Ukulele with Patch Adams: participatory music in action

I only now am finding time to note, in brief, a wonderful exchange I had last summer with the physician/activist/clown Patch Adams. A friend had given Patch the gift of a tie-dye patterned ukulele and asked me to help him get started due to my work with the Homebrew Ukulele Union.

Patch told me that he had always wished that he could play an instrument. We found our way through participatory music resonant with his approach to health and wellness through nutrition, love, faith, community, and peace. We were soon lost in song and in stories from Patch’s work around the world. He may have been late to start playing an instrument, but his passion reminded me that it is never too late.

Here we are, lost in song:

This being Patch Adams, here we are lost within what the Guinness Book of World Records has proclaimed the largest pair of underpants:

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Teaching about copyright’s “Blurred Lines”

NYTimes covers the "Blurred Lines" infringement case, click here for the article.

NYTimes covers the “Blurred Lines” infringement case, click here for the article.

The NYTimes has a solid summary of the “Blurred Lines” copyright infringement case, which was decided against Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams. They also published a nice critical analysis. There is no better time than when a big story breaks to discuss creative rights and creativity with your students. Given the ruling, it is also a good time to remind teachers that they get more mileage out of teaching creative rights than they do from teaching © compliance (see point three below).

Teachers who want some ideas for discussing the case in their classrooms might enjoy the following resources:

1. Chapter 6 of James Boyle’s The Public Domain, “I Got a Mashup,” conveys the story of the complexities of copyright using Kanye West and Ray Charles (and more). It is wonderful and fascinating and makes the ambiguity of copyright and the cloudiness of authorship very easy to see, hear, and discuss. The book is available as a Creative Commons free download.

2. Lawrence Lessig’s book “Free Culture” was perhaps the first book to really grab the public imagination about how copyright can be understood as part of the broad network of laws, values, norms, and architecture that support (or hinder) creativity. That book is also a free download.

3. Specifically for music teachers, I have argued that teachers should focus more on creative rights than compliance. My most extended argument from Music Education Research can be found here in both free and paywall versions. I also have a few links in that post to shorter pieces.

4. Kembrew McLeod is an outstanding scholar and prankster who does a nice job covering some of the more radical ideas regarding copyright. Your students will love him, and you should, too.

5. The film Copyright Criminals is great, and you can watch it right here:

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Why media matter for music education: Penn State’s collaborative music education series

Penn State has put together a series of videos that present introductory material aimed at those interested in music education.

My contribution, recorded last spring, addresses a richer understanding of media as socially constructed. Those who want a chance to go deeper into this line of thinking might appreciate my MERI piece on the shifting locus of musical experience from performance to recording to data.


There are many more videos available at the Youtube channel: Collaborative Music Education Series.

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NAfME 2014 Nashville presentation on Algorithms

Here’s a short video I posted on algorithms, which was shown as the NAfME 2014 Nashville conference (part of a larger panel discussion on the future of music education).

The video points to the primary conclusions and central arguments from a longer paper in Arts Education Policy Review, which I previously mentioned. The articles from that special issue are freely available through the end of 2014 (many thanks to Taylor and Francis for opening access around the time of the conference).

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Memorial for Elliot Eisner, IJEA special issue

Stanford held a wonderful memorial for Elliot Eisner on March 3. I had the pleasure to attend, celebrate Eisner’s life, and to reconnect with friends and colleagues.

Additionally, the International Journal of Education and the Arts has published a special issue in memoriam of Eisner. My contribution concerns Eisner’s use of the arts as a bulwark against the industrialization of education, “The Arts, Efficiency, and Education: Celebrating the Work of Elliot Eisner.”

Left to right: Misty Sato, James Bequette, Lissa Soep, Teresa Cotner, Matthew Thibeault, and Shannon K'Doah Range. Photo by Chris Wesselman.

Left to right: Misty Sato, James Bequette, Lissa Soep, Teresa Cotner, Matthew Thibeault, and Shannon K’Doah Range. Photo by Chris Wesselman.

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Get to know your publication embargoes

[4/16/2014: Welcome to those coming from the reposting of this on “Tomorrow’s Professor.” Those visiting might also enjoy my post on the politics of journal publishing.]

I typically announce my publications on this website, and one comment last year from a user named Jill caught my attention:

I really want to read this article and use it for my research paper on copyright law and music education. But $36?!?!? That’s INSANE! Maybe you should think about creative commons [sic]…

In an ironic twist of fate, much of that article is devoted to the use of Creative Commons. I sent Jill one of the PDF copies allowed by the publisher’s agreement, but her comment spurred me to find better ways to open access to my work.

While authors typically sign away copyright for academic publications, and I have blogged about the politics of journal publishing in music education before, authors often retain the right to make some version of their work freely accessible. The SHERPA/RoMEO website maintains a database of the accessibility policies of publishers and journals, and a post on the Chronicle’s ProfHacker blog explains the site. Most journals in my field of music education allow post-print versions (the final draft post-refereeing, often a PDF of the DOC file but not the typeset PDF posted by the journal) to be posted in 12 or 18 months. Most also allow a pre-print version (the first submission, before any editorial input) to be posted with no wait period. Sometimes peer review does not produce many changes, in which case I post the preprint version; other times I have changed the article so drastically that waiting for the embargo to expire is the only sensible option.

