Creating a Song-VoiceGrooveSong at University of Chicago

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One of the most exciting examples of the intersection between creativity and analysis is the “VoiceGrooveSong” project at the University of Chicago.

Steven Rings, associate professor in the Richard and Mary Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry developed the course to understand song structure in composition.

While this may seem like a reasonably straightforward endeavor, it is the process by which Rings and the “VoiceGrooveSong” students embark on this journey which is inspiring.

For them, it is a journey.

Ring has invited a variety of musicians, from  Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien, to Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche. With Kotche, also an acclaimed avant garde percussionist and composer, the class took on an interesting endeavor.

Kotche played his drum kit, while students improvised with a variety of digital clips serving as the vocals. So, students were able to delve into the details of the composition process to allow the  rhythmic and melodic structure of the words to serve as a catalyst for percussion experimentations and understanding the intricacies of composition.

Professor Steven Rings describes the intersection of analysis and creativity in the class, “In the class we don’t know where we’re going to end up,” Rings said. “Everyone is excited to just go along for the ride.”

I can’t imagine a better inspiration to challenge us to continually learn, grow, and develop our curiosity as educators and people. It also helps helps students understand that while creativity of course requires a mysterious element of inspiration, there are certain structures and processes that can facilitate this process-there are concrete steps a creator can take to manifest creativity.

For the excellent source article, written by Andrew Baud, which includes a brief  video sample, please click here.

Questions for Discussion

  1. According to the article, what is the focus of the University of Chicago, Gray Center?
  2. Why was Glenn Kotche chosen to participate in this project?
  3. What does Steven Rings hope to accomplish in this class?
  4. What were the details of how Kotche and the students “collaborated”? What was their process of creation?
  5. Starting with the same set of lyrics, the students developed widely varying musical compositions- what does this say about the creative composition process?
  6. How could you use this process in your own classroom to help create sparks at the intersection of creativity and inquiry?

 

Secretary John Kerry Conversation at Yale

Educators teaching about current events, world affairs, government, politics or having an interest in those areas will want to see the inaugural Conversations with John Kerry- part of a series of initiatives occurring at Yale featuring Yale alum and former Secretary of State John Kerry.

In a lovely wood-panelled auditorium, Kerry hosts a wide ranging, insightful, and refreshingly candid conversation with students about issues as diverse such as Syria, the influence of Citizens United on current political discourse, and campus politics at Yale.

It is a reminder of the importance of citizen engagement, civil dialogue, accountability, and full engagement in thinking deeply about critical issues, including emphasizing the importance of “facts” as a foundational element in political dialogue.

Watching this reminds one of the importance of the university and how fortunate we are to be able to connect with these important initiatives wherever we are.

Please click here to watch the Yale News posting of Conversations with John Kerry. Please note it is approximately 80 minutes long. After the first approximately 15 minutes, you can break it up into small segments as he responds to the questions of the Yale students.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What does Secretary Kerry say is his biggest regret about his time as Secretary of State?
  2. What does he say about the impact of Citizens United?
  3. Why is it important to establish a certain agreed upon set of “facts?”
  4. Why is it important for citizens to keep politicians accountable? What does he say is the best way to do so?
  5. What does John Kerry say about his vision for a new Marshall Plan as an important tool for establishing peace in the 21st century?
  6. Why are we called the “indispensable nation?”
  7. What does John Kerry say might be the “life or death” issue of our time?
  8. What does he suggest is the solution to climate change?
  9. How many states have passed climate change portfolios?
  10.  How does Secretary Kerry describe the essence of diplomacy?

Nature, Science, Poetry-The Work of Keith Taylor

Nature, Science, Poetry-The Work of Keith Taylor

Michigan based poet Keith Taylor has been an astute and sympathetic observer of nature and the human condition for decades.

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Winter Retreats

His dedication to teaching, writing, reading, and commenting on life and nature through his work has had a profound impact on me, for sure, but I believe for all of us dedicated to the mission of understanding this world in which we live.

