Thursday, March 22, 2012

Challenge questions

According to Theodor Adorno's analysis, the expansive public media industry at his time, including television, film and radio, is devoted to spoon feed people what is simple to produce, rather than what is actually good for people. There are also opposing opinions raised that it does not matter what is produced but how people use them.

However, it seems that people tend to focus a lot on the obvious which is the content, to provide us valuable information, but in the process, we largely miss the how the medium changes our life structurally.

For example, the message of a newscast about a heinous crime may be less about the individual news story itself — the content — and more about the change in public attitude towards crime that the newscast engenders by the fact that such crimes are in effect being brought into the home to watch over dinner.

Can we think of the music as a medium? if we can, despite its content , what kind of message does music send as a medium? if we can't, why?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Interview with Ron

I had an interview with Ron, the coach of the jazz combo after the band rehearsal. The interview happened just a week after Their last performance on March 15th.

Since the combo is much smaller than big band, do you take a different approach in training? What are the most important music qualities you look for in your band?

I do take a different approach. A lot of the students who used to get in play a lot in high school, mostly in big bands. But in small group, it's different mode of playing, especially in rhythm section, guitar, piano, bass and drum, their function is a lot different, it's doing more than just setting up for the horn section. There are a lot more interactions amongst all the players. A lot more interaction than big band.

What are the most important music qualities you look for in your band?

I don't get to choose. In other words, I get the students that are assigned at the open time. So there's not much I can do about that.
I try to educate some of them in the best way I can. A lot of the students play it for fun, not music students. So I'm not really expecting them to go home and practice the scales of this song, or that song. I don't expect that but I do encourage that. These groups rely a lot on improvisation. So every one can play the melody but how well you improvise on it depends a lot on their study. Knowing the harmony is really intricate, and getting the right sound across when others are improvising demonstrate a certain skill. Trying to educate them on stuff like that, but really I don't expect them too much. They do pretty good. Other than that, just a lot of listening. Especially the rhythm section. 99percent of the time.

From your past experiences, do you think the personal relationships between band members affect performance? Do they work/perform better together if they are already friends? Do they become closer through playing together for a year?

I think sometime it certainly helps to put people at ease,maybe so they are less nervous about the music sounding bad because they dont previously know the music. They maybe play looser. If someone in the band donT know others that well, they might feel inhibited to really express themselves. A lot of the students play by ear but they generally have a good sense. There are a lot of hit and miss. Not a lot of educated guesses. It's uneducated. If they were friendly enough maybe they won't be afraid of making mistakes that much it will be cool. If they don't know the people it might be a little ore difficult for them to grow as fast. But though playing together, they often get closer. They do pretty good.

Has being an accomplished jazz piano player affected the way you direct the band?

Without doubt, by being a jazz pianist, I am in the rhythm section and my role is to keep the band on improvisation mostly. Having that band sound good and interaction of the players. Because of that..yeah and and not just piano. Ay instrument if you are good at it, it is gonna influence the way you teach the entire class. It influences me how I teach everybody. It's all music and if you know the harmony and theory behind it, that s what you are trying to express to the people.

How do you take approach in directing members whose instruments are not your expertise?

If its not a musical problem, in other words, if it's not a note that they are playing wrong, maybe they are getting a good sound in the right register, um the fingering on certain parts. If its something I can not guide them with, I ll let them know that what I think the problem, and they can research on their own or get help from their teachers. Maybe the way I describe the problem, they will just know how to adjust and fix the problem just by the way I describe it.

In the last performance, Amos, the singer performed a Chinese Jazz adaption of a Chinese pop song. What do you think of this kind of adaption? Do you think Jazz songs in foreign languages will appeal to American audiences? Do you think it matters that Amos sings with a foreign accent?

