The URI! Zone - 11/2002
Another month down. There's only thirteen days of class left for me this semester, since I only do things on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Pretty soon I need to start studying for the comprehensive exams, which are being offered in one week's time. I think the biggest part of that will just be refreshing my memory on terms and biographies.
The New Music Ensemble performed last night (two pieces by Schwantner and Crumb). It was refreshing to hear performances that were obviously well-prepared and articulate, rather than the usual "throw everything together for a three day festival of crap".
So next year at this time, I'll be a software engineer in northern Virginia. That doesn't mean I'll stop composing by any stretch of the imagination. I just decided that this is what I need to be doing for the forseeable future, based on a combination of factors. Here are the questions I posed back in August:
Do I have enough inspiration to compose for the span of an entire career without rehashing old material?
Probably so, depending on how prolific I would be. I started off in high school with scads of new music every month, but have continuously slowed down since then. This probably reflects more attention to detail than lack of inspiration, but it's important for me to realize that composing for a living would require me to write consistently, rather than whenever I feel moved to do so. Even now, I'm starting to see subtle things in my thesis that I already said in my string quartet and some earlier works. The average joe isn't going to notice, but I can anticipate that it will be much harder to be fresh if I'm always writing.
Am I a good enough composer to make an artistic difference?
I'd like to think that I write decent music, and there are definitely a few measures of inspired lunacy in my work. But on the whole, my music won't change the face of contemporary music, and it's never tried to. I write particular things because I think it would be neat to. The composing world needs more people willing to push forward, and there's already a good majority with nothing to say who don't know how to shut up.
Am I motivated enough to "sell" myself competitively and professionally in an already-struggling academic field?
Yes, I could do it. No, I wouldn't want to. With purse strings getting tighter and composers seen as ancillary, I can picture the constant sales pitch needed to attain a decent position in life. I don't have a "go-get-'em" attitude when it comes to music, and I think it's very important for people in music to have that if they're willing to get anywhere. Plus, in the computer field I've already "got-'em" so to speak. Why fight to establish myself in another field when I've already staked a claim in one? Someone without a split focus could provide just as much competency as me, and would probably appreciate it more.
Will the amount of time and effort devoted to a Doctorate make me that much better at composing (quantitatively speaking)?
No. I do not do a good job of taking advantage of my situation and pursuing a Doctorate wouldn't necessarily change that about me. I don't have the urge to explore new possibilities, listen to new music, or take advantage of performances, which tells me that I shouldn't make music my first priority.
In addition to these points, there's also a few others. Notably, it's too easy for me to use my split focus as an excuse or crutch, and I'd like to do away with it. When I pursued the disparate fields equally as an undergrad, I could always attribute my shortcomings in one field to my attention in the other field. As long as I have both doors propped open, I'll be able to fall back on that excuse, and it's a habit that I need to stop.
This is all coupled with the fact that this computer opportunity came at just the right time. With the state of the economy and the mindset of both fields, now seemed like the time to jump onboard with FGM, and FGM in particular. The fact that the company is an incredible working environment played as big a role as any of the above musical reasons. If I hadn't had an offer specifically from FGM, I would continue with the Doctorate.
Finally, I'm tired of learning to live and want to start living. I've been in the bastions of higher education for seven consecutive years now (since I was sixteen), and I'd like to get some real responsibility and goals underway. I'd like to stop living in temporary places, stop moving every year, and start considering somewhere to be a permanent home (perhaps even with furniture and pictures on the wall!). Though I admit to some bias with going back to good old northern Virginia, I can also consider the fact that FGM has offices in Colorado Springs, San Diego, and Hawaii as well, if I ever get tired of Virginia. I probably won't though; the pace of life there suits me.
It's not like I'm quitting composing -- I'm just bailing out of official composition education. Northern Virginia has a plethora of performance opportunities and I'll still be writing and practicing whenever the urge strikes me.
Questions or comments? Have I made a mistake? Want to come along? As always, you can e-mail me with the icon on the upper right.
