▶ The end of the symphony orchestra.

Must-read piece by Michelle Jones on the biggest problem in music ed. today.

Universities are slow to change. The bureaucrats and academians (yes, I made up this word) are not as open-minded as one would think. They want to protect their jobs more than they care about the students that merely pass through their halls. It’s self-preservation for them. By creating more graduates, they increase their numbers and tenure. Since only a tiny minority of the music school graduates land the coveted symphony jobs, those that don’t usually end up doing a career not in their chosen field, or end up teaching themselves. Universities expand to meet the demands of the higher population of students going to college, and they expand the departments where people want to major. Since most universities only want professors who have masters or doctoral degrees, those who have these credentials get the jobs. Those who usually have these credentials also were a product of the same university system where the goal is to get and keep their job. Many of the university professors that I have encountered throughout the past twenty-plus years have not had to create their own businesses and make a living as freelance musicians. They have had the regular job of teaching as their “fall-back” and have not been forced to make the same decisions that today’s students face.

She also includes a handy list of suggestions that will surely (but not hopefully) fall on deaf ears. Among my obvious favorites on the list:

6. All music students should learn about recording arts. I’m not asking that each musician learn every detail of a mixing board, but rather to understand the specific microphone placement and recording of their chosen instrument(s). Most musicians will have some experience with recording during their lifetime, especially if they are submitting a recorded audition for a symphony orchestra.

7. In addition to learning about recording arts, all music students should learn how to play to a click track/pre-recorded track. This is especially helpful to have some experience with this, as many of the jobs that require a symphony are film and television studios.

8. All music students should learn how to amplify their instruments electronically. They should learn the difference between pickups and microphones, wired and wireless, amps and speakers, direct-input boxes and pre-amps, etc. More and more of today’s jobs include specific amplification of instruments for live settings and large venues.

How long before our generation is allowed into the universities to start making these important changes? Five years? Ten years? Will we have much of a classical music industry by then?

That moment when imperfection is perfect

Great over-thorough analysis of the first two measures of Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream by Nick Jaworski.

“Striking” does not mean “bad”. Far from it, I find it strangely compelling. Clearly, there are two guitar parts playing simultaneously – each guitar individually panned (placed) into the left and right ears. It’s the guitar in the right ear that lags behind.

I’m totally a sucker for this kind of writing.  Be sure to check out Nick’s other project, Leading Notes.  Nick gets it, and he’s a big voice for our cause.

Teach with Portals

Cool new initiative from Valve:

STEAM for SCHOOLS is the educational version of Steam, specially designed for use by teachers and students in a classroom setting either in a school or an afterschool or summer program setting (site). All functionality that isn’t core to the education experience has been disabled in this special version of Steam. The only game available through STEAM for SCHOOLS at this time is Portal 2 and the Portal 2 Puzzle Maker.

Check out the lesson plans.  Cool for hip, young physics teachers.

“You won’t feel as though you’ve just stolen a Klingon battle cruiser”

Create Digital Music has a great “hands on” with iOS GarageBand that reads more like a treatise on designing easy software for beginners who are uncomfortable with most music software.

I’d like to add that iOS GarageBand allows far more ability to create original “crutched” music (via the excellent Smart Instruments) than it’s Mac big brother does. In fact, if I had an unlimited budget, I’d start my class on iOS GarageBand and then move straight to Ableton Live.

The article doesn’t address the fact that “digital natives” (kids who grow up comfortable with computer-y metaphors and don’t need real world metaphors to help them use a computer) tend to care less about the look of an app, and more about how quickly/easily it works. When I say I could start beginners on Ableton Live, it’s totally due to the “laid-bareness” of the UI. Everything you need is there, works, and is clear.

Nothing needs to look like a “real” instrument (or gear/rack) because the computer itself is the “real” instrument now.