Wednesday, October 02, 2013

What a Plant Knows, and From the Repertoire: Western Music History through Performance


Well, believe it or not, I have started two more Coursera classes.  Both of these are 7-week classes, each breezing through an intro to things that are totally new to me.

What a Plant Knows (and other things you didn’t know about plants) enticed me by starting with "Plants can see (they can detect light and dark).  Plants can hear (they can detect vibration).  Plants can smell (they can detect chemicals in the air)."  Wow.  Of course they can.....................  There are clearly a whole bunch of topics here that I've never thought about.

So far I've only listened to the intro.  He had us imagine that we couldn't move, and asked us what we'd have trouble doing.  Finding food, and coping with weather, for a couple of things that would be a lot different, if we couldn't move.....  He described plants as "sessile," which means "fastened in one place."  Hmmm.  Well, mostly, yes, but there are water plants that aren't stuck....................

Which means we have begun with what is (for me) an alarming degree of imprecision.............  I'm hoping that's not a taste of things to come.

From the Repertoire: Western Music History through Performance began with the history of music notation.  We learned that there is a lot of cuneiform from Mesopotamia with info about music, but, so far, not enough to allow us to reproduce that music.

The earliest music we can reproduce with any confidence is Greek.  The Seikilos Epitaph (written by Seikilos, perhaps for his wife) is a poem, with some musical information, which was engraved on a tombstone. Here's our best idea of how that 2100-year-old Greek song may have sounded............  Wow.

(If you want your work to last, carve it on stone........)

I'm planning to listen to the lectures and music, but not do any assignments or quizzes in this class (there will be peer-reviewed assignments).

This week we learned about the history of notation for western music.  I would have thought of the fact that no "written down" music meant that music would change over time and much of it would be lost.  But I don't think it ever would have occurred to me that the length and complexity of pieces was limited by memory when all pieces were memorized.  Or improvised, which wouldn't impact the length of a piece, but the longevity (or whatever you want to call the ability to play the same piece, again, another time) was impacted.  The ability to write the music in a way that others can read means much more complicated music is possible (and we listened to a polyphonic piece which has different rhythms in the different parts.........).

I'm caught up on all work for The History of Rock (which has only two weeks more to go), and I need to start listening to this weeks Dino videos (I'm caught up in Dino class through last week)...........  I've listened to all the lectures for Creativity class, and am taking the quizzes (they are very light-weight), but I don't expect to do much more than that.  The class is very geared toward working in groups, which makes it less interesting to me than it might be if it were more about individual ways of working.   I have listened to exactly one (1) lecture in one of my other classes that started weeks ago, and have only listened to some lectures for another.  I don't expect to do more than listen to their lectures (if that).

It's hard not to keep signing up for classes, since it's more common than not that we don't know if they'll ever be offered again.  I don't want to miss something excellent..........


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