Sharing a post-print version can take time if you need to reassemble separate uploads of the abstract, bio, keywords, figures, and body text required for submission. For the article Jill wanted it took about an hour to reassemble the parts, add a cover page that links to the definitive version, and upload the PDF to my institution’s scholarly repository.

Authors can plan to share their work at the time of submission through several habits. I now try to assemble a post-print version at the time I sign off on the final changes, when I can easily still post everything. I take a moment to check the publisher embargo through the SHERPA/RoMEO site and add a reminder alert for every article I publish to my calendar, to remind me when the embargo lifts.

Taking time to know your embargoes rises almost to the level of a categorical imperative. While many yearn for open access, publishers already allow accessible versions to be made available. It is the author who must take action. A substantial body of scholarship currently exists in this cruel limbo—versions publishers allow to be shared still unavailable due to authorial complacence. Of course, publishers might choose this path precisely because they know authors are complacent, and publishers could offer to post open access versions after embargoes expire for authors, which might be a worthy project to pursue for those who serve on the boards of journals (additionally, publishers could post or link to embargo policies, or build in language to their copyright agreements, still more worthy projects for those in positions of power). For now, making these versions accessible is up to authors.

While charging $36 for access to an article can seem insane, it is especially so when a free version that is allowed by publishers has not been made available by the author. Without Jill’s comment, I might never have learned that my article’s embargo expired on September 22, 2013. For Jill and the many others like her, your free version now awaits you right here.

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Hearing a new music education story: From Sousa to Gould to Madlib, with Joyce and Powers in the mix

Screen Shot 2014-01-25 at 11.03.50 AMIn 2013 I received the Outstanding Emerging Researcher Award from the Center for Music Education Research at the University of South Florida. My paper has been posted at Music Education Research International (open access):

Thibeault, M. D. (2013). The shifting locus of musical experience from performance to recording to data: Some implications for music education. Music Education Research International, 6, 38–55.

Madlib, emblematic musician of the data locus. Photo by Chris Woodcock.

Madlib, emblematic musician of the data locus. Photo by Chris Woodcock.

The article explores the shifting locus of musical experience, the increasing importance of recordings and new media across one hundred years through the work of three emblematic musicians (John Philip Sousa, Glenn Gould, and producer Otis Jackson Jr. aka Madlib) as well as the subjective nature of musical experience through two short stories (James Joyce’s “The Dead,” and Richard Powers’ “Modulation”). Throughout, I use approaches resonant with the field of sound studies, an approach that has become central for my present work.

Volume 6 also has three additional fascinating articles by Jere Humphries, Jere and Alexandra Humprhies, and Gareth Dylan Smith.

Many thanks to Victor Fung for his editorial help and Clint Randles for organizing the SMERS conference.

Those who are interested in this topic might like my piece on hip-hop and music education or my short video on media and music education.

The abstract is also available in Chinese:

Screen Shot 2014-01-25 at 11.04.16 AM

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In remembrance of Elliot Eisner

My mentor and friend Elliot Eisner has passed away. I received a call from his wife today and she asked that I let others know. Many will be sharing their experiences, and there is talk of a memorial at Stanford in a few months. For today, here are some of the memories with which I celebrate his place in my life. [Update: here’s Stanford’s obituary]

Although we spoke regularly by phone, we had not seen the Eisners since March of 2012, when my wife and I planned a three-hour layover during a long flight so that they could meet my son for the first time. Here’s a moment from that special visit that captures Elliot’s indomitable spirit, playfulness, and humanity:



IMG_2456When Elliot retired, he entrusted me with some of his books. Today’s news sent me to my office to look through them. In his heavily worn copy of E.E. Cummings poems, I found a passage he had marked:



I will forever remain grateful to have had Elliot in my life, and to be part of his large family of students. Together, we learned to sing. Here’s a picture of us taken at the 2006 AERA meeting.


Elliot and Matt

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Profile in Illinois Alumni magazine

My work is profiled in the winter 2013 edition of Illinois Alumni magazine. The writer captures the essence of my approach and some notable alumni achievements. I’m also grateful for the photo. Click the image below to see a larger, legible, version. The class they discuss has a blog where you can see, hear, and read more:

String Theorist

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(Many) thoughts on the future of music education

vaep20.v115.i01.coverI’m delighted to be part of a special issue of Arts Education Policy Review (v. 115, no. 1). The focus of the issue is the future of music education, with articles that revisit a 2001 article by Scott Shuler from the same publication and then go on to make new predictions.

The respondents include Barbara Payne McLain, Scott Shuler, and Evan Tobias. My response, “Algorithms and the Future of Music Education: A Response to Shuler,” discusses the rising importance of algorithms in music and education. I make the case that the pervasive nature of algorithms make them consequential for all students and teachers, and I present five implications for music educators. The authors all shared drafts along the way, making the process a pleasant collaboration, and I do recommend writing for AEPR, in part due to the opportunity to work with Editor-in-Chief Colleen Conway (and this issue also has a short piece on writing for AEPR).

For those without institutional access, view the article for free through the post-print version on the UF online repository.

As a follow-up, here’s a post on The New Yorker, with an info graphic depicting what categories of information that services use to create a model of each user.

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