Friday, December 09, 2011

Inadvertent YouTube Cagean Moment

Yesterday I had my last classes of the semester. My morning class, which covered later music from the later 20th and early 21st centuries went pretty well, despite the fact that I loaded up the browser of the windows classroom computer with 19 or 20 YouTube videos. I held my breath, and everything went as planned.

Feeling confident for my afternoon class, I loaded the browser (Firefox) with one or two more videos than I had used in the morning (I couldn't resist the the temptation to give examples of all three parts of Reich's Different Trains). When the first Messiaen piece played with an almost still video picture, I had a feeling that everything was doomed to fail. There is no silence as deep as the silence of a class watching a teacher wrestle with a computer. Even the silence of 4:33 doesn't compare. When the title for one piece and the silent and still picture for another were being displayed at the same time, I knew I was in serious trouble.

The silence was broken when I simply said "to hell with it" (to myself, of course), and decided to try to close the browser. Nothing happened. I tried various things in the task manager, but nothing happened. Then all the tabs began opening up, and layers of Carter, Babbitt, Messiaen, Seeger, Glass, Cage, Dun, and Reich started entering like Renaissance points of imitation.

I had to identify which was which (which was surprisingly easy because each of these pieces is surprisingly different from the others), but the tabs wouldn't close. When the Mad King in Davies' "Eight Songs for a Mad King" started screaming, I had to laugh. When the loops of Cage's Microtonal Ragas came to the foreground, I explained to the class that we were having a true Cagean moment. The only problem is that I didn't have the chance to explain Cage to them before this happened (and I can never depend on students to do their reading), so I was alone in my appreciation of the chaos. The students were smiling only at my folly. I thought I was in the middle of a teaching nightmare.

I tried closing the browser again, and this time it seemed to actually close, but the music kept on playing. And playing. And playing.

I was, finally, able to get about 45 minutes of the 75-minute class in (gosh, this fiasco lasted for a half an hour!), and I think that the students might actually have learned something about later 20th century music.

Try it for yourself. Load up as many of these YouTube videos as you dare, and play them at the same time. The effect is truly remarkable.


Susan Scheid said...

This is a story for the ages! Wonderful post.


" There is no silence as deep at the silence of a class watching a teacher wrestle with a computer."

Oh, I know that silence too well...

A Reader said...

"You will start Cello lessons, now!"
Saw the new Met production of Glass's "Satyagraha" twice in recent weeks, well worth seeing. Here's one review: