Student Reaction Papers:
Music Techology in Music Education

First Reactions...

Our first reactions are extremely varied...Jong Suh Lee's provocative speculation about the human species evolving a new art form and an intelligent music instrument certainly implies tremendous challenges for music education, while Duo-Lin Peng reminds us not to lose sight of the music making that should be central to any use of technology.

As you are writing, try to explore issues and implications. Don't use the reaction paper to address some problem you may have in the class concerning my presentations. You can and should send me e-mails concerning such problems. Try to make your reaction papers embody a more formal inquiry and reflection. Also give strong attention to checking your spelling and English grammar as I am posting these as received.

...jvg, February 15, 2001

Where are we going?

Jongsuh Lee

An insatiable desire exists among creative musicians to enable the tools of musical realization to traverse the terrain of musical possibilities as easily and flexibly as the conceiving powers of the human mind. I have been thinking about the notion of paradigm shift, invoking parallels between our fundamental re-conception of the universe and artistic production, I herein propose that the idea of intelligent musical instruments - made possible by recent technological progress - indicates such a shift. The thought that a musical instrument can be implanted with the motivation to construct and transform, thereby entering the domain of composing beyond the mere production of low-level musical events - requires entirely new thinking about composition, performance and man's interaction with his tools. For several decades now, we have lived with notion of human extension - not man the thinker or man the maker, but man the extender. This caused us to verbalize an understanding of media and technology as an extension of human facility and, thus, the computer music system as an extension of the mind and nervous system of the musician. It is a notion that works, to some degree. But now, we have passed the stage of infant birth and early exploration, into the realm of fully realized tools that not only extend that musical nervous system, but turn and return the gaze - looking back at those interacting - or should we still use the words, playing with them

As we explore this new listening territory, we may be drawn to observe the emergence of global properties. This may lead us to our new definition of the musical event. The natural processes of perception drive us to extract descriptions enabling us to generalize across events and to group them into identifiable, broad categories.

In hearing the often high-speed peregrinations of a master improviser, one finds pleasure in scanning the implicative power of the player's tonal choices. Are these implied relations based on references to possible syntaxes of music, innate tonal references (i.e. harmonic series), musical semantics (i.e. phrase structure meaning), the morphogenesis of new ideas, or all of these?

When we experience an interactive composition based on complex adaptive systems, we may be thrilled by the chance to observe a proposed model of nature made animate in musical form. What, then, does this kind of experience have to do with language or, more properly, linguistics and its attendant ideas of syntax, transformations, grammar, lexicon, phonetics, and semantics. Is there a musical language? Or is part of the pleasure of composition to be found in the construction and subsequent parsing of possible or propositional languages, each potentially unique, complete, and coherent on its own? What then does this bode for the listener, the composer, music appreciation, and music theory?

I propose the term, Propositional Music, to refer to musical thinking that includes the view of composition as the proposition of musical realities, complete cognitive models of music, using propositional musical language accompanied by a propositional language of music theory. This may also be called speculative music and speculative theory as well, since the term experimental music has become distorted by historical and stylistic associations at this point in music history.

A central question: Is music to be considered an autonomous human activity emerging from the brain, body, and the social order, containing its own innate phenomena to be probed, divined, studied and theorized about, until sufficient understanding emerges to allow comprehensive characterizations to be written, revealing for all time its a priori properties?

Or, is music to be considered a dynamically evolving domain of potentialities whose boundaries are defined merely by those who consider themselves to be practitioners of something called music?

If so, we can not parallel the linguists travails in attempting to write a description of a thing called musical language unless we restrict ourselves to a very limited domain of what can be called music. Music composition involves the invention of uniquely ordered musical realities or cognitive models, whether conscious or unconscious. It is a fundamental tenant of propositional, interactive music that it be perceived and enjoyed within this frame of mind.