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I came across this wonderful post from naturechange.org featuring a brief interview with Keith Taylor by Anne-Marie Oomen, also a writer. Keith talks about his work at the University of Michigan Biological Station in Pellston, Michigan, and reads a bit of his work.

Why exactly does poetry enrich us so? Yet, why do so many find it inaccessible, alien, unwelcoming? Boring? Why do we so easily accept the fragmentation of society and of our own selves? Fostering a dialogue with those outside our areas of interest, our areas of study, our cultural moorings-why has this become so difficult, or was it always this difficult?

Keith’s work, especially, the work highlighted here at the U-M Biological Station in which he spends summers, writing as well as teaching a literature course to science students and researchers, is an effort to bridge the chasm of confusion and apathy, intolerance and exhaustion. Quite simply, to become a bit more integrated and wholly human.

Nature allows us to slow down, to pause, to contemplate, to heal- at its best poetry does that as well.

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It allows us to access that deeper part of our psyches that contains wisdom, perhaps an attribute all too often not appreciated in our age of hyper-connectivity and instantaneous, yet superficial gratification.

Science, at its best too requires a deep concentration, a sense of observation and curiosity about the natural order of things, used to help solve the world’s most pressing problems.

For those of you seeking a bit of the healing power of nature, poetry, and how poetry and science can engage in a nuanced and beneficial dialogue, please check out this wonderful post and video.

For more information about Keith Taylor, please check out his website. 

For more poetry, consider the work of Robert Fanning, click here please.

Questions for Discussion

  1. How has poetry, or a specific poem impacted you?
  2. What does Keith Taylor say about the interaction of poetry, nature and science?
  3. What does he mention about the presence of wolves in Michigan’s lower peninsula?
  4. How does Keith Taylor integrate the work of mammalogist, Dr. Phil Myers into his work?
  5. What do you think of the specificity of images in Taylor’s brief, powerful poem, “Not the Northwest Passage?”
  6. What does Keith Taylor say about optimism, especially related to E.O. Wilson’s work?
  7. Have a poem to share?

Victory for MSU- Science Gallery Lab Detroit

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This March has brought an exciting victory for  the Michigan State University Spartans, and no I am not going to make any mention of any sort of athletic events occurring during this time period! (Too late?)

Check out the Science Gallery Lab Detroit. Michigan State has created the first Science Gallery Lab in North America. It is being described as “part art gallery, part science lab, part theatre.”

According to Michigan State University associate provost, Jeff Grabill, “This research can be used to engage and catch young people at an important moment in their lives, and to shape their journey into school and careers.”

It is aimed at students 15-25 and will help provide hands-on, interdisciplinary, collaborative experiences that is focused on using their specialized training, skills, and mindset to solve challenging real world problems.

Exhibitions don’t start until Fall 2017, but if you want more info check out these resources. You can see what the other Science Gallery Labs in Dublin, London, Melbourne, Venice and Bengaluru have been up to.

For a link to a more detailed article check out, Kim Ward’s article. 

For a link to the Science Gallery Lab Detroit, please click here.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Why is specialization and collaboration important?
  2. What are some interdisciplinary teams you have been involved in?
  3. What made them work or not work well?
  4. How can you create truly effective collaborative learning in your classroom?
  5. What would be a great project for the Science Gallery Lab Detroit to tackle? Perhaps something specific to Detroit, Michigan, or the Great Lakes Region?
  6. Perhaps an interdisciplinary approach to blight and abandoned houses in the neighborhoods?
  7. Perhaps an interdisciplinary approach to taking the successes of downtown development to the neighborhoods?

Celtic Resources to Enrich St. Patrick’s Day

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While many folks will be spending St. Patrick’s Day in the U.S in the traditional way, listening to the Pogues and wearing funny green hats, we here at Wide Open Research prefer to take a more scholarly approach and get lost in the many wonderful Celtic resources out there.

