Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Technoethno takes a knock

I had been enjoying my new techno-geek status so much the last while, that it was absolutely inconceivable that anything could possibly threaten it. Anything, that is, until the transformer on the powerlines to my parents out-in-the -middle-of-nowhere house blew early yesterday. I had just plugged my cellphone in to recharge when it happened, and I was left with an hour of computer battery time, and no cellphone. Now there was a time when I did all my work with pen and paper, but that was in the days when cellphones were something only businessmen carried, and when books were stacks of bound and printed papers. I was even stuck for reading material, as so much of what I am at present reading is digitized. And the worst of it was, the power was expected to be down for several days. The fact that we pump our own water here, and without power would have no water, and nowhere to store the masses of uncooked Christmas food rapidly thawing in the freezer, was the least of my concerns. How was I supposed to maintain the tenuous link on my sanity with no e-mail!?
Unbelievably, more than one transformer in the valley had blown, including the one supplying the local hotel with power, and so the electricity company made quick work of it, and by 21:00, we had power. It was with some amusement that I watched our neighbours, whose transformer was intact, barbeque their dinner, while waited plaintively for the power to come back on to microwave ours.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Christmas concerts

This week has been very special. the Drakensberg Boys' Choir held their Festive Celebration from Wednesday to today (Sunday 12th December), and I went to a concert every day. On Wednesday, it was their Christmas concert, Thursday was a Christmas concert by the Chanticleer singers, Friday was the boychoir again singing the Rutter Magnificat 'and a bit of Bach', yesterday was the Boychoir's secular program, and today was a service of lessons and carols. I sometimes forget what this is all about when I am singing or conducting. I usually enjoy myself, but often the work gets the better of me, and it all becomes just a job. Well, over the past five days, I laughed harder and more than I have in a while. Yesterday, I happened to be sitting front and centre for the concert, and got some delightfully direct interaction from the choristers. One sweet little chap sang directly to me during parts of his solo, and another actually sat on my lap to sing part of it. I laughed so hard my sides ached! And I had forgotten how easily certain particularly animated faces catch one's attention. The singers who look most like they are enjoying what they are doing are the ones whose faces I look out for again and again. It reminds me just how important it is to continue to enjoy what I do. Chanticleer, who gave me a lot of pleasure with the sounds and music they made, simply failed to capture me the way the boychoir did. And don't get me wrong here, the choir are excellent singers, and that is of course important: if the choir didn't sing well, their enthusiasm would be pitiful rather than inspiring, but I almost think the expression on their faces, and their energy and playfulness is more important than the actual singing. Not absolutely, but to a certain degree. And after all, if making music isn't fun, what is the point?
If you are in South Africa for Christmas, watch out for the choir performing on SABC 2 at 21:00 on Christmas day, otherwise, they have a website which I will blog soon, and on which some of their concerts are broadcast live during the term. Just a little free publicity for them, but they really are worth hearing.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Just a thought...

I never read horoscopes. I absolutely do not believe in them. But occasionally inspiration can come from the most unexpected places. I happened to read my horoscope this morning, and it said something about looking for happiness and not stability. I really had difficulty understanding that, because to me, happiness has always been synonymous with some level of stability. Funny how things change. I am unbelievably satisfied and just plain happy at present, and yet in some ways, my life is potentially very unstable right now. And yet, that instability is a large part of what is making me so happy. For once instability = potential. I have always thought that the concept of heaven must be epitomized by endless potential. Heaven has always been associated with timelessness, and the appeal of that is endless potential. There is so much that can happen in my life right now, and the personal space I am in makes that possible.

Ok, so enough with the out-of-character philosophizing. I just wanted some sort of permanent record of that to remind myself what its all about at some appropriate point in the future.


Friday, November 26, 2004

Conferences and holiday

Almost as quickly as it came around, the conference is over, and I am on holiday. It was an amazing conference, though. Almost every paper presented had some direct bearing on mine, and I got some good feedback on mine, too. In adition, it was just nice to spend some time in a different environment among different people. The guest house I was in was beautiful, and I had a room right up in the loft, which was lovely. And just for fun, on Wednseday night, we went "pubcrawling", which in Stellenbosch after the students leave, is relatively tame. Still, it was lovely to spend some time with my colleagues in a different, very relaxed, setting. One of the places we visited was called the "Mystic Boer," which really was the sole reason we visited it!
Anyway, the conference holds prospects of overseas travel and a publication, so aside from its intrinsic value, it provides even more direction and motivation for my honours project. This really has been a good year!

