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Odds and ends - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Odds and ends
I just had steak, eggs, and potatoes for dinner, which in today's climate may well be considered a self-destructive act, but it was very yummy.

I'm watching Drumline, which features a kid who got a marching band scholarship, and then they find out he can't read music and...

Well, the only thing I'm thinking is... well, why didn't someone tell him that he'd need to read music? He plays, so it shouldn't be that hard for him to learn to follow along at the very least, and the college could help him learn better. I don't know... I just don't see how someone could be allowed to graduate from high school knowing he's going into a college marching band without someone making sure he could read music first?

Oh, well. I don't disbelieve that it could happen. I just don't get it.
22 comments or Leave a comment
heatherhobbit From: heatherhobbit Date: May 7th, 2005 01:58 am (UTC) (Link)
The music in that movie was good, but the actual plotline sucked.
ashtur From: ashtur Date: May 7th, 2005 02:02 am (UTC) (Link)
Consider the number of HS graduates who are effectively illiterate...

Did you ever read "Screwtape Proposes a Toast?", it's usually printed as an appendix to the Letters. I think he was on about alot of things in that.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 7th, 2005 02:06 am (UTC) (Link)
Consider the number of HS graduates who are effectively illiterate...
Yeah, but most of them don't wind up with drama scholarships, which would require cold reading!

It does annoy me, though.
melyanna From: melyanna Date: May 7th, 2005 02:04 am (UTC) (Link)
As far as I know, it wouldn't happen. Most music schools require you to take a music theory test before you're accepted or given a scholarship. The threshold for passing can be disgustingly low (why would you want to be a musician and not bother to learn how to read music fluently before graduating from high school, she asks all the singers in her freshman theory class), but you have to know something first.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 7th, 2005 02:08 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm glad to hear that. But even assuming that there's a way to "cheat" it (this seems to be a school with a heavy music competition and a habit of taking in musical "jocks" to help get an edge), it's the teacher who let the kid into the embarrassing situation that makes me scratch my head.
melyanna From: melyanna Date: May 7th, 2005 02:17 am (UTC) (Link)
And your other comment got me thinking — YES, there's sightreading involved for a scholarship audition! There's usually more of it for instrumentalists than for vocalists, too, since vocalists are expected to do tonal memory or whatever it is it's called. (I always thought that was the stupidest thing ever, because if you have instructors who are halfway decent, they're not teaching by rote. They expect you to be able to read music.)

Just out of curiosity, was this kind not reading music in the sense of couldn't look at a piano score and tell you where F was? Or was he not able to read rhythms on a snare part at all? Because music schools do tend to be somewhat lenient about people reading outside their usual area. Sopranos, for example, aren't expected to be able to read bass clef when they leave high school because they haven't needed to up to that point. (Of course, I'm talking about relatively normal schools — I'm sure that schools like Julliard or Oberlin would be more selective.)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 7th, 2005 02:39 am (UTC) (Link)
He couldn't read the snare part, even--midway through the movie, after he's been kicked out of band, he goes to the band room and they have a machine that transcribes what they play into written music, and he bonds with a formerly hostile section leader when said leader shows him how what he had played matched up with what was on the paper, and the actor's expression definitely implied that this was the first time he'd ever actually gotten it.

I'll say this for the movie--excellent drum stuff. But a goofy plot. The kid's supposed to easily be the best drum player at the school and he's being recruited by the unscrupulous competing school that only expects the band to entertain and doesn't expect the kids to know anything about musicianship, while the noble band leader kicks off his best player in order to make sure he understands his craft--not a bad idea, except that I just couldn't comprehend it as a situation at a college where they'd had to have scholarships.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 7th, 2005 02:14 am (UTC) (Link)
(why would you want to be a musician and not bother to learn how to read music fluently before graduating from high school, she asks all the singers in her freshman theory class)

And on that, word. The basics of music theory aren't difficult--I think I might still be able to pass on the basics (I can read music and I know intervals and such, and I was able to haltingly transpose a piece that was a note too low for my flute last week)--and if you're at all interested in music, wouldn't you, you know, pretty much want those tools available whenever you need them?

Then again, how many people say they want to write without learning about diction and story structure? (Or any having any interest in learning them?) How many would-be poets think they don't need to know what a sonnet is?
melyanna From: melyanna Date: May 7th, 2005 02:28 am (UTC) (Link)
It happens more frequently in chorus, to be honest. In high school I was in band, orchestra, and choir, and found that the winds section of the orchestra tended to be the most rounded musicians, but that's because we spent five days a week in band and then three days a week in orchestra too. We did a lot of sightreading because we served as the winds section for the school's three orchestras. We had to transpose things because people used to write clarinet parts for A clarinet instead of Bb clarinet, and my horn section transposed parts more often than not. We also had several who played piano, and we helped each other out with things and learned from each other.