Where will all this lead us in the present cultural context? Hopefully, to expanded means of intelligent hearing, a new kind of musicianship. When I look at the dynamic forms of nature, I see a complex filigree of patterns and relationships and derive great pleasure from the interaction between these forms and those of my own makeup as a human being. And though there is true emotion in this experience, it is not that normally associated with the cadences and neo-romantic formulations of conservative musical consumerism. Yet, these are increasingly demanded by the pressures for audience successes that characterize even avant-garde culture in a world that presents ever increasing economic and environmental tensions - lessening the freedoms encouraging exploration - and heightening the psychology of urgency to produce the short-term gains required by a debtor society. Music has, thus, become focused on production rather than exploration. This militates against morpho-dynamics. If it would help matters, one could easily formulate an argument asserting that exploration may be seen as product.

Finally, to reiterate the title question, is this a new art form? I believe, yes. Will it survive and last? Who knows. Remember, evolution will continue - no matter how hard we try to stop it.

Duo-Lin Peng

I started learning how to "operate" computer when I was around 14 years old, afterwards I still kept in touch with it on and off. I would not consider computer strange to me at all. However, preparing the course assignments was still not an easy task. The first amazing thing I had found out was that although I was quite familiar with the application (Power Point) before, I had only used it as plain text and graphic presentation, I have never fully utilized the functions it was really designed for. Therefore in order to solve "the adding sound to the presentation" problem, it took me three days to find a solution to settle it. After trying all the possibilities from the help menu and still could not process sound files as it should be, I thought of Piaget’s learning theory--accommodation and assimilation. When sound file was added to the slide, under the multimedia setting menu it could choose either "pause the slide while playing the animation" or "stop playing after specific slide". By executing these commands, however, it did not show the participated effects. Then I tried to accommodate this situation by searching any possible explanations-- maybe the different language version has different interpretations towards the same task, or newer version vs. older version limited certain functions. After several attempts failed, I decided to accept the fact that at this moment I could not incorporate these commands into the slides to create the effects I wanted, therefore I either rejected or assimilated the fact into my mental structure. Finally I ignored those preset commands and headed to another logical way to solve the problem, and in some degree I solved it!

While we can benefit from the advantages of technology in music education, however we should not forget under the fancy package what brings out the most important elements to our students are the passion for music and the never ending road to learning.

Hui-Fen Hsu

PowerPoint is an easy to learn and convenient program to assist showing presentations. It is not only good for teachers to give fascinating and effective presentations, but also good for them to think learning processes through animating slides. While animating slides, teachers have to consider learning processes and then to animate slides in sequence to help students learning systematically and efficiently. Therefore, a teacher need to have a sharp mind and understand learning processes profoundly in order to give students the best presentation.

Through using PowerPoint and SoundEdit 16 programs, I did not have many problems to use them. But while attaching them via e-mail, there was a problem because the sound file is too big. It is a good opportunity to learn troubleshooting. Teachers in the future may face problems while using music technology or technology in classrooms. They need to learn solving problems by themselves although there may have troubleshooters in schools. Teachers need to have abilities to solve problems after all this is one part of the learning processes. Teachers need to experience learning processes before teaching them.

Establishing technology or music technology station in classrooms not only envolve in education expenditure, but also teacher abilities. Training teachers to use those technologies is also an important task. We need not only fine technologies, but also fine teachers with excellent skills to use them.

Filipe de Castro

All my life when I thought about computer for me it was a terrible headache. I've always avoided the use of the computer because actually I never Knew how to deal with it. In all my experiences in computers, almost all of them was frustrating, because My work was never how I would wanted.

Although those experiences are still in my mind, now I am beginning to know how to handle with it. I've done some works, some tests by computer and I think I am more integrated in this area. Of course that I am not an expert and I am very far from that, but things started to be easier for me, and I could react and try to go deeper in computer, mainly in the internet.

