Peter Tosh performs “Get Up, Stand Up”: IDing which version of ^6 and ^7 occurs

On this second day of exploring the minor mode, the skill I want to tackle is being able to identify which version of scale degrees 6 and 7 a composer uses. This song, an example of early reggae written by Bob Marley, has limited pitch material. It’s also highly repetitive. These two factors combine to make it a good teaching example.  Here’s my plan: Continue reading

“Sakura”: Introducing the minor mode

We are now returning from Fall break, and we are ready to start tackling the minor mode. This simple tune is easy to teach by ear and nicely emphasizes the minor mode’s characteristics: ^3 and ^6.  I also have a personal connection to it, as it seems to be the one Japanese tune that my parents taught me as a kid (and that gets taught in elementary schools). Here is my plan: Continue reading

Podcasting, pt. 2: Experiments from this semester

After feeling really good about my use of podcasts last semester, I wanted to continue exploring it this semester. My upper division class, Form and Analysis, didn’t seem like the right space for podcasting because we are working at a level of analysis wonderfully fraught with nuance and detail. Podcasts (as I have been using them) are best for passing on factual information, information I assume these upper-division students already have.

So, the experiments landed on my Aural Skills 1 class. This course does not initially feel like a natural fit for podcasting since there is almost no lecture anyways. Furthermore, I do not want to force things into a podcast just for the sake of using the tool. So, I was surprised that I ended up with two opportunities for a podcast use during the first 6.5 weeks of the course. Continue reading

Podcasting, pt. 1 (reflection on past use)

Last semester, I used podcasts for the first time.  I tried it out in my Theory 4 class, which felt like a natural place to try it out. Many of the theoretical concepts in theory 4 are simple, requiring little nuance for a basic understanding of them.  It’s the application of those concepts that is key.

More than any 100- or 200-level class, I teach theory 4 as a piece-by-piece class. I know why I pick the pieces (modes, set classes, serialism, etc.), and I make sure the student has one take-away point that highlights why we got to study the piece even though most of the class is spent on a complete analysis of the piece (form, pitch, motive, broader context, etc.).  When class time starts, I want to hit the ground running in a musical space, which means that I want to dig into analysis immediately.  In other words, I don’t want to lecture about the modes and then dig into Debussy’s “Sunken Cathedral.”

In previous semesters, I achieved this goal by lecturing and woodsheding the necessary theoretical topics on Monday, then teaching one or two pieces over the week’s remaining two classes.  I thought this format worked pretty well.  But the idea of podcasting really opened up new realms of possibilities.  Here’s what I did:

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“Soon or Never,” Punch Brothers: small dictation for exam practice

So, we have one more class before their first high-stakes listening ==> processing ==> writing exam. I wanted a very short excerpt to include on Monday’s class (intended to specifically prepare them for a written exam). I’m obsessed with The Punch Brothers’ newest album, Who’s Feeling Young Now? and had no problems finding a good example (55 seconds into the track).  I like this example because the basic melody is … basic, yet has one challenging moment (a leap down to ^6) that makes it non-trivial.  It also has harmony above the tune that some students can focus on figuring out. So, there’s ways to keep the quicker students challenged. Continue reading

evaluation squared: evaluating my evaluation process

Last week, I experimented with administering my anonymous informal evaluations on-line.  I ran it pretty much as described here, with one exception: I did not hold them accountable (by requiring them to self-report their completion) for returning an evaluation.

I deem this semester’s experiment a failure.  Even though I received good quality feedback, the rate of return was too low for my taste. But, several pleasant surprises and good experiences with this format make me want to try it again next semester with some tweaks. Continue reading

Bai Tango Cho Em (“A Tango For You,” Vietnamese Karaoke Song) [small dictation exercise]

Ok, so it’s really a appropriation of Liszt’s “Liebestraum” No. 3 into 4/4 time and an (even) smaltzier setting.  I would love to work on the vocals, which break away from Liszt’s beautiful melody, but given my time constraints, I’m going to stick with the violin solo that frames the duet. I do hope to take 30 seconds to set up the context for this example, and I’m so very grateful to my Soundscapes book for providing that to me.  Here are some strengths of the example:

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The Thrill is Gone: A strategy for hearing bass and harmony

I just finished reading through some brief reflections (from students) about what’s hardest for them in the process of hearing ==> processing ==> dictating. While I didn’t learn about any new problems, a strategy for dealing with them did emerge. Many reflected that grabbing onto a note and trying to work out possible harmonies kind of worked for them.  I want to refine that strategy with this activity. Continue reading

Informal Evaluations: My Forgetfulness Spawns an Experiment

I completely missed my traditional time for doing informal evaluations (week 5 of the semester). So, this semester I’m going to experiment with having students do them online.  I know the “studies show” that giving dedicated time during class highlights the value I give these evaluations. But, I’m fiddling around with ways to still get students to (1) complete them, (2) take them seriously, and (3) not take class time.  First, a few comments on why these evaluations have been crucial to my development as a teacher… Continue reading

In the midst of the Middle Ground

Today, my Form and Analysis class visited our wonderful museum and received an introduction to visual analysis. Everyone attended, everyone spoke, and everyone was engaged (a 12-student class). I am curious to hear what they think they took from the visit when we meet again on Friday. I’m equally curious to see if, at the end of the semester, they find that they took more than expected from the visit. We engaged with four works, and I described some of my and the museum’s educators’ preparation in this post. Continue reading