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June 30, 2008

Censorship

Here is Wikipedia’s definition of censorship:
“Censorship is the suppression of speech or deletion of communicative material which may be considered objectionable, harmful or sensitive, as determined by a censor. The rationale for censorship is different for various types of data censored. Censorship is the act or practice of removing material from things we encounter every day on the grounds that it is obscene, vulgar, and/or highly objectionable. Whether it is on TV, in music, books, or on the Internet, censorship is an inescapable part of human society.?


? Sounds good, right? Well, who is to decide what is “inappropriate? or “vulgar? or even “highly objectionable?? I would not want that job. I read through different decades of censorship issues found at http://ericnuzum.com/banned/incidents/index.html; and the lyrical issues are mainly wrapped around the societal times. As we have previously discussed, popular music revolves around what is happening in the world at the time. The censorship issues have followed this same path. Drug references, birth control, interracial relationships,and political statements were all reasons that censorship was discussed throughout the decades. Lyrics and song titles were changed, warning labels were added, speeches were made, arguments sprouted and politicians advanced because of censorship issues.
So, now that we know what it is and the history of it, is censorship important. I believe that it is, but that the importance lies with who should be in charge of implementing it. People have been given the rights to write and sing whatever they wish. The choice then, lies in the listeners and the consumers. If it’s youth we’re talking about, the censorship should be enforced at the parent level. Parents have the power and should have the courage to make rules as to what their children listen to and purchase. Now, I realize that parents have different ideas of what is appropriate for children, but this will never change. You’re also not going to be able to protect your children from everything “inappropriate? in the world, but making them responsible consumers (appropriate to their age level) is one way to begin. I was not allowed to play violent games, or watch violent movies or tv shows unless watching with my parents, followed by a discussion – and I grew up just fine.
I also do believe that music – both lyrics and video images – have become a lot more risqué and sexual over the recent years. A warning label on a cd is not a bad idea – however, it is still then up to the parents to be knowledgeable about these warnings and what they mean – especially because their children will want the cd even MORE if it has a warning label on the cover. ? Ultimately, as you can tell from my response, I believe that the censorship needs to begin with the parents. At the very least, you as a parent should know what your children are listening , watching and what they are exposed to, so that if you decide to honor free speech and let them do and buy as they please, maybe at least a educational conversation can occur.

(An example that maybe this can be taken too far: “Meyer Music Markets places an "explicit lyrics" warning sticker on Frank Zappa's Jazz from Hell - even though the album is entirely instrumental

June 27, 2008

Music Videos

Watching a Leslie Gore music video (1966) and then comparing it to a Lil’ Kim video, it seems that we are moving in the wrong direction.....

“It’s My Party? performed by Leslie Gore is about a lost love, and how “it’s her party and she’ll cry if she wants to.? The video takes place at a party where there are many guys and gals dancing all around the set. All of the participants are wearing clothing associated to the time (1960’s) and Leslie is wearing day clothes as well. She moves around a little bit, but the majority of her effort is in her lyrics and portraying her feelings to the audience. In contrast, Lil’ Kim’s video “How many Licks? has her starting as a doll from an assembly line – making her an object from the first scene. The video continues with sexual portrayals of herself and others, referring back to the doll making. There are also references to her being a pin-up, and many scenes with a prison as a background. Her clothing is a little different than Leslie’s, as she is not wearing much.
I feel that the role of women is displayed much more positively in the Leslie Gore video. Women should not be proud to be an object, or just a sexual symbol. I took apart the Lil’ Kim video in order to see if in a different light, and it just made it worse. I first watched the video without sound, and then I just read the lyrics on their own. Both were incredibly inappropriate, especially to think who the target audience is. I would much prefer that our youth today were empowered by videos such as the Gore video instead of seeing the negativity of the Lil’ Kim video. While the Gore video takes a negative approach on relationships - by showing the true sad part of them when things don’t work out but she has a normal, healthy response. In contrast, because the other video displays Kim as a sex symbol and object it ultimately shows the audience that women are there to satisfy men, and in relationships, men are superior. I do not think we could send a worse message to today’s youth. And, I am not even getting into the foul and poor, inappropriate language choices!
After thinking about these videos, I then watched Fiona Apple’s Criminal video. Honestly, I did not too much about her before watching this video so I was not sure what types of video to expect. I found it just as appalling as the Lil’ Kim video. I saw the same types of objectifying and demeaning behavior. While the clothing isn’t as risqué, the lyrics and dancing are just as inappropriate. She also looks like she is on drugs during the video and just does not promote a healthy, well established woman role model. I just do not understand why these are the popular videos. Reading a review on the Apple video, two comments caught my eye. The first one was when the reviewer stated that “the video actually plays into the male rape fantasy.? (Mark Zeltner) My only comment to this is that why would we ever produce something that did this and advertised it so that every youth in America would watch it and then take it as the truth? The second statement that caught my eye ended that same review and I am going to use it to end my response. I think it sums up the topic of the inappropriateness of our videos in the 21st century, and I really hope that somehow they become extinct. “The question now is whether Apple will mature and use the career momentum supplied by "Criminal" to push for more positive images of herself and women in general in her future videos. If Apple continues to play on her video sex appeal to sell her music than she is likely doomed to a short and turbulent career.? ( Mark Zeltner)

I hope so too, otherwise our youth are doomed to short and turbulent lives as well.

