Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Assigning Music: An Update

An update on my oh-so-fascinating post about the logistics of assigning music in class. There are some good comments to that post you should check out if you are interested. Among other things, Glenn reminded me that iTunes files are only playable on Apple players like the iPod or iPhone. The more I thought about that, the more it stuck in my craw. As prevalent as iPods are, I just didn't want to endorse such a closed system.

So instead, I've decided to use the Amazon MP3 store. There isn't a system for creating lists nearly as elegant as the iMix, but it was easy enough to create a series of links in my Blackboard site for the necessary tracks. Not everything was available, but I was surprised at how much was, even some of the random Americana I have assigned in my US Music survey. (My main regret was that they didn't have the recording of Gottschalk's The Banjo I wanted, the one by my old teacher Neely Bruce. Not available as an MP3 as best as I could tell.) A few things were available out there for free: George Gaskin's 1893 recording of "After the Ball," for example, is available from the UCSB Cylinder Preservation Project and I'm just going to go ahead and give them La Monte Young bootlegs, since, you know, they're bootlegs.

Now all of this is, I should say, just supplementary. A set of audio CDs will be on reserve in the library. I will let you all know, however, how many people end up buying music themselves. It would cost about $100 to download everything, so I don't kid myself that they'll buy all of it. And I'm sure there will be some judicious copying between classmates. You can't control everything, and I feel that by providing the option to buy, I've at least done my part.

And I should have asked this earlier: I know a number of my former students read this blog. If any of you feel like chiming in on how you like to have your music delivered to you, please feel free to leave a comment!


Anonymous said...

I'm not quite certain about the legality of it but have you considered posting youtube links as a means to complete listening assignments? I feel, although many of the youtube videos violate copyright, often times the video performances (especially of classical music) are legal. Honestly that's what I already do for your class because the songs are almost always on and both Amazon and iTunes have questionable corporate practices.

PMG said...

Yeah, the YouTube thing is interesting--it was only just this past semester that I realized that a lot of people were getting music that way. As I said in the original post, one nice thing is that it does make copyright clearance Google's problem, not mine. And as form of consumption, it's more or less equivalent to the systems available at some universities that stream online music reserves.

There are two downsides to relying upon it. One is that don't have as much control over specific recordings of pieces, being at the mercy of what people have put up there. Not such an issue with pop music, but with classical music it often matters. (And as a corollary, videos often get taken down randomly, and when a test depends upon students having access to it, I would be nervous about that.)

And secondly, I personally prefer to be able to listen to music away from an internet connection--in the car, on my iPod, etc.

I guess I am more or less evolving in the direction of making some options available, but also being willing to let people find their own sources of music in ways that work for them. Of course, all of this technology will probably change every other year or so, so it's best to keep flexibility!