Monday, November 28, 2005

Crossing the Fission Boundary

Ug--I'm in the process of writing yet another paper I don't give a hoot about. Countless times since high school, I have been in this predicament--procrastinating until the last minute, sitting down at the kitchen table trying to straighten my thoughts out, drinking loads of coffee (half-caff, lots of soy creamer), sleepless nights, anxiety attacks, more procrastination (anything to avoid the uncomfortableness of slinging words onto a page that you know come from half-assed thoughts and b.s.-ing)....
This time my paper is about the psycho-acoustics of voice-leading--based on a 65-page article the graduate students had to read in our graduate counterpoint seminar, written by a man named David Huron from Ohio State. Here is one sentence from the article I'm using for a partial thesis statement:

"The principles of tonal fusion, the pitch proximity principle, and the pitch co-modulation principle all contribute to the achievement of the same goal--namely, the optimization of stream segregation."

It took me all quarter just to figure out what that means. Tonal fusion? Stream segregation? It's basically saying that the rules of voice-leading, i.e., avoiding parallel fifths and octaves, avoiding large melodic leaps, etc, can be backed by science--that the biological way our ears hear sounds apply directly to these rules. Therefore, this is why the rules exist. Okay, it's somewhat interesting, but to study this for a whole quarter? I enjoy and appreciate science, but sometimes I just don't understand it and all the scientific lingo that goes along with it. Which is okay, because I don't expect everyone to understand Neapolitan sixths and dominant sevenths and all that other music-talk. But just because our professor finds this article endlessly fascinating, does this give him the right to foist this upon us for the entire quarter, and then just two weeks ago, announcing that we must write a 10-15 page paper on it? What is it about our education system that gives professors/teachers and higher education in general the right to bore us with topics that only interest them? Is this what grad school is all about--pretending to care rather than actually learning something and enjoying it? Is this what my diploma will attest to? That I was able to withstand extreme boredom, sleepless nights and anxiety attacks due to the writing of research papers on topics of no interest to me?

What I don't understand is, why don't college professors go through the same training as elementary and high school teachers? For all practical purposes, the average college student is still a teen-ager, and therefore not too different from a high-schooler. Most teachers have to take classes in educational and developmental psychology, which, if college professors had to take these same classes, would learn how to facilitate discussion, how to teach so students care about what they're learning, how to motivate students, and how to teach toward different learning styles. I guess if you can get through a P.h.D. without killing yourself you can teach whatever the hell you want. Screw learning theories! You will learn about pitch proximity principle and you'll like it!

So what is the point of all this long-winded rambling? I just get so sick of college professors and their complete ineffeciency and teaching incompetence. Having studied education as an undergraduate, I am aware of learning theories, and get so frustrated when profs have these great classes to teach (Music history! Ear-training! Counterpoint! Theory! Piano!) yet they teach them in such a boring and inefficient way that I want to scream. How many hours have I spent in a music history classroom with a monotone-voiced professor on the cusp of retirement, reading from his lecture notes from 1965? How many hours did I waste trying to decipher Huron's article, and when I did, how many hours did I complain to friends about "crossing the fission boundary"? How many years of boring piano lessons and "Hot Cross Buns" playings did I have to endure before I could play Fur Elise (which is easily taught by ear/rote to a ten-year-old in her first year of lessons)? Here is a poem by Richard Brautigan that perfectly sums up my feelings on the whole deal:

I remember all those thousands of hours
that I spent in grade school watching the clock,
waiting for recess or lunch or to go home.
Waiting: for anything but school.
My teachers could easily have ridden with Jesse James
for all the time they stole from me.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Goodbye, land of diaries

I've decided to ditch diaryland because I just noticed they've deleted most of my old postings. Jerks!

This morning, walking to the bus stop, I came across a pile of cooked spaghetti and a pair of tennis shoes lying in the middle of the sidewalk. Feel free to come up with a story for that one. Oh, and then, not 2 seconds later, a truck drives by with a small, bare tree standing up in the middle of the bed of the truck, ala Harold and Maude. It was a very odd start to my day, which was full of foggy/clammy weather, my flute teacher helping me get through a tricky run in the Chaminade Concertino by having me imagine giving birth to a traffic cone, and procrastinating on homework, again.