Thursday, March 9, 2017

Music: Truth Beauty and Goodness in Augustine and Indiana Jones

Music is the often neglected field of study in contemporary education.  Be it STEM or  Classical Education, Music is rarely mentioned. Standardized assessments do not include them and despite its proven benefits to cognitive development, the prevailing thought seems to be it is an added luxury or merely a skill building end in itself.  
Music however, is so thoroughly intertwined in Western philosophical thought that reading any significant author without this fundamental knowledge (whether Plato, Shakespeare, Kepler) leads to an incomplete understanding of the Philosophy behind their works. 
When I introduce this subject to my students, I liken the current view of Music (as consumable entertainment—a text driven medium accompanied by 3-4 chords ) the equivalent of reducing the history of Literature to James Patterson, and all Art to Thomas Kincaid. And all history to whatever talk show host happens to write a best selling (though unvetted “history” series.

I found that a great pop-culture metaphor in recognizing the intertwining of the Liberal Arts division of Trivium and Quadrivium is found in Raiders of the Lost Ark. 
 In particular the Headpiece of the Staff of Ra which provides the instructions in the map room for finding the Ark has two sides.

 If you recall, the self-serving empire builders only have one side of the headpiece,
We might refer to as the Trivium (Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric) if taught in a skill building manner., It provides the warning not to disturb the Ark, but that it is to be placee on a staff that is 6 kadams high.

These instructions do not require any thought on the part of the reader, or why we should not disturb the Ark.  It is dogmatic

...BUT in addition to the "Trivium" side, Indy and Sallah also have the side which deals with the Quadrivium: For it is concerned with measurement (ratio) as well as an ethical reasoning as to why one should that measurement is made:

Take back one Kadam in honor of the Hebrew God whose Ark this is.

– While the Nazis are lost in their oversized  Indy and Sallah thoughtfully and together use both sides to find that which brings them closer to understanding the Cosmos (the Ark)- 


Likewise we have this visual representation of Harmonia with the “School of Athens” painting  The foundation is built with visual representations  the Quadrivium (Arithmetic, Music, Geometry, Astronomy) a view which lasted for nearly 2,000 years before Iohannes Kepler applied experimental methods to each of those disciplines in his Harmonices Mundi (we usually only refer to his Astronomy findings but Book III is all about music). – Nonetheless the foundational study of the Quadrivium is found in Plato’s Timaeus (which he is shown holding at the pinnacle – standing next to Aristotle who is holding the Nicomachean Ethics)

So with that, I request that you take some time to read this recent 10-page article by John McInnis of Dordt College who provides what I believe to be one of the best introductions for Classical Education enthusiasts to gain a clearer understanding of this Classical tradition which intertwines Music Ethics and Science. (MacInnis does contextualize how Augustine was adapting Classical educaiton for a Christian audience, and MacInnis himself is teaching at a Christian school, but the essence of Classical Philosophy is still fundamental)
Access his article here:
Now MacInnis does mention Boethius who is the most influential author in shaping Western Classical Education, I am submitting a link to a response I gave to a pop musician- regarding Boethius famous division of the 3 types of Musician (I was trying to condense a lot while feeling a little indignant ... but....
Finally I’d like to share this relevant podcast of Music Ethics & Cosmology from Krista Tippett’s “On Being” in which she interviews computer scientist Bernard Chazzelle who pretty much describes what I’ve just said here but with a little more mathematical precision.

Along with that, when I teach students instrumental music – I make sure they work on being able to sing what they read and practice every day to identify the tuning note (“A” 440Hz ) of standard Equal Temperment.  Then just like learning to read letters of the alphabet to form words...I instruct them that the notes on the page are not the actual music, but the instructions for how to play the music.  each note with its unique rhythmic value and pitch combines with those around it to form motivs (i.e. “words”) these motivs are combined to create phrases, and sentences where they can be turned around inverted, fragmented, augmented, and layered sometimes with the same contour but in different ranges, so that the same motiv or phrase can hold multiple meanings at the same time (or change meaning throughout its development.)  Bach Fugues are perfect for this kind of exercise....Then things get really fun if someone decided to set text to music – (This is where we behold the true genius of Mozart)

ANYWAY with that I will leave you with a late 1960s recording featuring Karl Richter playing the 1st movement of Bach’s 5th Brandenberg Concerto for Harpsichord, Flute, and Violin – After the presentation of the Ritornello theme (about the first 20 seconds) dig how the instruments chase each other around with fragments of that theme in the solo sections.

But if you, like me, want to see what is going on, you can check out this convenient “scrolling score”

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Electric Bass Resources

In October of 1983, I had already been playing classical guitar for about 2 years (having quit the alto sax which I played from 4th-6th grade because I want to switch to "French" Horn) and I wanted to join the jr. high jazz band in hopes of developing my skills and become the next "Randy Rhoads."  So I approached our new band director, Jim Fritz.  He looked at me and explained "I don't need a guitar player for the jazz band, what I really need is a bass player who can hold everything together"  With that he gave me a vinyl of Jaco Pastorius' "Invitation" and Carol Kaye's influential book "How to Play Electric Bass" with the advice, "Learn this!"

