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University Structure
Music Technology Program: Possible Definitions, Possible Futures

 
 
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University Structure
Music Technology Program: Possible Definitions, Possible Futures

by Jody Nagel
Opinion
 
 
1. The School-of-Music Structure.
 
(a) Genre Basis (possibility).
The primary divisions of the school would be drawn by the genre of music that it represents. Each would be responsible for covering aspects of its performance practice, conducting (if relevant), pedagogy, history, and theory & composition.
 

University Chart 1
 

(b) Discipline Basis (possibility). The primary divisions of the school would be drawn by the discipline of music that it represents. Each would be responsible for including examples of all major genres.
 

University Chart 2
 

(c) Current Basis. The primary divisions at this university of the current School of Music include:
 
-- Orchestra, Wind Ensemble / Band, Choral, and Jazz Ensembles that emphasize performance practice and conducting, though Jazz has its own history and theory classes, too.
 
-- The Music Education division covers some philosophy but emphasizes job training for future school teachers; thus, its concerns tend to be instrument pedagogy, marching band and religious choral music performance practice.
 
-- The Music History division covers mostly the history of Western Art Music, which, of course, includes (as a portion) much of the Orchestral and Choral music covered by the ensembles.
 
-- The Music Theory and Composition division also covers mostly the theory (and, thus, composition) of Western Art Music, which, of course, includes (as a portion) much of the Orchestral and Choral music covered by the ensembles.
 
These, then, are the areas currently covered at this school. (checked.)

University Chart 3
 

The ensembles (especially those of jazz and commercial music) and many of the "music education" faculty, wish to see the Music Theory & Composition Division represent more of "their" music in theory classes.
 
The music theory discipline, however, has not found as much theoretical interest in much of jazz, and the great bulk of commercial music, as it has in western "Art" music. This writer, to be specific, became interested early in life not merely in some world abstraction called "music", but, in particular, in western Art music. I have no intention of suddenly giving up my intellectual position of championing Art music. (Art music, is that music which has some enduring value, intellectual as well as emotional, which is something other than "commercial" or "sedating" in nature.)
 
Let me say that I would rather see the school partitioned by genre than by discipline. The current haphazard mix, however, is entirely unsatisfactory. I consider myself an "Art Music" champion. I have little or no interest in marching bands, jazz bands, and rock bands. I have no intention of ever including their materials in my classes. It is extremely frustrating to see marching bands concern themselves with their own performance practice, and then baldly suppose that their genre's theory and history should be covered by the music theory or music history divisions. There would be two choices: (A) I will cover the "theory", such as it is, of marching band music in my classes, if they play the literature that I am interested in (including avant garde classical music) within their ensembles. Or (B) They can study all facets of the marching band tradition, and I will champion, with like-minded colleagues, all the facets of Art Music.
 
The Music Theory & Composition Division will uphold the standards of the field of Music Theory. We will not merely be viewed as a "service" division for the sake of other School-of-Music divisions. How would the choral or orchestral ensembles feel if the Theory & Composition Division viewed them as simply "example providers" for our own analytical purposes.
 



The forgoing was necessary for establishing a context for discussing the School-of-Music "Music Technology Program." The question is this: How should the Music Technology Program fit into the overall School of Music? How was it seen at the time it was created? How is it seen now? The real emphasis of these questions can be boiled down to what is the roll, philosophically-speaking, of RECORDING MUSIC within our school.
 
The original idea of the Music Technology Program, as created by Dr. S---, was to provide something more than merely a "Sound Recording Program." By focusing on composition, students would more skillfully be able to record music. The electronic composer would be better able to record his own works, and the person wishing to be a recording engineer would have greater insight into how to do his or her job. It was a fragile balance between being fully a musician and fully an engineer. It was (and sort of still is), furthermore, aligned with the Theory & Composition Division within the School of Music.
 
The current Performance Faculty and Ensemble Directors, however, have little interest in the Music Technology Program in any way except in that it provides relatively inexpensive recording services to them.
 
The Theory & Composition Division views the Music Technology Program as providing a sub-component of both Theory and Composition.
 
Let's consider the possible roles of RECORDING MUSIC within the School of Music.
 
(1) Recording can be a topic covered by each of the Musical Genres. In which case it must be worked in, somehow, to the 1st chart ahown above ("Genre" Basis") Each genre (i.e., choral, wind ensemble, orchestral, chamber music, jazz, and commercial, etc.) would supply its own teacher devoted to recording music of that genre. Student Composers of each genre could supplement their knowledge with recording skills suited to their genre. They could all make use of our School-of-Music recording facilities under one time-sharing system managed by one neutral person. Art Music, of course, would want a share of this set-up, too. This system would require that all genres have at least one teacher skillful in recording techniques. I could cover the electronic composition and recording of Art Music, but others would have to deal with the recording of their genre.
 
(2) Recording (Music Technology) can be viewed as a discipline equal to Music Ed, Performance, Theory, History, etc. In which case it must be worked in, somehow, to the 2nd chart ("Discipline Basis") listed at the top of this document. As a "discipline," it would be required to cover all musical genres, but as a separate discipline it would conduct its affairs with the same degree of independence as the other disciplines. In this scenario, I would not wish to be considered for the directorship of the program, as I have no interest in recording any form of commercial music.
 