When people are singing in English , obviously its easy to listen to and identify with. When people are not, I listen to the voice as an instrument. So even with lyrics, its the melody or the tune that capture the ear. It's the words that capture the imagination. It's descriptive. But music isn't descriptive. It's aural interpretation. We hear it aurally. So if I don't understand the lyrics,I ll listen to the music instrumentally as a vocal instrument. Do I think it make a difference or how people react to it? I really don't know. I think it's hard because when he sings in English, the annunciation is definitely different, his accent. Does it affect the listener? I don't know. Does it affect me? I think sometimes in a way, but in a way that is very understanding. If I had to speak Chinese, I d have an incredibly hard time and I m sure that if I try to sing in Chinese, that it wouldn't be respectful how people listen to me. I think he's great. He sings good. The Chinese tune I liked! I think it came out good.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Review on Music and the complex whole

I was quite pleased to see right from the beginning that this reading finally addresses the difference or rather the contrasts between anthropologists and musicologists. The line seemed have been pretty blurred already after studying around terminologies like “ethnography”, “ethnomusicology”,”culture”, anthropology” for almost half a semester. What the true relationship between “culture” and “music” was complicated by their each variant and ambiguous definitions and by their inseparable influences on each other in nature. And this reading aims to explain this relationship in clear shapes.
First, the author illustrated that “the study of music in its cultural context” approach,music by studying where, who, why and how the music is played in a culture. Then he contrasted that “the study of music in culture” rather emphasizes on how people in a culture perceives their music. Lastly he stated that “the study of music as culture” tries to prove how the music is inherently parallel to its social structure.
The author then made his point that an anthropological way of studying music has faults of neglects and misinterpretation, by giving a few examples. He followed by trying to explain why past anthropologists gave so little concern to music: how music is treated so much like science and professionalized in western world that non music professional anthropologists hesitate to comment on music behaviors on non-western musics too. He also illustrated four models for ethnomusicologists in further exploring the music/culture relationship:1)to study each components separately with no previous assumptions 2)to see how music contributes to culture 3)find a way of establishing central values of culture 3)envision a line of relationships leading from a major value of a culture to music.
At this point of reading his paper, I found his writing style rather “educational”, because he lists out his opinions in sections named under “Four models”,”Three stresses”, “Five studies” in almost like a propaganda way. But I liked it for clarity’s sake. Though I would have to say that instead of detailed theory about the actual relationship between music and culture, he was actually giving directions/instructions about how to find out about it. still helpful in its own sense though.
Question I kept thinking about: if the problem is the gap between anthropologists and musicologists, I have rarely seen collaborations between the two. Are there any studies made by partnership of both professions? Would such collaboration bring complex issues as well such as how to categorize the final product...

Film review on l'denier du monde (happy end)

I watched this film because the theme described in the program intrigued me: a combination of sci fi and romantic comedy with a hint of surrealism. That seems to be what I have always been interested in exploring and portraying. The film was quite different from my expectation though. But that was a good thing. The film took me on an emotional roller coaster and gave me a surprise every ten minutes While always resolving problems in funny and unexpected ways.
I see and would like to interpret some of the scene similar to French oil paintings with the large use of the composition of nudes, lust and death.
The film became most surrealist when the scenes seemed staged. For example when the man passed by a shelter in the mountains where rocks had fell off and killed people in the cars while other people just resting and making drinks. Another example would be when he found out everyone at the blue French cocktail partied died and their naked or half covered bodies piling up in the living room.
The film set off in a strange and ambiguous scene in a book shop. I also immediately noticed the background music being extremely loud as a non diegetic sound source. The surrealism also lied in surprise of random animals appearing here and there, how the film made Taiwan seemed like Japan, every women, or women and men fell in love with Robinson almost instantly or rather inevitably, and eventually die for him. In contrasts to that, Robinson himself has always been unbelievable determined to love Lae, and never gave up looking for her. His hopes kept being raised high by little traces of Lae, like finding her mother in Spain and bizarre sex video tapes of Lae in the mansion.
After a while I found myself wanting to linger in Robinson's past, when everything was beautiful yet transcendental. Everything in his present seems too tragic to be true, yet seemed logical, as if his wild past leads to his own tragedy, in spite of the "world ending" big environment.
To find Lae, Robinson went on long journey that carried along from his past to his present, he kept losing and gaining at the same time: he traded his beef for a bike and lost it in a carnival; he got cars from women he met and lost the cars soon afterwards as the women died. eventually he found his "eve"(or did he?), running naked and free on the street of Paris at the end of the world. Adam and eve returned to purity and regained their loyalty of true identities of mankind.
The song in the end of the film seems that it should be a better title for this film-"the way to your bed/heart".