Thursday, February 15, 2018

Why isn’t band music as respected as orchestral music?

A high school concert band. Photo by Sheila Herman.
Be honest: Does this picture
give you flashbacks?
As I mentioned in my previous post on my trip to Utah State University, one of the students posed a question that had the potential to be an interesting blog post. We had been discussing perceptions of “high” vs. “low” culture and how those get mapped onto music, and USU student Samuel Dickson asked:

“Why doesn’t band music get as much respect as orchestral music does?”

I had to come up with an answer on the spot, and I think I was on the right track overall. Yet this is the type of question that can reveal so much about history and cultural assumptions that it warrants research and a much more thorough answer than I was able to give off the top of my head.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

The Adventures of a Visiting Scholar in Utah (with link to my talk, “The Morality of Musical Men: From Victorian Propriety to the Era of #MeToo”)

Hello, everyone! If you’ve been following my social media accounts (either Facebook or Twitter), you’ll know that I was busy last week. I traveled to Logan, Utah for Utah State University’s Visiting Artist & Scholar series, part of their Year of the Arts. For two days, January 25-26, I was treated like a musicological rock star. It was an amazing experience, and I want to let you know what I did out there—for those readers who wonder what public musicologists do, or what an academic trip like this can look like, or just like to know what I’m up to.

A poster for my scholarly talk in the lobby of my hotel
 Poster for my talk in the lobby of my hotel. 
I received the invitation to USU in late 2016 from musicology professor Chris Scheer, whom I’d met through our shared Anglophilia and membership in the North American British Music Studies Association (the group that I mentioned in my post on Clara Schumann). Honored, I accepted, but I had a lot of concerns due to my health.

Long-term planning is difficult for someone with stage IV breast cancer, especially since my condition has been very unpredictable—in fact, last summer I had such a big setback that I absolutely would not have been able to travel then. I still haven’t gained back all the strength and mobility I lost then, so as my trip neared, I had to trim the trip down to the barest responsibilities of the position, knowing I wouldn’t have the stamina for much more.

Fortunately, Dr. Scheer and everyone else I met was accommodating and sensitive to my medical issues. The schedule was adjusted to four days: two days of teaching, discussing, and presenting, and a day of travel on either end. I arrived in Utah on Wednesday, January 24th, with responsibilities beginning on Thursday the 25th.