(3) The Music Technology Program can be viewed as a subset of the current Theory & Composition Division. I would enjoy the leadership role in this scenario. The emphasis of recording would be, like originally stated, to augment the resources of composers of electro-acoustic music and those composers wishing to record their own acoustic music. The National Asociation of Schools of Music (NASM) requires a certain component of electronic music, and in this scenario, it would be a logical function of the Theory & Composition Division. If Music Technology is merely a subset of Theory & Composition, however, I would have no interest in recording the music not directly related to our interests. The performance faculty and ensembles would have to have their recording services provided in some other way, perhaps by independent contracting.
 
Many Performance Faculty and Ensemble Directors are unhappy with what they view as the low-quality recordings that they obtain from Music Technology students. The Music Technology recording students are just as much students as are the performing and ensemble students. If the quality levels of the recordings were compared objectively to the quality levels of most student performances at this university, I dare say it is the recording people who score the highest overall average. If the Music Technology Program were recognized clearly as a subset of the Theory & Composition Division, it would emphasize electronic composition and recordings made of the works of student composers. The performers would then be free to contract outside professional recording services and probably be much happier. How this would be paid for is something I know nothing about.
 
(4) The Music Technology Program, emphasizing recording, could be given the same status as a school or department within the College of Fine Arts, and literally be conducted outside of the School of Music. The School of Music would have to arrange with them or outside professionals to have recordings made. I would not be interested in leading the program within this scenario. I personally do not think that "recording," per se, is a proper discipline for a college of Fine Arts. Only if it augments composers' or performers' own knowledge, as a secondary benefit to their own work, do I acknowledge a role for Audio Recording within the College of Fine Arts or School of Music. Audio Recording as primarily a commercial venture would best be taught by the Business School, the Electrical Engineering Program, or the Telecommunications Department. Only if it serves Art, in my opinion, should it be a function of the College of Fine Arts.
 
(5) The Music Technology Program, emphasizing recording, could be placed into one of the above mentioned Programs (e.g., Business, Engineering, Telecommunications) and conducted from within that other college's budget. Or, it could be given the same status as an Independent College, and operate purely in its own way. I would also not wish to participate in this scenario.
 
As a composer and theorist of Art Music, I have interest in electronic music and associated recording techniques in as much as they serve the "instinct to be creative." This instinct to be creative is the guiding identity of a College of Fine Arts. If Music Technology is kept within the School of Music it must be handled within a clear philosophical agenda. Recording knowledge and applications should be supplied by each genre separately, or Recording knowledge should be a separate discipline which covers all genres, or, if desired by the school, it should remain a subset of Theory & Composition and emphasize the needs of the composer. In the latter case, I would be interested in leading the Music Technology Program. In the former cases, I would not, and, furthermore would not support the continued notion of the Music Technology Program having an association with the Theory & Composition Division. We would not wish to support its courses, or staff its faculty, if, regardless of the form the School of Music might take, the "true" purposes of Music Technology is to provide recordings to the other divisions within the school.
 
The School of Music needs a clearer philosophy for how its resources are allocated. Should it be by Genre, by Discipline, or something else? In any case, in its current form, things are quite inequitable. An extreme case is the marching band program, which deals with only one genre (marching band music) and one discipline (performance practice.) The Music Theory & Composition Division, apparently, is expected to deal with ALL genres of music from the perspective of Theory & Composition. As I said earlier, I would prefer the School to be partitioned based on "genre," and I and like-minded colleagues would represent the genre Art Music. The Music Technology component of Art Music would emphasize electronic composition and recording of Art Music pieces. The other genres would have their "share" of the physical recording resources but have their own teachers.
 
I personally am interested in the Music Technology Program, the Music Technology function, the Music Technology discipline, call it what you like, only as it relates to Art Music. NASM requires electronic music experiences. I am qualified to lead Electronic Composition experiences within the Art Music perspective at the School of Music. I am not qualified to teach hard-core recording classes, though I could lead the program involving electronic composition and recording if it served Art Music. (We would need to hire a recording & microphone specialist, in just about any case.) If Recording and the Music Technology function are redefined away from the (supposed) current Theory & Composition organization (recording and electronic composition of Art Music), and toward a recording service orientation for the Performers and Ensembles, then the Theory & Composition would be required to find another source for providing the NASM-required electronic music experiences.
 
It seems the School of Music should have an open and frank dialog about the future role of the Music Technology Program. If we do not first have a coherent philosophy about the role of Music Technology, then it is futile to consider writing up a job description for a successor to Dr. S---'s position. If everyone is working with cross-purposes and unshared assumptions, then hiring anyone now will result in a complete disaster. Let's avoid that, and all agree, at least, as to what we are hiring, even if we don't all agree on what we should be hiring. I offer my services under certain scenarios that I have specified above, and not under certain other scenarios specified above. I cheerfully will let democracy reign, and accept whatever the will of the School of Music is for deciding the future of Music Technology. I merely point out that I personally will never be a recording expert, will never be involved in commercial music, and that NASM does require an electronic music experience to be provided. I am happy to help provide the electronic music experience, as Art Music, and if it is, or is not, called the "Music Technology Program" that is fine with me.
 
 
Dr. Jody Nagel
October 8, 2000
 
 
 

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