Monday, November 22, 2004

a day out

I had such an amazing day today, I just had to record a little bit of it. A friend from Finland is here is SA (he is on his way to Capetown now), and has been staying with friends of his in the south of Johannesburg for the weekend. Well, he and I spent the day in Johannesburg today, and visited, among other places, Constitution hill which is built on th esite of the old fort. There is a lovely museum there, and we went for a tour of the whole place. It was amazing! I didn't realise what a good museum it was. In the afternoon, we met my supervisor in Mellville, and had coffee and cake together. It just reminded me all over again what a great person she is to work with. Not that I ever forgot it, but it was reconfirmed today. She is such a fabulous person to be around, and to talk to. anyway, enough mushy stuff. I am off to the conference in Stellenbosh tomorrow, and really looking forward to it!
Will update you on the progress we make at the conference afterwards.

Monday, November 15, 2004


This will be useful when searching for actual classical music scores. not directly related to my research, but with much coursework still ahead in my student career, it is worth knowing about

WWW sites for musicologists

WWW sites for musicologists
A real mixed bag of links, this one. may not be searchable enough to be really useful, as all the links are on one page, but it still may be useful for general information

CER Bibliography

CER Bibliography
Yet another potentially useful bibliography. This one is specifically on education related matters, so I am not too sure how useful it will be, but it may contain something relevant. everything is very nicely grouped under titles

Current Anthropology

Current Anthropology
This journal requires a subscription to access the articles, but individual subscriptions for online access only are not expensive, and it looks useful. Just may subscribe here if I think there is enough of potential value available


Untitled Document
Making some progress today. Did I mention that I am perticularly working on my proposal bibliography?
Anyway, this link is to a Journal described as "music-centered". I like to keep links to online journals as I find them so that I can find some of the most up-to-date information available. I have searched the archives of this one, and found a few potentially interesting articles. If I make use of any of them, I will post the links.

Music & Anthropology

Music & Anthropology
Ok, so this one is not as relevant to me as it is (I hope) to a friend of mine who is busy with his masters. Still, if I publish it here, perhaps he will comment on whether he finds it useful or not (hint, hint!)

UW Libraries - Music Library - Bands

UW Libraries - Music Library - Bands

So this is the link found from the last blogged page that looks just great. There are so many well organised links here, that if I don't find something useful here, I will never find anything!


Ok, so that last link wasn't quite as great as I hoped. This one looks better. Lots of useful info. Have already found one link helpful, and will blog it shortly!

EOL: Ethnomusicology Sources

potentially good link this. Just about to explore it

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Choral public domain library

This is another nice link for music, though if you search the previous one given, it will probably direct you here for some things anyway. I am getting a lot of the music that our choir is working on from here

So here is a good link, and I get free membership by linking (LOL!)
Anyway, would be worth it even if I didn't get the membership. Lots of music available to save a busy choir director hours in the library

exams are nearly over!

This is aweful, it has been so long since I last posted anything! not that I haven't been working, Still, at least they are finally over (well, the written ones at least. Still have my repetoire exam on Thursday). Doesn't mean the work stops, though. One of my lecturers lost an essay and an assignment I handed in over seven weeks ago, and as I don't seen to have kept a backup copy, I many have to rewrite them. I also have a final composition and essay assignment for digital music technology due for next Monday, and a performance at a student composition recital on saturday (I can't believe I am playing percussion). Then the following saturday, I am playing piano for a charity event, and the monday following that I'm off to Stellenbosch. And to top it all off, I need to hand in my research proposal in January. At least its mostly fun work. Any way, Today's exam was Music history, and I have a whole collection of incomplete and rather patchy notes for that, so I'll post them over the next few days. Right now, I'm going to take a well-earned break, and surf the web. Will post anything interesting I find!

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Notes for practical theory

Ok, I don't know how much sense these are going to make, they were just my notes based on the questions we were told to prepare for this exam. We have been working through chapters from David Blum's Casals and the art of interpretation, and Barry Green's The Mastery of music. This is a bit of summarising, the questions we had to prepare, and a few of my own comments. I will continue to post my study notes like this, just so that I have a backup of them, but if anyone finds them interesting or useful, please feel free to comment.

Essays for practical exam, November 2004

Discuss Cassals’ first principle (12 min, 10%)
Lotte Lehmann defines the art of interpretation as the “individual understanding and reproduction,” and while this seems too general a description to really categorise what David Blum calls “the first principle,” it appears to deal with many of the same issues.

