So here we are! Last blog of the semester, and although it has been fun, I’m looking forward to doing more legwork for my own projects and less for Oxford Music Online entries (we love you, Prof. Shanton).

At the end of this journey, we ask ourselves this question: What role should (or does) research and critical thinking play in the life and career of a performer, conductor, composer, teacher, etc.?

My answer: research and critical thinking mean the world to a musician. As with somebody who doesn’t understand how a dominant-tonic works, one can tell when somebody’s work (performance, conducting, composing) comes from a place of information versus “just doing whatever:” sometimes “whatever” is ok and by luck, it works. But luck really runs out after a while, like an empty barrel making noise stops after the impetus is gone.

I bet I can ask any of my peers if they think getting in contact with the subject of research in music and learning about the practice was really useful to them, and I’m pretty sure I’d get a unanimous “YAAAHS.” But really, I think a better question to ask ourselves is, how could everyone know about these resources? Why is it that the habit of research, important as it is, only gets stressed in grad school and not before? Perhaps it does here at IC. I know one of our undergraduate students was doing a mini annotated Bibliography, so maybe this institution is putting an extra effort and gets it, and that’s why Ithaca has such a great reputation for being a good school for undergrads.

My point is, I wonder if something could be done in order to make sure our students (private, school system, collegiate) get into the habit of good research as early as possible. Do you imagine if our students had to wait until graduate school before knowing that playing their scales is important? That’s how important I’ve come to think this stuff is.

Now, I know this isn’t for everybody and I can’t expect for all musicians to be as inquisitive and thorough as my statements ask for. But hey, like always, I think a middle point between total lack of knowledge and exposure to these research tools and uses and going to the library every day isn’t something too crazy to wish for. My argument is that early exposure to this stuff would generate more love for information, and those who can balance information with talent and feeling and all those abstract things we need as musicians would earn the kingdom.

Something important that would come out of this is that it would be almost inevitable that some people would start writing and expanding our knowledge base; It would be as inevitable as somebody who studies piano scores at some point they’ll venture into playing these scores themselves!

Enter the Creative Commons, a way of granting permissions for use that encourages collaboration and is definitely a workaround for the vague copyright laws that (as we read a few weeks ago) are in dire need of revision.

Creative Commons is the way WordPress is licensed, and one of the fundamental reasons sites (like this one) exist. It is how sites like Unsplash are able to provide many people with Free and Royalty-Free photography, so others can benefit from having high-res photography. It is the ultimate “sharing is caring.” Content sites like Soundcloud allow you to choose if you’d like to offer your music under the Creative Commons license, and this is how many entities are able to find high-quality music for video or other uses. But like Keehun mentioned, it is not as useful out of the box for music or writing, so how can we make it work more efficiently for music? IDK. I am confident we’ll find an answer for that in the future, and I hope libraries benefit from CC in order to offer their content to their users, thus solving the problem of music licensing for libraries we identified a few weeks ago.

Some parts of this world, the world in which research and access to content and information are of utmost importance, are changing really fast. Databases, Open Access sites, streaming services, digital collections, are shaping our research habits differently, and I think, for the better. However, there’s something about going to the library and learning cracking RISM B, the beauty of being in an environment that draws you in, because everybody else is doing the same thing. It is comparable to the reason I have for coming to music school: the degree doesn’t mean anything, but the experience of hanging out with others in similar circumstances is priceless. Maybe electronic access will evolve to the point in which this experience can happen by researching electronically — I’d wager we’re quite far from that still! But at least ideas and options like Creative Commons definitely bring us closer to such a future.


— E