At the end of that school year, Mr. Fritz urged that if I wish to continue on electric bass for the high school jazz band, that I would need to play in the concert band as well...thus began my lessons on Horn (the only horn in the concert band for 2 years! so I learned to play boldly) I also continued singing in choir, theater musicals and filled in on trumpet in marching band as our football captains were not only my quartet singing and brass quintet buddies, but also the principle trumpet players for concert / jazz band. (small school Iowa, you do one thing...they expect you to do everything)

My integrated approach to musicianship and relaxed technique is strongly influenced by my education in Classical Guitar, notably under the influence of my teacher Peter Lingen at Luther College.

Electric Bass
Play Bass Now - daily activities and instruction hosted by Marlowe DK
Scott's Bass Lessons -  YouTube lessons

Essential Methods
How to Play Electric Bass - by Carol Kaye
The Improviser's Bass Method - by Chuck Sher

110 Studies for Bass - Wilhelm Sturm
113 Etudes for Cello (in 4 volumes) by Friedrich Dotzauer
The High School of Cello Playing by David Popper
6 Suites for Cello by J.S. Bach

Life as a Musician:

Music History Resources

Here is a selection of useful links with regard to Historical Musicology and Ethnomusicology

Study Guides with audio excerpts
These are three of the study guides I conceived, wrote and recorded for the Minnesota High School Music Listening Contest on which I served as Musicologist / Study Guide Author / Test Writer / Head Judge from 2004-2008.
Minnesota Music Listening Contest 2004-05 (rev. 2008-09), Author / (hosted by Steve Seel)
Minnesota Music Listening Contest 2005-06, Author & Host
Minnesota Music Listening Contest 2007-08, Author & Host

Music History
Written by Xenia

for more of Xenia's academic works, visit: Xenia Sandstrom-McGuire at Academia.Edu

    Other Western Music texts:
    Thesaurus Musicarum Latinarum - music texts from the 3rd-17th centuries

    Non-Western Muisc
    Vijaya Parrikar Library - Carnatic and Hindustani Music Library 
    Maqam World - Music theory of Classical Arabic Music

    J.S. Bach
    Bach Cantatas OnlineThe Canons and Fugues of J.S. Bach 


    Francesca Caccini - 
    Il Primo Libro della Musiche

    La Liberazione di Ruggiero dall'isola d'Alcina
    Aaron Copland Collection - LOC
    Charles Mingus

    Jean-Baptiste Lully Collection - UNT
    W.A. Mozart
    Neue Mozart-Ausgabe - Complete works online
    Mozart Thematic Catalog - British Museum

    Score Study and Manuscripts
    Online Musical Scores to Download
    Variations Prototype: Online Musical Scores
    Virtual Rare Book Room - (esp. 18c French Opera)

    The Petrarchian Grotto - Petrarch
    Your - Online language resource

    Other Links
    Arabic Maqam World
    Guidonian Hand-Flash required
    The Blues - PBS - Your Vintage Synthesizer resource

    Minnesota Public Radio
    Twin Cities Public Television
    KBEM - Jazz88fm

    Student Resources
    A History of Western Music
    Concise History of Western Music
    Listen 5th edition
    Thompson & Wadsworth Publishing
    GRAD 8101 - Teaching in Higher Ed.

    Study Tips on the Web
    How to read college texts
    The Logical Fallacies Index
    Evaluating Web Sites - Cornell
    Evaluating Web - UC Berkeley
    * Turabian citation - UWO
    QuickStudy citation guide- UofMN
    The American Folklife Center
    The Virtual Orchestra Online

    Publications, Journals, etc.A-R Editions Inc.
    Arts at Informaworld
    Chamber Music America
    Radical Musicology
    Transcultural Music Review

    Venues and Organizations
    Intermedia Arts -
    Minnesota Citizens for the Arts

    Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra 
    Minnesota Orchestra
    Minnesota ChoraleOne Voice Mixed Chorus
    Rose Ensemble 
    Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra

    Vocal Essence

    Professional Organizations
    American Musicological Society
    American Composers Forum
    Society for Ethnomusicology
    Iowa Scholarship for the Arts

    Saturday, March 4, 2017

    Classical Guitar Essentials

    Here are some essential links, videos and methods for my students.  All of my students should own a copy of the Julio Sagreras method books, and Christopher Parkening Method volume 1. (*)

    A great start to lessons is this video with Minnesota native Sharon Isbin.

    * Julio S. Sagreras Lessons for Guitar (free through the IMSLP data library at:,_Julio_Salvador)

    * The Christopher Parkening Guitar Method Vol.1
    Vol. 2

    Classical Guitar School - free music and method books
     - The First Guitar Lessons - by Eythor Thorlaksson (the text is Icelandic, but still great)
     - Guitar Method Book I - by Eythor Thorlaksson

    How to Hold the Classical Guitar (VIDEO)
     - Right Hand position for Classical Guitar (VIDEO)
     - Right Hand - Rest Stoke and. Free Stoke (VIDEO)
     - Left Hand Technique (VIDEO)
    How to Re-String a Classical Guitar (VIDEO)
    Classical Guitar Master Classes (VIDEO)

    Classical Guitar Performances
    John Williams - Vivaldi Concerto in D Major
    Sharon Isbin (Minnesota Native) - Performances at the White House

    * I would be remiss if I did not mention Peter Lingen, with whom I studied Classical Guitar at Luther College. His instruction had a profound influence on my approach to musicianship and technique on both Guitar and Electric Bass.