Breath motion. Breathing gives phrasing. Life-giving, finding what the music wants to do naturally. Making the music meaningful, finding what the music wants

Discuss Cassals’ natural rules (48 min, 40%)

Variety: a succession of rainbows, both in shape, and graduation of colour. Ebb and flow.
The dynamic follows the contour. Up=more, down=less
Generally, a long note means cresc, or dim. “a note has to say something”
Repetition = contrast.
Dynamics are flexible and relative

Discuss the four motivating factors for preparing for an exam or performance (1 hour, 50%)

The desire to perform great music, to do the music and composer justice, and to give our audiences the pleasure of great music played well should ultimately underlie all music-making experiences. Unfortunately, however, this internal motivation is not always present to encourage one to practice well. Instead, therefore, one often has to rely on other motivating factors to encourage effective and regular rehearsal.
Competition can act as effective motivation for performers to practice, as it can provide a broad based standard against which to measure one’s progress, and encourage one to persevere and aim to excel. Encouraging competition between performers in a group, or between specific groups within a larger group (such as voice groups in a choir) can build a healthy desire to excel, and can keep the performers on their toes. On the other hand, however, competition can create animosity between members of a group which should be working together, or can take the focus off musical integrity, and place it instead on individual prestige. Furthermore, some people find competition demotivating, as they may never feel adequate, and prefer to measure their performance against their own previous performances. On the other hand, some people become so driven to compete that they become demotivated when the competition is removed, and may well lose sight of the original purpose of performing beautiful music. This unhealthy competitive urge can even diminish the performer’s capacity for emotionally genuine performance, as virtuosity and technical efficiency overshadow intention and artistry. None the less, competition, when used sparingly, and with discression, can be a valuable motivation.
Frequent required performances can be an excellent motivation to practice, as they give one specific goals with a timeframe to encourage frequent and effective practice. The less time one has to practice, the more efficiently one has to use what practice time one has. Furthermore, when a performance is impending, fear, pride, or anticipation will often encourage one to practice frequently, while the habit of performing can diminish performance anxiety, thus acting as general encouragement to a student who may otherwise be discouraged from performing, or even pursuing music.
The next two motivating factors, pride and fear are closely linked to the former two. Performers who have a standard to live up to are frequently motivated by pride to maintain it, while others may be motivated by fear of embarrassment to prepare thoroughly. The driving force behind competition or preparation for required performances is usually the desire not to embarrass onself, whether motivated by fear, or pride.
Once again, however, both factors can prove as debilitating as motivating. A timid performer excessively plagued by fear may find performance nearly impossible, and may be discouraged from pursuing a musical education for precisely this reason. In a case like this, regular required performances could be demotivating. Excessive pride, however, could lead a performer to become overly competitive, as mentioned before, and could diminish the natural motivation to perform good music well for its own sake.
In general, all external motivating factors should be used with discression, in order to encourage sincere, high quality performance.

Practice accuracy. Plan in order to achieve an accurate first play-through. Play slowly enough to avoid mistakes, and increase the tempo gradually only when the piece is secure at the slower tempo.
Competition: accountability and incentive. Someone or something to measure yourself against.
Required performance: motivation to practice happens instinctively

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Exam Time

Wow, it happened so fast, I barely had time to change gear. but, exams are now well and truly upon us, and I (should) have time for little else. Still, I am singing in a Bach choir concert tomorrow, 31st October (15:00 at the Wits Great Hall, for anyone in Johannesburg), and some things, like choir practices, don't stop just because I have a few exams ahead. My conducting technical exam was yesterday, and it went alright, not as well as I had hoped, but anyway, at least that is one more thing out of the way, and I also accompanied two singers exams on Wednesday, and one yesterday, which to my amazement was less terifying than I had anticipated. Oh, and by the way, did I mention that I bought myself a laptop on Wednesday? it is the most money I have ever spent at one time, but so worth it! I am at present sitting in my mothers lazyboy typing this on said laptop, when I should be studying for the written practical exam on Monday. Sounds insane, doesn't it? still, will post my thoughts on the reading matter as I develop them. One great thing about third year is that we get to pre-prepare many of our exam questions, because, or so we are informed, quality is more important that memory skill at this level. Might make sense to scrap exams altogether then, and assess on essays and assignments instead, but apparently the university still requires an exam mark, even if the writing conditions are somewhat different.
Anyway, back to the laptop, I have a choir practice for the concert later this evening, but that needn't interfere too much with my studying, because now I can just take my laptop with me, and continue my studying during the breaks! technomuso is feeling rather smug. So excuse me while I log onto the internet, and retrieve my email, and post this blog entry from the most comfortable chair in the house. Next post, when I have stopped playing with my new toy for long enough to actually get some worthwhile work done!

Monday, October 25, 2004

M is for Man, Music and Mozart

Last week, I watched a video in class called :"M is for Man, Music adn Mozart." It irritated me enourmously, not least because I really liked the whole sound world within which the music was created, and I enjoyed the context, but just couldn't understand or deal with the crudity. Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with nudity, or even vulgar language, in certain contexts, and maybe this was simply a context that I didn't understand, but everything seemed so pointless. I happen to be a firm believer in a certain amount of social control, particularly when I walk into a practice room at varsity, only to be confronted by the remains of someone's lunch which has been putrefying there for days, and it just felt to me like that video was about destroying those necessary and useful areas of control, without achieving liberation, but only offensiveness. Feel free to contradict me. I would love to be proven wrong on this one. I really want to understand that video.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

How to be a good grad student

Here’s a useful link for research students. This gives lots of background information for the whole post-grad study process. It’s specifically aimed at AI students, but is general enough to be worthwhile for anyone. The research journal suggested here is the same idea as I have for this weblog.

