Friday, October 21, 2011

Ghost in the Machine

I am about one class period away from turning music 101 into a philosophical exploration of the ghost in the machine. There are many classes in which technology doesn’t add much or simply provides a bit of accent. But like most people who teach soap-box style lecture classes, I’ve become dependent on new-fangled technologies for music 101. Gone are the days of the mixed tape for class, the pile of CD’s heavy enough to break an LL Bean backpack, transparencies, and books passed around the classroom. The technology in our beloved classroom has been smiting me for every sentence I’ve every negative word I’ve ever written about technology. To start the week, Martha Jefferson’s musical commonplace book took us directly to Iran. This seems improbable until you recall that in order to turn on our thirty-six key keyboard, you need to push a special button on the computer control. (The technology folks spare no expense for Music 101) This time, instead of activating the slightly out of tune electronic keyboard, it activated a map of the Middle East which highlighted Iran. Yesterday’s highlight involved a computer that refused to read jump drives at all. I meant to show a 19th century illustration of a Turkish dance and play a clip of the Turkish march from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and ask the class to discuss it. After a few minutes of interpretive dancing by all, my TA hooked my laptop up to the projector which, among other tidbits, involved sharing emails from my sister about Halloween Costumes and my actual lecture notes complete with phrases like “blather on about exoticism for a bit” to the entire class. We read the work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction for my grad seminar, which seemed more than apt. We can be sure that whatever aura Beethoven, Monteverdi, the Tokens, or Paul Simon ever had was completely sucked up and spat out by technology.

I rushed home to run what turned out to be the Parkway afterschool program. Thanks to spending a lot of time at an afterschool program, I knew exactly how to handle them. I sat them down for snack, made them all do their homework, and then explained that the activity was cleaning Rebecca and Jonathan’s room. I announced that anyone who disobeyed would lose a privilege. After they finished the clean-up, the girls made cookies for a work dinner I was hosting that night, and the boys continued to excavate the construction site next door. (being a feminist mother sucks at least ten times a week) The dinner also featured asking guests to do Jonathan’s homework for him. For some reason the third grade unit on economics and capitalism ended up in a fair in which kids were told to “bring in something useless” and sell it. Jonathan and Marietta played violin for 15 cents. And Jonathan, who has a fine motor delay and hates arts and crafts decided to make beaded bracelets.

The first low point was when the neighborhood cat ran into our house and the two five year olds ran after the cat and down the stairs, falling down the bottom three and announcing that each had pushed the other down. Both screamed until I stuffed cookies made by their sisters into their mouths. The second low point is ongoing. As it turns out in joining the boys for a little construction site exploration I got something in my eye that I’m allergic to and the whole organ started a long process of swelling, exuding puss, and generally turning red. Said process landed us in the eye doctor for the afternoon; never a fun place to hang out.

Tomorrow is the first event in my Arts Mentoring program. It would be super-fabulous if I could open my eye and see completely by then. I’m pretty sure that the fabulous graduate student Lauren would be in her rights to kill me if I said “hey you go ahead and coordinate getting 12 UVa students and 12 children from underserved communities to an art gallery for a photography exhibit, pizza picnic, and concert.” Speaking of this event wish us both luck. It’s one of those events that could really go either way!

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