I've updated the Work in Progress page. I'm scant measures away from the end of the fifth section of my thesis, and I'll go back to do the fourth this weekend. My goal right now is to have the first seven parts done by Christmas, leaving the rest for that slow period before classes start. Hopefully everything will be complete around January, at which time I can start editing and making scores.Officer confuses taser for gun
Water Ballooning is now Assault
The evil clown generator
I finished the fifth movement in time for my lesson today but it was postponed until Friday. So with no other worthy pursuits (or none that I felt like pursuing), I wrote another report for www.battlereports.com , and posted my previous one on the Writings page. It feels good to be writing for a voracious audience again; although it's a lot of work, it's a different kind of work than composing, and helps provide a change of pace every now and again. Tomorrow I'll start working on the fourth movement and that whole "studying for comps" thing.
I need a haircut too.
I'm hoping to kickstart my agenda a little bit and get more composing done before next semester starts. Kickstarting either works or it doesn't, but it'd be nice to have nothing to worry about but proofreading next year. I should probably get my committee together sometime soon, since technically you're not supposed to start working on your thesis until you've submitted a signed prospectus. Procedures around the School of Music aren't always straightforward -- I had to visit the office on three separate occasions just to sign up for my three fake classes!
Memorizing musical biographies for the sake of regurgitation is incredibly boring. Maybe I'll get drafted into the Oil War before I have to take my comps.
This morning I transitioned between movements with a sudden modulation to b VI. It made me feel like I was in high school again, although I do admit that I like it in context. The next movement will probably have a melody based on I, b VII, VI, V7...
It finally got cool in Tallahassee, which is a nice change of pace from last week's unending humidity and cloudy skies. We'd better enjoy it before summer starts in December.
Everyone should sign up for the Theory/Comp recreational basketball league. It should be a barrel of laughs.
There will be no update today because it's already tomorrow.
Chompy holds off police for five hours
We went and saw the Eminem vehicle, 8 Mile, last night and it was surprisingly good. Eminem has a great stage presence, and never made me wince with his acting. It was interesting to see what kind of audience the movie drew, and we probably shared the theatre with half the high-school population of Tallahassee.
Today was a fun day. After shopping and studying for comps, we went to the county fair and took advantage of last day prices. We spent several hours frolicking amongst the obesity of Tallahassee and riding classic fair rides, and also took in some livestock, prized baked goods, and a ventriloquist with an incredibly irritating puppet that stuttered.
Later in the evening we played a spur-of-the-moment game of basketball on campus and actually managed to round up seven people. I definitely need more 'alley' and less 'oops', as illustrated by my shooting average. I also jammed my left index finger on the ball, so any typos in this update can be blamed on the fact that the finger is soaking in ice water while I type with one hand.
It's tough to type with a bum finger, and even harder to complete chords while composing. It's still swollen up and bruised, but it doesn't hurt at all, so I guess I just have to wait for it to heal up.
Comps exams start tomorrow so I'll be suitably occupied until the end of the week. I may not update this page during that time. I feel pretty comfortable with most of the materials; the only areas that might catch me offguard are the random historical tidbits I'll need for the essays.
Today I did the exam portions on form and harmonic analysis. It was pretty straightforward and very similar to the practice exam. You get all four days worth of exams all at once in four separate envelopes, and you give yourself four hours to do each packet. I started with Day 4, and might begin another Day later tonight, just to get things over with a little bit faster. Hopefully I don't open the History packet... I'd like a few more days to cram useless facts into my short-term memory.
Exams are going along fine. Since it's obvious that four hours really won't be needed for each packet of the test, I've been skipping around and going section by section instead. I knew most of the musical terms, and my 16th century writing is functional, if not a work of art. I'm surprised at the density of theorists and early vocal composers on the Biographies section (but then again, I'm really not surprised, since Composition is the third nipple of the Theory Department). After I finish the Biographies, I'm going to try and do the Part-Writing tonight after dinner, so I have all day tomorrow and Friday for whatever the essays have in store.
I finished the last of my Comps exams this afternoon. The essays weren't too difficult -- it was just a matter of being complete without being able to use of specific examples (I guess some people might have an encyclopedic knowledge of examples to cite but I just stuck with naming composers and the occasional title). The biographies were pretty straightforward although I dated most of them by half-century rather than specific years. There was one name that I had no idea about and couldn't even recall reading about ever. Since only last names were given on the exam, I took advantage of the loophole and wrote about the saxophonist/composer jazzer of the same name. There were two others that I didn't know much about: one was a vocal polyphony guy and the other was an early 20th century French composer.