This class has been very useful and it has helped me a lot. In the beginning I was confuse and I couldn't do one slide without making a mistake. Inserting sound was the most difficulty for me, but after several times i figured out that it was much easier than I thought. Sometimes I spent long times trying to do something that after learning I don't spend more than 5 minutes.

I hope that this class can help me more and more with computer programs and that I can relax and enjoy it.

Michiko Kadoya-Ito

Creating web pages is fun and I have been interested in adding sound too them. Since I was a student in Japan, I had spent most time as a performer in the orchestra and as a teacher of flute and theory until last year. Therefore, I seldom used a computer. But, after I became a student at NYU, I really needed to have more skills in arranging and creating computer programs.

Your lectures are always new and surprising to me, and I was fascinated again that the computer world has universal possibilities and I would like to learn this world as much as I can during this semester with you. However it took me a lot of time for to dot the assignments for the last two weeks. I hope that you can explain them more slowly so I will be able to take notes of the key points in class.

After seeing my sliding pages, my husband asked me how to make them. He wants to make sliding pages for his future presentations in the field of medical sciences in near future, too.

Shiou-Lin Jean

Computer technology do helps the music class more interesting and attractive. I am sure that students will love to learn music by the assistance of computer. As a music teacher in my hometown, Taiwan, the problem is most music classroom in elementary school or high school only has piano and CD players in it. If we want to apply computer technology in the music class, the school should spent more found to establish the computer in the music classroom or we have to teach music in the computer lab.

David Bower

The capabilities of PowerPoint are very interesting. I'm actually running choir rehearsals and teaching music and writing classes now with ideas in my head of what I would do if I had a computer and projector in the rehearsal or classroom. Preparing a Powerpoint presentation doesn't seem like it would take any longer than preparing class notes or a lesson plan, and would be so much more engaging for the student.

I can't help but to wonder how well it would work out to have a laptop computer and projector to bring with me, especially since the NYU classrooms where I teach don't have computers in them.

I also wonder if there ever would be any way to insert an box within the powerpoint presentation with a live view of the instructor, especially if he/she were at the back of the room or in subdued lighting.

Justin Farrell

I thought it might be appropriate to describe a little bit about my teaching situation before I began my journal. I guess that this will be important to know for those of you who may read it, as it will tend to guide my thinking. My practice, hopefully, will be embedded in my thinking.

I am a vocal and general music teacher in the Carle Place UFSD on Long Island. The district is the second smallest (geographically) in the stateóserving less than 1.4 square miles of population. There are three buildings in my districtóa K-2 building, a 3-6 building (where I teach) and a MS/HSÖ all of these buildings are on the same piece of property. In terms of population, there are roughly 125 students in each grade level.

The technology that is currently in my classroom includes one functional MIDI workstation (PC with a Kurzweil PC88 keyboard). This workstation was purchased through a grant that my colleague and I wrote and won. The stereo in my classroom is my personal equipment that I had from college... nothing spectacular, but it gets the job done nicely.

My district is planning a new technology purchase exceeding $1.5M that will put three new computers in every classroom (in addition to a lab set) and a laptop for each teacher. Our Superintendent asked what technology would be necessary to make computers in the music room useful. We requested a lab with 3 computers, slave keyboards, and a professional sound module. In addition, we requested a new sound system and a DVD player (to replace my personal equipment). Realistically, we can expect some cuts, but we hope that they contact us or other music professionals so that if a piece of equipment is eliminated, the other hardware will not be useless or not useable.

In addition to purchasing the equipment, the district plans on spending a great deal of resources on staff development. In fact, part of the bid for the contractors was to provide ongoing staff training both off-site and in the classroom. One of the greatest concerns for the music department is that the staff trainers be musicians who are familiar with the hardware and the software commonly used in music and music education.

One of the main reasons I signed up for this course was because I thought I could design lessons for small groups or for individuals (as we will only have 3 or 4 computers in the room). I look forward to drawing for the experience of the other members of the class and sharing experiences with you as we go along.