On Judging Creative Activity or Sometime My Kids Teach Me Stuff

The ranking of creative activity often strikes me as awkward at best, and counter-productive at worst. Competitive cooking shows are a great example. One chef leaves in tears, as I am thinking, “that looks great, pass that plate over here.” “This band is better than that band” always seems like a futile exercise.

Last night we attended the big end of the season high school marching band competition. My daughter is in one of the bands that competed. This competition has a prelims and finals format. They played two great shows. I think the best two shows they have played all season. When the rankings were announced after finals, they did not place as high as many hoped, or expected. There are some natural emotional reactions that can flow out in times like that. But, it made me remember something that my step-son said to me a few years ago.

My step-son, Blake, spent three summers performing on the DCI Tour with the Madison Scouts. (DCI is the highest level of marching band field show in the world. They would be pros, except you have to pay to do it…maybe another post.) At the end of one of Blake’s seasons, as I picked him up at the airport the day after finals, I commented that I thought they should have placed much higher. His response taught me something. He said that they had played one of their best shows of the season, and the audience loved it, and that was what they were there to do; be as good as they could be, and make something that moved people. They did that, and it was a success in his mind.

I feel like that is what my daughter’s band did last night. They performed as well as they could, and people liked it. That’s all that really matters.

…and that third place cheesecake can still make someone VERY happy.

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Loyola MIS Forum on Genre

The Music Industry Studies Program at Loyola University New Orleans (where I teach) has a weekly forum with all of our students. A couple of months ago our guest speaker was ill, so I put together a discussion on ideas around genre. There is video evidence. The talk starts about 10:30 in, after the student announcements.

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Comparing Artists To Start-Ups Lazy, Unhealthy, Beside The Point. – hypebot

The money or art conversation came up in class the other day. This article takes some interesting looks at the topic. Note the articles preference for and use of the word art…

Comparing Artists To Start-Ups Lazy, Unhealthy, Beside The Point. – hypebot:

“Comparing artists to start-ups is a trend that has emerged this last couple of years as music and tech became ever more increasingly tied and the latter churned out its daily dose of spectacular stories and unicorns. When a particular field is successful, it would be a shame not to try to find some key take aways and apply them to an ecosystem like music where everything has been challenged and turned upside down these last 15 years or so.”

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make a leap beyond the accepted paradigm

“Inventiveness and innovation require intelligence, but beyond intelligence they entail imagination, that is, the mental agility to make a leap beyond the accepted paradigm to another and to see the relationship between them that has escaped others. Training in the humanities is a training, if all goes well, in exploring “the other” and seeing how it relates to the known—an exercise in imagination. The cultivation of this skill is certainly not exclusive to the humanities, but they are especially apt for it. ” – John W. O’Malley S.J.

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Newspapers

Yesterday on the radio, I heard an inspiring conversation about local news coverage, journalism, and democracy. Newspapers were a big part of the conversation.

A little backstory: After Hurricane Katrina, our neighborhood lost our curbside recycling service. Not long after that, I cancelled my newspaper subscription. I was not reading it very often, and since we couldn’t recycle it, I had some tree guilt.

The radio show yesterday made me rethink my newspaper situation. We have curbside recycling again, and I feel like I should aim to be a better informed citizen, so I decided to investigate getting a newspaper subscription. In the time since I cancelled my Times-Picayune subscription, the T-P has gone from a daily to publishing a hard copy only three days a week, and The Advocate has come into the New Orleans market.

I went to the T-P site first. Apparently you have to give all of your personal info and start a website account to find out how much a subscription costs. If the information is there otherwise, it was not easy to find. So I went to The Advocate’s website. They had a page with links to “See Prices.” That link opened a popup in which you enter your zip code, and click the “See Prices” button, and…nothing happens.

I possibly would have subscribed to both papers this morning, ended up with neither. Have they given up on this side of their business? Should I give up too and just commit to paying more attention to local web news?

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My thoughts on Cutting Louisiana higher education by $300 million

A note to the apparent morons who run the state in which I live: I WILL PAY MORE TAXES TO SUPPORT HIGHER EDUCATION!!!!!!!!!