So, first I will likely get up and listen to the Pogues perform, “If I Should Fall From Grace From God.” Then I will eat yogurt, which is not really Celtic at all, but what I usually eat for breakfast.

Then, it’s right to work.

First, I will check out the UC Berkeley, Celtic Studies Webpage, one of the most venerable programs in the U.S. This site contains a link to an interesting story about the best cities in the U.S. to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, which uses an interesting formula, as well as a brief interview with professor Daniel Melia.

Then I will linger a bit on the website and imagine that I have an abundance of time and money and can spend time in California, taking both their courses Celtic 105A, Old and Middle Irish, as well as 173, Celtic Christianity. Having neither the time, nor the money, I will simply google onward!

Why, not take a youtube break and listen to James Joyce reading from Ulysses posted by Dor Shilton.  As I am certainly no Joycean scholar; I can only appreciate this as a fan. The sound quality is quite poor, but for me it only adds to the aching beauty and melancholy, as we must concentrate to listen through the mists of time.  The cadence and tonal quality of his voice is musical, almost meditative, and best appreciated not in an effort to comprehend, but as a balm, to soothe the soul and as a reminder that language can be beauty incarnate.

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While not specifically devoted to Celtic Studies, the University of Edinburgh, Celtic and Scottish Studies has a link to internet resources that should serve as a nice resource to bookmark.

Wow, I’m getting a bit tired now, so much learning, so little time! I think I shall end my wild St. Patrick’s Day celebration with a bit of Yeats, my entry point for Celtic beauty, way back in 11th grade English. I think it shall be of course, a lovely reading of When You Are Old, through the wonderful Poetry Foundation website.

“And I loved the sorrows of your changing face…”

Sigh.

So, how does a Wide Open Research reader integrate these themes? One of my favorite lessons from student teaching was an assignment when the students read a poem and then drew an image or scene from the poem. Their insights and acuity were wise and inspiring. I would simply say, the best way to  honor the spirit of the Celts is to honor creativity itself, especially through songs, stories, poetry, folklore, and a deep appreciation for the power of language to resonate across time, between cultures, and into the fiber of our souls.

For more great poetry, check out the work of Robert Fanning. 

 

 

Ramayana Translation Project-Patience and Perseverance

How long will it take you to accomplish your dream?

For Robert Goldman, distinguished professor in South and Southeast Asian Studies UC Berkeley and Dr. Sally Sutherland Goldman, senior lecturer in South and Southeast Asian Studies at UC Berkeley, the answer is “about 40 years.”

That is how long the Goldman’s toiled at the painstaking research required to complete the Ramayana Translation Project. The Ramayana is a Sanskrit epic, written nearly 3000 years ago, in which Prince Rama attempts to capture his wife. Of course, a one sentence summary can not do justice to a 50,000 line epic, that professor Goldman states, “Think the Illiad and the Odyssey and the Bible in one package, and you might get the sense of it.”

One of the main messages we can give our students is that accomplishments require tremendous effort-sustained, patient, effort. And that, as we learned from the great work of Walter Mischel and others through the Marshmallow Test- this habit of delaying our gratification for a greater reward is a skill that can be learned.

As the Wide Open Research community knows, I am striving to help educators share the great work of brilliant researchers like the Goldman’s, but also to help students learn how researchers chose the path they chose. Many students do not have access to individuals in their circle of family and friends who pursue advanced degrees. This lack of a robust network of highly educated individuals limits their access to those careers.

It helps to know that professor Goldman achieved his success not only through his intellect, but through hard work and  by following his passion through choices he made along the way.

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I am very grateful, for Dr. Robert Goldman for taking the time to answer a few questions about his “career” path.

Dr. Goldman shares how he started off in one direction, but like so many of us, changed paths to truly follow something that inspired him,As a premed student in college I had a desire to learn as much about things of which I was utterly ignorant as I could. Since I was at a university (Columbia) that offered a wide range of subjects, I took a course on Asian (the called “Oriental”) civilizations. I became fascinated with the culture and history of India and changed my major to Sanskrit Studies.”