Jim recommended a book, An Outline History of Music by Milo Wold, which is a perfect study guide for exams such as this. It goes period by period and provides capsule information about style, notation, form, composers, and theorists. Though not enough to learn material, it's a great refresher course and very concise (about 200 pages).
It looks like I'll be teaching the two trailing sections of Sightsinging I next semester. It'll be the same students I have now, but split into two groups so it should be fun. I'm looking forward to it.
I downloaded the theme song from the old TV show, Ducktales, which I used to watch religiously. Good times.
I took my string quartet to an Eppes Quartet session on Thursday night for criticisms and feedback, and got to hear several sections of it live. It gave me some useful ideas on how to make it notationally easier and sections that might be a little too demanding.
Now that comps exams are over, I need to get back on track with thesis writing. I need to start throwing out less music and refining more of it.
There are no stores along Apalachee Parkway that sell thick white chalkboard chalk. In this town you have your choice of pastel pink sidewalk chalk, or thin white chalk that looks like a candy cigarette and squeaks on the board. I got all the way to Wal-mart before I gave up.
We had a rehearsal for the Duruflé requiem this afternoon and it sounds like it will be a good performance. The ensemble is the University Singers under Dr. Fenton (who used to teach at Tech) accompanied by organ, string quartet, harp, timpani, and three trumpets. Come to Opperman tomorrow night, unless you're already roped into going to the competing Tallahassee Winds concert.
There was a good episode of Boston Public on last night that touched on the economy of becoming a music major. The shows are always good when they pursue musical subplots, and they even gave the choir director a baton so she doesn't look like a total retard when conducting the orchestra. However, they closed off one of the last remaining first season characters in this episode, so future quality is up in the air. That character was probably the favourite of the show for many viewers. In other entertainment news, Alias is still getting fairly low ratings, probably because ABC insists on leading into it with kiddie movies like Peter Pan and Beauty and the Beast. If they could get more adults to just sit down and watch it, there's no doubt that it would do much better.
I've gotten 4997 visitors since this site opened last August. You might be number 5000! Follow the tiny counter link on the lower right corner of this page to see if you've won... nothing.
Congratulations to Mike, who was the 5000th visitor to the URI! Domain. Including the first five years, I have to be nearing ten thousand visitors by now.
Tech threw the WVU game last night with an interception right at the end of the fourth quarter, losing 21-18. It looks like a big bowl isn't going to be in the team's future; they'll probably get shipped off to the Music City Bowl again in Nashville, Tennessee.
I actually had a student come in for office hours today. It's amazing how much information you can get through with a class size of 1 rather than 32.
I cleaned the hell out of my apartment this afternoon. It's shiny now.
In Florida, no one cares if you die.
Hot laptop burns scientist's penis
We had an impromptu practice of the theory department basketball team this morning which was a barrel o' fun for everyone involved. For all the lazy assclowns that didn't roll out of bed into the brisk weather, the next practice is on December 7.
I finally got around to adding my latest battle report to the Writings page.
I'm a mere four measures away from completing my fourth movement bringing the thesis to about ten and a half minutes. I should finish it tomorrow, so I'll post an MP3 of how it sounds so far. Apparently the average sound card doesn't do justice to the extramusical effects I'm using.
By the way, the library now has a copy of The Muse that Sings. If you were interested in the book but didn't want to pay the high price right away, you should check it out.
Thanksgiving Break begins for me tonight, as I have no other classes until next Monday. I don't have any plans other than composing, grading quizzes, and fighting crime. I've started boxing up some books to take home permanently -- the musical ones that look really impressive on the shelf but never actually get opened. I'll probably need to replace some of my legacy computer stuff over break too. My eight-year-old subwoofer which was deaf in one channel finally stopped working at all, and my five-year-old printer charges two sheets of paper to print on the side of one.
There's been a paucity of pictures on the News page recently, so have a cat.
I finished the fourth movement this morning and have decided to post an MP3 of the MIDI for anyone interested in giving a listen. I've got four movements to go, but they're short-ish (about four and a half more minutes).
Campus is already dead. It seems like people leave for breaks a few hours earlier every year. If I were still at Tech, I'd probably have left last Wednesday.
Why you shouldn't download kiddy porn at work
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