June 26, 2008

My Music Progression

I have been surrounded by music since birth. My mom is an elementary music teacher, and has a college degree in clarinet performance and music education. While I think this is where I got my love for music, it has also developed over time and has become personalized, just like anything....

When younger, I was very involved in my church, and always was in choir (from age 3) throughout high school, played in the handbell choir, and often did music performances with my friends and siblings throughout many church services. In school I played the violin in orchestra in 4th and 5th grade and then switched over to band and played the oboe beginning in 6th grade. I was then in band and orchestra throughout high school and participated in competitions, private lessons and group performances. I worked one summer at a music camp on the UW campus and I also took piano lessons from age 5 through college. I was a music minor in college in oboe performance, and was able to study under a fabulous oboe player who was in the MN orchestra, and was able to play in orchestra hall and with top conductors. I was also in Women’s Choir and Gospel Choir at the U of MN, allowing me more great experiences – singing with the orchestra at Orchestra Hall, singing at the halftime of a Vikings Game, singing at the State capitol and more great experiences that I will never forget! So, playing music is definitely in my blood and still is an important part of my life.
Music has also helped me to become an independent and confident woman. Performing in groups as well as individually at piano and oboe concerts has taught me great performance skills and has allowed me to discover new parts of my personality and what I am capable of doing. Music also has the capability of bringing different people together, and some of my best friends in life are from my musical experiences.
As far as the “other side? to music, I enjoy listening to music as well. When growing up, I never really knew the “popular? groups, their songs or who was who. However, I had friends who did, so I mainly just followed along and liked what they liked. I think part of this was because when I listen to a piece of music I hear the underlying chords, progressions and the backbone vs. the lyrics, so I can never remember words to popular songs! I also truly appreciate all different types of music, so I was never picky even in middle school. I also did not have cable! MTV even then was a big deal, and since I did not have it (I probably would not have been allowed to watch it anyways) I was left out of the “popular music? culture.
Through the process of discovering my personal likes, dislikes, and just the process of discovering myself (that everyone goes through; especially in college) I also developed my own music tastes – or at least became strong enough to voice them. I still enjoy all different types of music, and different life experiences and relationships have influenced those tastes. During college I started going to many concerts – all different types of music. I continue to enjoy going to concerts, in fact I just traveled to New York City to see Pearl Jam at Madison Square Garden with my husband, and had the best time.
Music will always be an important part of my life, and hopefully in the future my children’s lives as well. It really has helped me to discover who I am and will continue to do so. I think it can bring people together, can open communication and has the power to heal and to motivate.

June 17, 2008

The Movies

Movies have the power to inform, entertain and contribute to quality discussions and reflections. They take us to a world outside of ourselves and have the ability to persuade, heal and motivate...

It is obvious that I find them entertaining and powerful. I believe that movies that depict teaching do motivate some into the profession, as well as inspire current teachers to improve and become rejuvenated. This is what the article in Education World argues. (http://www.educationworld.com/a_admin/admin/admin156.shtml) However, I think there are major faults and downfalls as well. The main character is often someone who has no experience in the field, but somehow sweeps in and saves the day. Don’t get me wrong, I love watching them too, for this is what we want to spend two hours watching. While I love the main ideas; that we as teachers really can make a difference, and the extreme importance of teachers in our lives, I just find them unrealistic. I also realize that with only two hours, it would be very hard to make a movie about the teaching profession realistic and entertaining. If movies have become the way that the public views “good education,? there are some ironies going on. Then, good education would be when the teachers would create a band by rehearsing all day every day, or by having hours every day to really get to know each student, by going to their houses to talk to their families and to help out during their hard times. However, “good education? is judged by test scores; which then dictates funding, so therefore schools are forced to use cheaper models giving secondary teachers 180 students to “get to know? each day. In addition, schools are having to cut language programs, after school programs and many times music and art education all together. Maybe people working in government who make all of the educational decisions should watch some of these movies to see what’s really important….if that is what the public is viewing as good education.
Referencing the quote from Shannon and Crawford (1998) in the class syllabus, I don’t think you would ever be able to portray a real and complete “perspective on the complex nature of teaching,? during a two hour movie, or even a documentary. So, if movie makers are having to chose what type of teaching movie to make, why not have ones that make us out to be heros? Maybe because it’s not quite as easy as the actors make it seem. Sure, they always go through their few days of crying after work, and then their few hours when they decide they just can’t go through with it and are going to give up, but then a student provokes a hope in them that keeps them going…..and surprisingly enough that next day all the tides change and the entire class comes together to make some special happen. That’s called writing a good story, right? And at the core, it’s true. The most important part of becoming a good teacher is the relationship that you have with your students. It’s just not usually as dramatic, eventful and as obvious as it is in the movies.
School of Rock is your typical “teaching movie.? Jack Black is a wannabe rocker, who just happens upon a substitute teaching gig. He then transforms the class into a rock band. Somehow throughout the few weeks that he is teaching, no one notices that this is all the class is working towards. Sure, the students are already excellent musicians, who also all happen to be perfectly behaved even when no adult is supervising…but Jack Black was still the guy to put it all together. When the principal and parents find out they are outraged, until 15 minutes later they come across the concert and are suddenly awed, thrilled and proud. Suddenly he is a brilliant teacher, who has saved their children. Here are the movies’ good points: It is entertaining, Jack Black is a funny guy and the kids really are good musicians. It also reminds us all that kids do need things in their life other than core subject school work, and that when music is involved everyone in the class has something to contribute. Considering pop music, Jack Black does assume that rock is everything, and cannot believe that the students do not know some of the “premier? rock artists. He spends time educating them about rock history – the different types of rock and the artists that followed. However, he also has a realization that maybe the students have their own ideas as to what pop music is, and by the end it’s the students who are writing the songs and singing the solos. Jack Black’s values in the movie are questioned because he takes his roomate’s name and job, as he is not a “real? teacher. By the end of the movie he apologizes to the parents and explains that he truly loves their children. The other part that I enjoy about the movie is that he talks about what makes music “good.? He talks about the important of feeling it inside, and the definition of good rock music is if you the performer are “rocking out? and enjoying it; that it will never be perfect. I think these are the best things about incorporating music into education and that the film does well to portray this idea. The students who did not have friends or talent at the beginning of the movie show their new found confidence towards the end. Popular music can speak to many different children in many different, personal ways. It truly impacts society; whether it’s positive or negative is however it’s personally viewd, but by keeping an open mind, its experience will always be positive for someone involved. Even out of negativity can come successful conversations and the possibility of personal and societal growth.
Music has the ability to communicate across peer groups and allows people of all ages to regain confidence in different parts of their lives, to feel important and to enrich their lives. So, Rock On!
School of Rock Preview