What are some skills that he learned that he believes teachers could help their students with?

Goldman states, “ The skills that this discipline taught me and should be taught as widely as possible are those connected with philology,  that is to say, in essence, with learning how to read carefully and critically.”

It should be noted that professor Goldman did not really have a sense of pursuing his love of languages until sophomore year in college at Columbia.

I asked him if he would have done anything differently that might have benefited  him and he noted,” Probably I would have taken the Latin course that was offered. But that might have set me on a different track than the one I took.

So, how do we as educators, help our students develop their intellect, and help them develop to their potential?

Teachers need to excite students  and inspire them with a love of learning. But to do so they themselves need to have it,“ according to Dr. Robert Goldman.

Here is hoping that we all have the energy to re-kindle that inspiration that brought us to the education profession in the first place- to put aside the data analysis, lesson plan curriculum cross-walks, the incessant standardized test preparation and love learning again.

For then, we will be able to help our students love learning as well.

Thanks to Dr. Goldman for his time to share his thoughts with our small blog and to the work of Robert and Sally Goldman for inspiring us through their 40 year journey in completing the Ramayana Translation Project.

In a perfect world, their accomplishment would be celebrated throughout the cities and villages, and their work would be given to every graduating senior in America with the admonition, “Learn, Read, Persist.”

But for now, we will simply say thanks. (And read the Ramayana Translation Project!)

Questions for Discussion

  1. Why does the Ramayana story still resonate today?
  2. How do we develop patience and perseverance as skills with our students?
  3. What about the work of Dr. Robert and Dr. Sally Goldman is inspirational to you?
  4. How do you develop the skills of philology as Dr. Goldman notes, “learning how to read carefully and critically?”
  5. What are you passionately learning “to excite students and inspire them with a love of learning?” as Dr. Goldman encourages?
  6. What else does this inspire you to “dream, learn, do?”

For a link to more info about the Ramayana Translation Project, please click here.summerblooms

The Poetry of Robert Fanning, Central Michigan University

“Let Go.”

Of so many things.

A litany of images cascades from Central Michigan University professor and poet, Robert Fanning, in his mesmerizing poem, What is Written on the Leaves.

In the world of algorithms and big data, in which we are reduced to nothing more than our assemblages of profiles, browsing history, and followers, we are reminded once again of the very difficult task of being  human. Poetry does this for us. And nothing humanizes us more richly than luminous poetry.

The poem, taken from his most recent collection of poems, Our Sudden Museum, published by Ireland’s Salmon Press (salmonpoetry.com), could be the voice of our wiser self, putting us on notice, that of all our accumulated sufferings and possessions, we are to “let go.”

Is it a command, a suggestion, or something else-maybe a refrain from the deepest blues song, that we are to lay down our weariness, our baggage, we are to “let go.”

But, what would we be without it?

arch-rock-ascendingMerely free.

Any reader who is looking for solace and inspiration today, should definitely check out Robert Fanning’s work.

I do believe teachers of creative writing and English teachers would find much to appreciate in this poem. Experience for yourself but I believe Robert Fanning’s accessible poem, What is Written on the Leaves, rich in imagery, rhythm and repetition would be suitable for older students.

An interesting thematic lesson might be to read Robert Fanning’s poem after reading Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. How do these two works complement each other?

Please check out Robert Fanning’s website and his reading of What is Written on the Leaves on Soundcloud.

Additionally, parents will find his poem, Watching My Daughter Through the One Way Mirror of a Preschool Observation Room especially poignant.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What is your first reaction to his poem, What is Written on the Leaves?
  2. What images connect with you?
  3. What are 3 poetic devices that Robert Fanning uses in the poem?
  4. How does the use of repetition of the phrase “let go” add to the poem’s meaning?
  5. Who is the speaker in the poem?
  6. Why is it essential to hear poetry spoken aloud, or to speak it aloud ourselves?
  7. What does this inspire you to “dream, learn, do?”