Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Week 6

This is a summary of my thoughts on Chapters 7 and 11 in Oliver Sacks' Musicophilia, Chapters 4 and 5 of Russ Girsberger's A Manual for the Performance Library, and a few websites posted.

Chapters 7 and 11 of Musicophilia

The first thing that struck me about Chapter 7 was Sacks describing the way a brain can be at odds with one's musical talent or skills. He says fingers will not do what the brain tells them to sometimes. Clearly, even from the existence of his book, there is still much to be explained in terms of how the brain works especially in conjunction with music.

Reading about different parts of the brain being affected by musicianship was interesting. According to a study in Sacks' book, the corpus colossum and the planum temporale are often enlarged in professional musicians, whereas math or science specialists are more difficult to tell apart anatomically because the parts of the brain they use are not so specialized. This reminded me of a similar study done on London taxi cab drivers, showing that their hippocampus was often larger than average, reflecting that this part of the brain might have to do with memory and spatial reasoning.

It seems that Sacks is making a bit of the nature versus nurture argument in a few of these chapters, querying whether a strong musician is predisposed to be from birth or that other life influence affects it. He has yet to make a strong case for one or the other, but I think most anyone could be nurtured into musicianship. With the Suzuki training and various other early age musical training, this seems to make a strong argument for being able to grow into a musician.

Sacks' story of Jorgen Jorgensen, the man who lost an ear and gained pseudo three dimensional hearing with the one left, reminded me of the importance of both ears when listening to music. On occasion, my headphones will get disconnected or not connect properly and only play through one half of my headphones. I can't stand when this happens, as I miss everything from the recording that was panned to the left ear. Background vocals, the high hat on the drum set, various other things are totally missing and detracts from the listening experience.

From what Sacks is saying though, it seems possible as he says to "recalibrate" the world to using one ear. I also found it interesting that the improvement is not necessarily the ear or the cochlea, its the brain adjusting to hear from one side better.

Chapters 4 and 5 of A Manual for the Performance Library

I was surprised again that there is no reliable order that scores are put in for the performance library, just as cataloging is not completely consistent. It really seems that a music library association or something similar should adopt a consistent rule set for these to improve searchability and make things a bit easier for the performance librarian. I also found it amazing how many things a performance librarian must take into account, such as numbering parts properly and acquiring sheet music that lays flat when opened and can withstand note taking. All of the steps make sense, but the number of things that a performance librarian must keep track of is daunting.

A performance librarian seems to have to encompass many different roles, as Girsberger specifies at the beginning of Chapter 5. When marking music sheets, a performance librarian must imagine him or herself as the performer, looking for bad page turns and other oddities or troubles that may arise while playing. For example, Girsberger mentions the distraction of an entire section doing a page turn during a quiet part of the song. It seems that the performance librarian is truly a part of a music ensemble; just as much as any of the players in it since she or he must have such a deep appreciation and understanding of music.

Sociology of Rock Music - website

Despite the 90s style website design, I found this website interesting and informative. The article on the supposed dirtiness of "Louie, Louie" by The Kingsmen was especially entertaining. The mumbled lyrics can possibly be attributed to braces, a too-high boom microphone, and an overworked voice. Ha!

Music Map

This website was very impressive. I tested it with an obscure Chicago punk band named Much the Same and it worked! The only thing missing is just a bit of information on each band you click through, but I suppose you could just go over to once you discover a musical artist.

Kevin Kelly's article

I found it especially interesting how the advent of the phonograph shaped music. Since it could record only four and a half minutes, musicians shortened their songs. Perhaps this could explain the average three to four minutes of a pop song these days. Also, it forced musicians to shorten their songs and make them more melodic. It's definitely interesting to see the way that a simple invention could change something as nebulous and complex as music with a simple duplication tool.

The Royalty Calculator

It is pretty amazing to see how many records an artist has to sell to break even with most outcomes. I also found the statistic that 90% of record label artists sell 150,000 copies or less when in my calculation (with records going at $9.98) I'd have to sell at least 1.5 million to break even.

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