And something on the side, I have the most beautiful tri-colour nasturtium smiling at me from my desk. Its mostly yellow, with an orange stain down the centre of each petal, and a deep red blush near the centre on the top two petals. I don’t have a favourite colour, but this mixture is certainly high up on my list of favourites.

BibTeX may be worth investigating. An online bibliography? Will keep you informed.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

this is money

This is a great website for researching the basics of investing and saving. you see, if I believe all the info floating around about academic's salaries, and general lack of jobs, I have to find some other way of keeping up my new high-tech lifestyle, and managing the money I do have is it. I am always on the lookout for more info on this side of things, but it's got to be simple enough to fit alongside all the other stuff I am continually filling my head with.

techno ethno

Got an upgrade on my cellphone today. It's a really cool ericson with all the hightech features I, and my dad, could possibly want. We ethnomusicologists are supposed to be the ultimate low-tech creatures, content to read paper copies of presentations at conferences, and disappear into the woodwork for months at a time while we painstaikingly type up our research from hand-written notes etc. Well, not me. I can take all the notes I want on my cellphone, including audio recording and photographs, and download it to my computer through infrared connections. And if all this excitement isn't enough, I am actually considering a laptop. Old hat to many, I guess, but for me this is all a really big deal. Now if only I could understand the 30 page instruction manual for the cellphone...

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The Society for Ethnomusicology

Nice link from the previously posted online resources for ethnomusicologists. Again, a browsable index of published articles

grad school

Wow, there is such a general negativity doing the rounds about graduate study and academia in general. This is one article advising enthusiastic graduates of all the possible problems with the whole process, and it is only one of several. Is it really likely that by continuing on my present path, I am toying with self-destruction? perhaps. But quite honestly, I want to do this so badly, I'm prepared to risk it. Just hope I can avoid becoming embittered.

I really want to feel like I am doing some good, and contributing to my society in a valuable way, and when my research turns up results as interesting as it has been recently, I feel like I am. Tell you what, though, I hate the publishing process, and yet I can think of few other ways of making what I do accessible to the broader public. Perhaps this is the way to do it. Maybe blogs are the ultimate way of getting what I do out into the public sphere. And yet, with absolutely no traffic up to this point, I am beginning to wonder...

Still, if this all falls down around me, at least I can conduct choirs. I'm really getting quite good at that. And what makes me particularly smug about it is that someone who offered to help me learn that spent half a year trying to convince me that I was useless at it. well ha, ha, miss embittered school teacher, I will not be trod on! positive thinking, naively romantic do-gooders still get it right more of the time.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

South African Journal of Musicology

Ok, here is the first useful link from that page I posted about earlier. searchable index, and some online abstracts availiable.

online ethnomusicology resources

this looks like it could be very useful. I have only just begun expolring it, but will post any especially useful links from it that I find

Conferences and concerts

Yippee! Just found out I am going to Stellenbosch next month for a conference. An organization that sponsored my (first ever) conference presentation in Finland in August this year have decided to include me in a research group on music education in South Africa! I have been hoping they would for a while now. It's all about getting my name and my work out there...

By the way, if you are in Johannesburg at present, watch out for details of the Johannesburg Bach Choir's upcoming concert: Buxtehude and Vivaldi! I am singing, and my conducting mentor is conducting. More details to follow.

Monday, October 18, 2004

How it all begins...

Ok, so in typical conservative style, after spending all weekend researching how this all works, and what is available, and trying to decide whether I will be able to keep it going, I am finally starting my blog. Its really all about keeping track of my research, both online and off. You see, despite all the negative publicity, I still want to be an academic. Even worse, I want to be an ethnomusicologist, here in South Africa, where those who make money out of doing valuable work in this field are few and far between, and heavily marginalised by those who do less than valuable work in the field, and still manage to make all the money.

Any way, here goes.

I am working on, at present, a small research project, which I hope to grow into a much larger PhD and beyond over the next seven years. For now, it is called "Singing South African-ness" (a pilot study of which is about to be published in a new Journal: Journal of the Musical Arts in Africa) and deals with the construction of identities among youth choirs in South Africa.

I am therefore interested in just about anything to do with identity, Sub-culture, race and the construction of whiteness, and choral music. Keep adding to this list as appropriate, I think, because I keep discovering new interests (blogs, for example)

first couple of links:
Inter-cultural relationships work best when both sides treat each other as equals

Postmodern Approaches to Gender, Sex, and Sexuality - A Critique

both from Anthroblog, who I was reading when I finally decided this could be useful.

so... Here's to possibilities