Wednesday, June 24, 2009


The other day, I was walking out of the food co-op, and saw a colleague I barely know from the music department. "There's a really great concert tonight!" he told me, and invited me. So, I went. And it was absolutely incredible. The musician was just amazing.

And there was another concert this evening, with the same musician playing a different instrument, and some others playing, too. All of them were pretty much on instruments that look semi-familiar, but are "early" sorts of European instruments, and not necessarily what they look like.

Tonight's concert was early music, and it was really great stuff. I don't know anything, really, about music, but this felt much bolder and more interesting than I expected. And one of the pieces was English.

You know where I'm going with this, right? I got thinking: "Hey, I could use some music in my death class!"

So during intermission, I asked one of the music faculty sitting nearby, another person I've chatted with once or twice, but don't know well, and it turns out, her main specialty (which I wasn't familiar with, since she also teaches other stuff) is the history of early music! I asked her about some music for my class, and she said she'd be happy to help me with some ideas.

I'm so jazzed (hee!). Seriously, I hadn't thought at all about music, but she'll be able to help me learn something, and that will add a totally new and interesting dimension to the class.

I love that my school gives me the chance to make connections I don't expect, and that sometimes those become really fruitful.

And I got to hear a couple really amazing concerts, too!


  1. This is great. I love early music, and I think it would be great to incorporate it into your death class. Since so much music was written for church occasions, you'd probably have a lot of options. Requiems, of course, would be a good bet, as would "Masses."

  2. That's what I like best about universities, the way we get to learn things we never would. (It's kind of like the blogosphere!) I remember last year our science & math department was running this series of lectures every Thursday, its faculty talking about their research. I learned about game theory and evolution, tracking birds through swamps, set theory (well, I didn't understand a word of that, but the slides were pretty).

  3. that just sounds so wonderful!

  4. That's so cool!

    Requiems would be great...because of the way they treat not just death but the treatment of the soul. Comparing a few, just for the moods, would be interesting. (Brahms, Mozart, and the early folks all have VERY different perspectives on death as portrayed in their music!)

    Purcell's "Dido and Aeneas" actually uses the music to make us feel a sense of lament. (It works really well.)

    I can think of a few examples of music portraying death itself: the Sacrificial Dance from Stravinsky's Rite of Spring is a good example.

    And, for an odd twist on death, the late Renaissance Italian madrigals often used poetry that referred to "death" as a euphemism for orgasm. Arcadelt's Il bianco e dolce cigno is a perfect example: the swan sings sadly before dying, but the narrator's "swan song" is one of great joy, and he wishes he could "die" a thousand times daily!!).

    I'd love to hear what music you come up with. What a great idea! And your colleagues in that music department are terrific. :)