Tuesday, August 11, 2020

First day of classes yesterday was surely an interesting experience. Didn’t sleep well, up before 2am, but was ready (after a nap) for things that officially began at 10am.

Two students had trouble knowing how to log in, but everyone was there and on-screen by 10:08 and, frankly, I’ve had other first-days that got started much more than 10 minutes late. It was very nice, indeed to see the group of frosh, though I admit that the inability to be there with them physically was a disappointment for me. But a disappointment that’s just plain necessary.

The tech was ready, and it all worked. It was certainly odd to see students’ dorm rooms as backgrounds, but all were there, and hung in there for the entire session. It felt surprisingly similar to normal teaching; the major exception was that I usually move around a classroom alot in the course of a class, moving towards people as they speak, or towards an area of the room that seems less engaged, etc. In this situation, of course, I can’t really move away from the computer’s camera, so that was an adjustment.

But we did what we do, listening, talking, trying to engage the students, etc. Sharing documents was much like writing on the board (though I seem to lose view of the entire group while sharing documents–working on this one with tech support), so the major goals of the first class were accomplished.

Second class is very small, and upperclass students. As that “introduction to composition with electronic music” is typically taught in our studio, introducing students to a wide variety of technologies that span the tradition’s history (from reel-to-reel tape machines, to patch bays, MOOG, digital synths, then on to computer-based apps such as ProTools and Max), there’s a fundamental adjustment in curriculum that required.

Admittedly, i’ve put all of my prep work for this semester into the frosh music theory class, as there are just so, so many materials to produce, coordinate, etc. And because it’s frosh, i want to make this as smooth an easy as possible for them to dig into a compressed (7.5 week) curriculum.

The e-music class will be a 15-week class with seniors, so they’ll adapt much more easily. And I think we’ll mostly work synchronously, with their being required to purchase two pieces of software on which we’ll focus, and doing projects on their own time. There will be lots to work out, mostly for us to figure out how to get reasonable sound out of their systems–in contrast to the powerful and clean setup in our studio at school. But we’ll figure it out.

Started yesterday, though, with a lovely vid-call from Jackson up in Maine. He was romping around Marty/Carol’s (they not there), inside and out, and it was a joy to see. I think they’ll pack up today and head home tomorrow morning before others arrive to use the house. A shame, really, as this would be such an amazing opportunity for Michael, Cheng, Mia, and Harrison to spend time with Joe, Cristin, and Jackson…but these are times which are limiting too many such moments.

Today, as every day, fingers crossed for a vaccine (perhaps the ill-tested Russian vaccine announced today) that’s effective and brings back some normalcy.