standardization of chant, early nineteenth-century art song.
Tuesday: Lisztian piano virtuosity (twice)
Wednesday: chant notation, Schumann's piano music
Thursday: Italian opera (twice), Haydn 104
Friday: modes and hexachords, Berlioz

The hard part of teaching five classes, with four preps, is not the amount of time it takes to teach and grade 135 students by yourself, but keeping it all straight in your head from class to class!

But so far, so good.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Church of Cage

Just in case you are not, as I am, a subscriber to Silence-l, the John Cage email discussion group, you will be amused to know that its members are currently discussing, with some seriousness, the feasibility of building a church or other some such memorial to the great man.

Awesome. That's all I have to say about that.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Complete Stravinsky on the Cheap

Remember Alex Ross's little tip that you can get the complete works of Stravinsky on CD for about thirty dollars via Amazon UK? Like many others, I took advantage of it, and my set arrive today. Verdict? Totally worth it. As Alex says, it is a 22 CD set on Sony Classical, mostly recordings conducted by Stravinsky or Craft in the 1950s and 1960s. Obviously, those of us immersed in the world of twentieth-century modernism will not be satisfied by the package alone; the serious musicologist will still need his/her's six different recordings of Le Sacre. But you know, the man wrote a lot of music, and this is a great way to have all those obscure etudes and sacred pieces that wouldn't really be worth buying separately, but are nice to have on hand for the odd passing research question or teaching moment.

And the best part is that it only took about a week to arrive, and the total bill for me including shipping was $36.92.

P.S. Why wasn't the exchange rate this good when my wife was going to school in England for five years?