One Thing Drives Out Another: in which I make excuses and get excited about a now-and-future project

Too many interests—to some extent, that’s what this blog is about. And that’s also what has prevented me from writing these last forty-ish days. That’s not to say I haven’t been writing. As my focus process shifts from the writing of my dissertation to final edits and looking toward the imminent defense of said dissertation in October, I’ve been scrambling to patch holes in the ship that will sail me to Ph.D.-dom.

Couple that with an idea that’s been simmering in the back of my mind for about nine months (which, I’m given to understand, is an excellent gestation period for both ideas and babies), and you get even more writing. I will “e’splain” with a timeline.

November 2011—insidehighered.com publishes Exploding the Lecture by Steve Kolowich. Kolowich discusses the use and benefits of recorded mini-lectures by Mike Garver, Professor of Marketing at Central Michigan University. (I mentioned this in an earlier post.)

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January 2012—gradhacker publishes “Publishing Your Presentations Online,” something that’s good in its own right, but got me thinking about ways to make visuals for mini lectures, and then perhaps make them available via podcast, iTunes U, etc.

YouTube user Vi Hart uploads this video on math and the Fibonacci Sequence. The short form and whimsical treatment of subject matter typically viewed as dry and boring by students makes me wonder if the same could be done with music theory.

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April 2012—Vi Hart uploads another video, this time relating geometry to sound in time (as does my dissertation).

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May 2012—I begin sporadically writing out mini lectures that I intend to record very soon, perhaps with my brother. We share many happy memories writing and recording a number of “radio plays” to audio cassettes.

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July 2012—I discover YouTube contributor pbsideachannel via their video on Minecraft as a model of the theoretical post-scarcity economy. (Apparently the channel’s been around since February, but I’m late to the game.) The snappy scripting and pacing of each weakly installment creates bite-sized thought-candy. Incidentally, this show fits remarkably well with the underlying theme of oldworldforthenew—comparing, contrasting, and merging seemingly disparate ideas in the arts, philosophy, etc.

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August 2012—I discover another YouTube contributor, MinutePhysics, who provided me with the most concise explanation of the Higgs-Boson particle I have yet to encounter. Again, the short form makes for smaller, digestible amounts of new material. The drawn visuals echo what I liked about Vi Hart’s videos.

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So why not music theory too. Music theory is often thought of as a rather dry and opaque area of study in the minds of young (a surprising number of older) musicians—much the same way grammar is to English students, or maths or physics. It requires the logical side of our brain. For those who don’t take to the left side of their cerebrum, adding some whimsy and humor to the mix can make a difficult subject more palatable.

So in the last few weeks, as my academic writing load has decreased, I’ve put more effort into developing a fun, podcast-like, short-form series intended to make music theory more accessible. Of course, once that’s up and running, it will likely require some form of web support, so I’m trying to get a jump on that and learn something about HTML and CSS.

I’ll post something the first episode when it’s done.