The Importance of Music

The following articles reiterated the important presence that music has had among different cultures, and how it has changed over time. (http://www.gpwu.ac.jp/%7Ebiddle/youth.htm, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6666725.stm, http://magazine.uchicago.edu/0304/features/clouding.html). I think the automatic response for anyone is to think of your own culture first when discussing any topic. It’s the unconscious egotistical mind we all possess. While America did have a large impact on popular music throughout the world, other countries have gone through the same artistic revolution...

While reading these articles I was reminded of the importance of music not only in our everyday lives, but how it really has impacted culture, economics and mirrored the trials and tribulations of entire nations. Music can be a safe haven, a way to communicate joy, a way to protest, and a way to advertise or persuade - and it has been used for all. It reflects what is going on in the world, acting as a mirror between the lyrics and the people listening. People of all ages find music as a way to share their emotions and opinions. It changes as the world changes, and reflects the attitudes of the people. The first article names this idea “Zeitgesit- The spirit of the times.? (http://www.gpwu.ac.jp/%7Ebiddle/youth.htm) This definition is so true to popular music – it truly defines the spirit of what is happening at the time that it is popular. Now even in 2008, the Beatles are more popular than ever, so the argument can be made that while the music is written with the spirit of the events taking place at that same time, it does not mean that the same music will not have meaning decades later. This is another reason that music is so powerful – connections are made throughout generations; maybe due to memories or the links that will always connect us to our past.
The BBC article brings in the importance of popular music and you, saying “there is a thirst among the young for something new that reflects their lives? (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6666725.stm) I think youth are always searching for something new, and for something that they can feel connect to. Youth are so involved in popular music because this is exactly what the power of music can do. Because of this involvement, music is also developed because of this “thirst.? This also reminds us of the great economic impact that the youth have and what a large industry that music has become as well. Then the cycle begins – not only music; but clothing styles, language usage and “what’s cool.? The youth population has great control (in every country) about what sells, what will last, and really sets the cultural norms.
Since music does have this immense importance in the lives of youth, why would we not incorporate music into education? Lately arts education has taken hits – mainly because of the focus on test scores in the core subjects and the every so present question “what is important.? It is just lately that us educators are forcing ourselves to be creative and take the importance of music and incorporate it into those “tested subjects.? I think it is also important that we continue to fight for arts education – and realize what a huge impact that pop music has across the world, in almost every aspect of our lives, and that it is one of the ways to effectively communicate with our youth. As the last article discusses, young adults need to have the ability to contribute to society and understand how to “argue? and debate – in a meaningful way. Music can teach us how to do this, to bring up those questions that many times get lost. One states, “I see my goal as a teacher, and the bottom-line goal of education, as that of demystifying the “club we belong to? and breaking up its exclusivity.? (http://magazine.uchicago.edu/0304/features/clouding.html) In a time where our country is divided and troubled, why not use music to bridge the gap, using it as not only a successful communication tool, but also a way to connect other cultures and countries in order to work towards a safer and successful place to live. And why not begin where our future sits every day, just waiting to soak everything up – our schools.