Singing along in Japan

Singing together is an important part of life in Japan, and it is a delight to where participation is rich and frequent. Here’s a short performance I recently gave at a preschool festival. Without a rehearsal, we aimed for music that was accessible for participation: songs the children knew from school, American old-time tunes, and popular tunes from Disney and Japanese anime. You can see how children clap and dance along, and that adults also join in. For the finale they danced the theme from Yo-Kai Watch, a popular anime/game, and nearly every child knew or followed along with the group dance.

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Participatory music in Japan: Homebrew ukulele edition

There is a depth of community and participatory events in Japanese schooling and society, the origins of which are hinted at in T. M. Luhrmann’s Op-Ed in the Times, “Why are Some Cultures More Individualistic Than Others?”

My adventures in Japan have included many deeply fulfilling events, and those interested in participatory music might enjoy my article in the upcoming December issue of Music Educators Journal (or read this talk now). Here’s a recent sing-along at the Uku-Par welcome party in Toyama, Japan. I displayed chord forms and invited everyone to sing and strum along. My approach is uncommon in Japan, but the abilities of the players and willingness of singers connected everyone together for a delightful set. Of course, it never hurts to have a pint-sized translator/backup dancer in the mix.

Photos by  Takumi Sugaki.

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Would you buy a copy of a free article? A word on reprints

etunesOver the past year I received two requests to reprint my writing. Who could say no? My column on hip-hop was requested for the book Etunes, a music-centric reader for English rhetoric classes edited by Rod Taylor. My article on the shifting locus of music from performance to recording to data was included in Clint Randles’ Music Education: Navigating the Future. Clint’s book includes the papers from the 2013 SMERS conference, and my paper was selected to receive the OMER award and appeared in MERI.

While one would buy the above books for the overall collection, it is odd to have two books reprint articles that are freely available: MERI is open-access, and the hip-hop piece is one that I posted after the publisher’s embargo expired, something I encourage all scholars to do.Randles

Here’s one reason why you might still buy the book for a version of my articles: In both of the above cases, the editors enhanced the versions. Rod’s book includes introductory essays as well as discussion and reflection questions for each piece. Clint’s book includes thoughtful reflections by David Williams and also Frank Heuser that tangle with the authors in that section.

Click the image to visit the Amazon listing for each book.

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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:
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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.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_7mli9jV74]

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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