The nature of Louisiana’s backwards legal system makes much of the state’s budget protected and very hard to adjust, except for higher education, which is easy for the legislature to cut. Our governor, who pays lip service to a religion that is supposed to be based on helping the poor and caring for our fellow humans, refuses to allow taxes to be raised for any productive reason. I think he (and his fellow lawmakers of similar political ideology) does this not out of a sense that it is really the right thing to do, but out of a loyalty to a political party that places money above all else, and even then, really just the money of people who already have a lot of it. The lawmakers of Louisiana, led by our governor, are cowards, who are afraid of the dogmatists of their own party, to the point that they will do nothing to help the people of our state in any way.

I actually voted for Jindal. I thought he was a smart man, and he made me believe that he would use that intelligence to run our state well. I did not realize at the time that his political aspirations would out weigh all other considerations to the point that he would be incapable of straying one millimeter from republican dogma, even if it is the best thing for our state.

I got both of my graduate degrees from state schools (the University of New Orleans for my M.M., and Louisiana State University for my Ph.D.). The system worked well for me. These degrees helped me learn many things, and led to me getting a great teaching job and staying in our state. I can now afford to pay more in taxes, and I would love to do that if that is what is needed to keep our higher education system alive.

One more note to our lawmakers: PLEASE LET GO OF YOUR POLITICAL DOGMA AND USE THE BRAINS THAT GOD GAVE YOU TO MAKE DECISIONS WITH THE WELL-BEING OF YOUR STATE IN MIND!

This nola.com article offers a good perspective on the amount of the cuts that are being envisioned.

Cutting Louisiana higher education by $300 million, putting it into perspective | NOLA.com

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Al Belletto

I just received news that Al Belletto, the great saxophonist from New Orleans, passed away on Friday. Al had been living in Dallas with family for the last few years, but when I first moved to New Orleans, Al was a fixture on the scene. He had a great influence on many young musicians, some of whom aren’t that young any more (myself included). His nickname was Coach, but as the joke goes, that doesn’t make sense, because he was first class all the way.

SLU AlBelletto

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Cover baggage

This recent post on DTM (a great blog by Ethan Iverson of The Bad Plus) got me thinking again about the baggage that comes with covering well known material. I think it is almost impossible to judge a radical reworking of a very well known song solely on the merits of the new arrangement. There is simply too much baggage for the listener, unless the listener is unfamiliar with the original. In that latter case, the lack of inherent meaning also diminishes the appreciation of the new arrangement.

Ethan’s post mentioned that one of the detrimental comments sometimes laid on Jason Moran’s ALL RISE: A Joyful Elegy For Fats Waller was that it was too close to smooth jazz at times. I wonder if some of that is about the material. Does the presence of such well known songs as “Ain’t Misbehavin'” or “Honeysuckle Rose” cause us to hear those tracks as more in the smooth jazz/muzak vein than we would if they were originals with similar grooves, arrangements and instrumentations?

Another accusation is that this music is a sellout or commercial grab. I don’t buy that. Jason Moran has enough artist cred that I trust this as a legitimate expression on his part…although the big Fats Waller head does freak me out a little.

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Wide listening

One of my go to recordings recently has been Return the Tides by Rob Mazurek and Black Cube SP. I have also recently been on a kick to try to expand my listening to and appreciation of music that is more mainstream or popular than what I usually listen to. This has led me to spend some time with the new D’Angelo record and even check out some Iggy Azalea, in efforts to better understand some of the recent discussions on these topics. I have found that there is more musical commonality across those spaces than I might care to admit.

Growing up musically in a space that was largely influenced by jazz culture, I have some completist tendencies. I like to dig deeply into the music of my favorites. I guess that could be more of a me thing than a jazz thing, because I did that as a kid with my favorite rock bands too. Once I decided I really liked a band, I had to get all of their albums. This habit has made it hard for me to “skim” the music of someone who is new to me, but my recent decision to broaden my horizons has forced me to do just that.

What I have discovered is that even cursory exposure to new music is rewarding and offers insight into old favorites as well. Maybe that has always been obvious to most of you. It just hit me in a new way today.

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