Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Academic Welfare

Call me responsible, but I prefer the dependability of an academic position over the unreliability of a career as a professional composer. It seems that many nomadic young people have a deep distrust of artists like me, so let me take this opportunity to defend myself and extol the virtues of my Composer Isolation Chamber.

I like to think of my full-time tenure position salary as a kind of welfare for a starving composer. You see, even though I make a good living as a Professor, I am still discriminated against in our society as a composer, so I can relate to the plight of other disenfranchised groups, such as black people and the handicapped, who also need welfare from time to time.

My income is primarily from my work as the TANDY Professor of Electronic Music (for an additional fee, I will teach acoustic music via MIDI realizations.), but I do manage to get a little composing done between classes and when I can close the door during my office hours. My compositions are performed quite often by student and faculty ensembles and by my TANDY computers. And I even get grants once in a while when committees have sense enough to reward fiscally responsible tenured Professors over freelance moocher composers.

My students arrive to study with me hoping that their music will make them rich and famous. They think that I should teach them how to expose audiences to their work, how to disseminate their music beyond Professors and students. I explain to them that their music does go beyond me and the students. For example, sometimes their parents attend recitals, and the recitals are occasionally broadcast on the Hotel Cadillac’s student-run radio station.

I don’t have the power to make the whole world listen to their music. I certainly cannot undo hundreds of years of historical oppression. As I tell my students, our society isn’t going to seek out your music, and you shouldn’t be thinking about such vulgar issues as marketing, promotion, image, and distribution! Those are the kinds of things that popular musicians think about, not serious composers. Composers should behave responsibly and accept handouts from the Universities, the Conservatories, and the Hotel Cadillacs. These institutions help keep our traditions alive, and through them, we shall overcome!


Anonymous Dr. I.O.U. DeBollox, F.E.M.A. said...

Prof. McJeebie,

Upon hearing your latest creative endeavors I was flummoxed and somewhat horrified, until I realized that my iTunes had mysteriously (and sinisterly) replaced your compositions with those of the ‘90s rapper Large Professor. Each time I requested your Etude for Computer it proffered the 12-inch extended dance mix of Blaze Rhymez. I’m happy to report, however, that, after several frantic (toll-free) calls to Apple customer service, the problem seems to have been rectified for the time being. This modern world! How I long for the days of 8-track tapes.

Once I managed to exorcise those awful - but catchy - rap lyrics from my throbbing brain, I luxuriated in the lush serial sounds of your latest chef d’oeurvres. I must commend you on your impeccable mastery of the golden mean as both a formal and hypermetabolic device. Harmonically I do confess to being a tad let down by your continual use of antioxidental modes, but I suppose such non-Western dabblings are a typical TANDY technique that practically take on the status of a stylistic hallmark.

I’m quite certain you’ll experience a small frisson upon learning that one of my students is planning to reference your previously cited composition in a footnote of an upcoming paper entitled, Fluctuation Curvature of Electrostaticacoustic Undulatory Functions Rotated Along a Tripartite Pitch Axis: Things That Go Bump and Bleep in the Night. I’ll let you know when the thesis hits my desk! Might not be for a couple of years, but it’ll be worth the wait. In the meantime, keep up the intellectually stimulating innovations!

Yours is harmonious discord,

Dr. I. O. U. DeBollox, F.E.M.A.

2:14 PM  
Blogger Prof. Heebie McJeebie said...

Dr. Prof. DeBollox,

While I very much appreciate your anecdote about boom-box music and your willingness to recommend my compositional techniques for study, I'm afraid that only my own students are allowed to publish dissertations that involve references to my compositions. Please advise your students accordingly. I may be able to make an exception for a small fee.

6:09 AM  
Anonymous Prof. I.O.U. DeBollox F.E.M.A. said...

Prof. McJeebie,

I was quite discouraged to read your reply. Not at all because of your rejection of my student’s offer; to the contrary! I was horrified at your hint that something as pedestrian as money – or “a small fee,” as you so basely referred to it – would change your mind. Will no one in this gloomy, glutted day and age hold fast to their ethical principles? I have long considered you to be a scholar and gentleman (in that order) of irreproachable and undenigratable dignity, and then – after insisting fervently that only your students have access to cite your work – you backpedal in the most slavish and greedy of ways by indicating that you would accept…a bribe! Yes, let’s call it what it is; a bribe! So in the end, you too are ruled by the free market. I had idolized you as a purist who composed not for the vulgar pleasure of hearing your work performed, but for the beauty of the structure, the ultimate inaudibility of that which is truly musical. Now I fear you resemble the rest of the great unwashed, a pawn of the capitalist system which defaces creation even as it thrusts art forward into the glaring spotlight of the public eye, ear, nose, and throat.

Professor, I implore you: we live in a day of true musical terrorism; those out to destroy our way of life are willing to use any means – rejection, hostility, even parody – to wipe the most exquisitely complex music from the face of the Earth. We must be vigilant; we must be guarded. We must watch what we do, say, and eat. If we begin in the least to betray our principles and veer from the path of absolute certainty, we shall lose the very God-given freedom for which our predecessors fought: the freedom to adhere to a strict empirical system from which we never deviate. Such a fate would make it hardly be worth having tenure any more. Imagine Webern altering the retrograde inversion of a twelve-tone row for “a small fee.” Imagine Ferneyhough disturbing a hierarchy of perfectly nested tuplets for the sake of “a small fee.” Professor: it is a slippery slope; let us remain at the pinnacle, true to our values, blessed in our self-righteousness, a small and proud contingent, comfortably cognizant of our collective wisdom.

Yours in complex angst,

Prof. I.O.U. DeBollox F.E.M.A.

10:30 AM  

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