Singers... don't do that. You get some who play the piano quite well, but the sad truth is that someone can learn to sing a part without learning to read music all that well. I've been consistently placed in alto sections when I'm actually a soprano because I can read music, have exceptional pitch, can sing inside harmonies, and sightread well. I think it's a matter of liking singing more than liking music. And those girls always wondered why they didn't score higher at solo and ensemble contests. Usually it was because they didn't possess the musical skills to really perform a song, and those people rarely make it in music schools. (I left music because I discovered I liked it as an intellectual pursuit far more than as a performance pursuit, and alas, it's hard to make a living as a composer or historian when you don't want to teach.)

Then again, how many people say they want to write without learning about diction and story structure? (Or any having any interest in learning them?) How many would-be poets think they don't need to know what a sonnet is?

Or more fundamental than that, without learning how the English language works on a basic level? I took a fantastic class on modern English grammar last fall, and my professor said over and over in the course that good creative writers are the best grammarians, because they know why the rules exist and what effects they create, and therefore what effects breaking them will create.
straussmonster From: straussmonster Date: May 7th, 2005 02:53 am (UTC) (Link)
Singers are notoriously incompetent at actual musicianship.

I know this in excruciating detail.
melyanna From: melyanna Date: May 7th, 2005 02:56 am (UTC) (Link)
So do I. I spent a year as a vocal performance major, and one of my reasons for running screaming from it was the inability of my classmates to remember that F has one flat. I know it was mildly unreasonable of me, but I spent six years playing the French horn up to that point, and was extraordinarily frustrated.
straussmonster From: straussmonster Date: May 7th, 2005 03:04 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm a graduate student in musicology.

I get to teach budding little undergraduates, very very soon. Alas!
chocolatepot From: chocolatepot Date: May 7th, 2005 03:15 am (UTC) (Link)
Can be. I find it very aggravating when I'm trying to explain to someone who wasn't at a rehearsal what note the part is on when the other person can't read music.

It would have been really easy, too, because it was only two notes.
endofhistory From: endofhistory Date: May 7th, 2005 02:25 am (UTC) (Link)
It actually isn't as uncommon as you would think. I knew two trumpet players who couldn't read music, but played everything by ear and I didn't know until someone told me. The same with drummers.
rose_in_shadow From: rose_in_shadow Date: May 7th, 2005 03:03 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I don't think he could have either. At my school anyway we had to do sightreading tests by ourselves. If we couldn't read the music, it'd be painfully obvious.
greyathena From: greyathena Date: May 7th, 2005 03:33 am (UTC) (Link)
[salivating for steak and eggs]

I have a whole group of friends whose favorite dinner is the huge Irish pub breakfast at the place where we go for Quiz Night - eggs, sausage, potatoes, fried tomatoes . . .
kokopelli20878 From: kokopelli20878 Date: May 7th, 2005 12:24 pm (UTC) (Link)

Reading Music

My dad was a Chemical Engineer - but he played trombone in High School, and in College was in the Marching Band. He never learned to read music - played all through High School and College by ear.

Weird, huh?

He made sure that _I_ learned how to read music though . . .

darsina From: darsina Date: May 7th, 2005 12:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
Is Drumline a movie? The whole story doesn't sound convincing at all. If I were that guy, I'd make sure that I'd be able to read music before I started college. Don't know, however, how hard it would be for a teen or young adult, having learned to read keys as a little child myself.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 7th, 2005 03:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, it's a movie. Not an awful one and with good marching band sequences. And I guess that's where I stumble with it, too--I never thought of reading music as anything like a difficult skill--you memorize the length of notes and then you spot them. If you can play the drum and remember choreography, music reading should be a breeze!
jetamors From: jetamors Date: May 7th, 2005 09:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think the implication was that he knew good and well that he couldn't read music, and hid the fact. Also, the director probably figured that if he couldn't read music, it would shake itself out in practice. Who would've guessed that he would be good enough to memorize the audition piece?

Unfortunately, a lot of high school marching bands (and some college bands as well) emphasize what looks good over what's best for the students. They'll just teach the kids their parts for each song without worrying about them learning to read other music. This would be doubly true for a kid who could pick up cadences quickly, since he wouldn't necessarily come to the attention of someone who could help him with it.
lauraflute From: lauraflute Date: May 9th, 2005 05:30 am (UTC) (Link)
There is a huge difference between a drummer and a percussionist. A drummer is an idiot who can't read music and only plays non-pitched percussion instruments because either they can't or they refuse to learn to read music. They usually "play in a band, man." A percussionist is a musician who can read music (including special percussion marks used for non pitched percussion) and has a working knowledge of how to play all orchestral percussion instruments. Yes, most of them will have a specialty, but they train on all of them. You have no idea how many drummers (who come from excellent schools) get to college and wash out because they can't hack it as a percussionist, and no reputable college will let them slide.
texasmagic From: texasmagic Date: May 10th, 2005 02:06 am (UTC) (Link)
One thing many universities are resorting to is a theory placement test. All music majors take the test the first day of classes and are then placed according to their skill levels. Typically, the pianists and jazz musicians were in the top class, others with a little piano in the middle, and the ones who had no clue in the bottom.

Out top clarinetist and many vocalists were in the lower class. They all mixed up again for the second year of theory though.

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