A Musicologist's Life For Me

Submitted by Andy on Fri, 04/06/2007 - 23:01

(A note: The past two weeks certainly have happened. I'll probably be blogging things that happened during them in reverse order.)


A couple months ago I was reading Dial M for Musicology, a favored blog o' mine, when I noticed one of the links was a different color than the rest of them.

In a proper and rational manner I think to myself "Holy fuck! I must be projecting an extremely inaccurate onto the Interwebs!" Also I never thanked them properly for the link. A couple of days ago I made steps towards correcting this by giving a real life big kid lecture to the Music History 2 (survey class from Palestrina to Bach) that I normally TA, which weighing in at about 70 kids is the closest thing the Conservatory has to a pit class.

Anyone who has seen my normal state of dress knows that I wouldn't exactly pass Biz Cas Fri muster; indeed I can get away presenting to other graduate students while whatever attitude tee I've chosen states that Smith girls are often found in exciting positions or that January 31st must ne'er be forgot, but the freshmen are not as forgiving. Step 1 for lecturing was looking like I had knowledge, and luckily was able to reap selections from my other four outfits to invent a look I call Preppy McDegreeCollector. I wanted to kick my own ass.

None of this helped me actually give the lecture and with the other obligations I had earlier in the week (possibly to be blogged later, maybe) I gave myself a window of roughly 10 hours to prepare a 40-minute lecture on Couperin and Rameau, not precisely my strength. (Now de Visee and Corbetta on the other hand...) Furthermore I had to borrow most of the texts on the subject since my musicological library is weak to nonexistant, the 10 hours I spoke of before started at 11 PM. One thing working in my favor was that I hear that Rameau did some relatively important things with music theory, so it wasn't like I couldn't find anything to talk about. Convincing the masses that what they learned in their first semester of theory was approaching 300 years old, on the other hand....

I don't play Go nearly as often as I would like, but there is a saying within the community. "Lose your first fifty games as quickly as possible." I can only imagine how some of my former teachers would react upon seeing me say this, but I now have a bit of a notion of how earned the swagger of a well-loved professor is. Having taught a smaller listening section for three months now I've gotten a rhythm to it but it's a hell of a lot easier: I don't have to dress up, I can go on tangents, I can get away with the occasional curse word. Facing down a lecture class is a taxing exercise in a hateful duplicity. My section at least reacts to stupid jokes, but en masse (also in morning) it was explaining functional harmony, again, to a pyramid of skulls. Nevertheless, there was the constant knowledge that a single misstep could lead to cacophonous tragedy. Por ejample:

Me (paraphased): Hippolyte et Arcice was Rameau's first opera.
Student (no raised hand!): No, it wasn't.
Me (increasingly concerned): Yes, it was.
Student (defiant): No, it wasn't.
Dr. Seitz: Yes, it was.
-fin-

And that was when I got something right. I made more grievous missteps, most notably stating things that I wasn't unsure of as "Wikipedia knowledge" and ending my lecture by admitting defeat to Frau Doktor. On the other hand, I did have a hell of an opener that worked exactly how I wanted to. ("So Lully shoves a stick through his foot and dies.") All in all afterwords I felt basically the same I did after my junior recital: I was exhausted by not necessarily adverse to trying it again sometime. Now that is dangerous.