In the past when I’ve gone to England to teach and lecture, I lugged over about 70 pounds of scores in my suitcase. No more. I’ve got a scanner. The first sea change in my teaching methods came when I loaded 14,000 mp3s onto my external hard drive, and could now instantly play for classes any piece that occurred to me, without having to rummage through my CD collection. The second change is that I’m now loading PDFs of every minimalist, postminimalist, totalist, or microtonal score I would ever want to teach. (I even got major assistance in the scanning last week from Kerry O’Brien, an Indiana U. grad student who’s doing research in totalism, believe it or not. She’s a dynamite percussionist, and one of the few expert performers who did not switch to musicology because of an injury – she actually fell in love with the discipline. How strange is that? And how many percussionist-musicologists are there out there? It gives her Steve Reich papers an enviable authenticity.)
I had my first chance at trying out the PDFs at Northeastern last month. The hard-copy scores I used, I had to Xerox 20 copies, collate them, and continually tell the class what measure I was referring to. The PDFs that I could project on a screen needed no Xeroxing, killed no trees, and I could simply point to whatever I was referring to. In addition, for some of the fast-moving Nancarrow scores that need virtuoso page-turners, I could simply click the page turns myself, and, voilá!: no more students lost on the wrong page (or, at least, all of us on the same page). It was so much easier that I came home, bought a scanner, and swore I would never lug paper scores around again. (Actually, I lectured in February at a school in Florida where the computer-equipped classroom also had a projection machine that would shine a light on a hard copy score and project the image on a screen. That was fantastic, too. Can anyone tell me what those are called? And why Bard College doesn’t have one?)
Of course, in addition to the incredible postminimalist PDF library Kerry and I have amassed, there are the public domain scores at I’m Asleep.org, which I’ve already written about. So there you have your Beethoven sonatas and Rite of Spring, and yesterday I downloaded the complete Liber Usualis – which means I no longer have to choose and Xerox Gregorian chants for my Renaissance class, just flash the Liber on the screen and pick some out on the spur of the moment. The musicology world is getting a lot more convenient – and ecological.
UPDATE: And by the way, Postclassic Radio fans (or should that be singular?) – I’ve updated just over half the playlist since Monday, and since I’m taking my iPod From Hell (external hard drive) with me to England, I’ll try to keep uploading. You’ve been very, very patient too long.
UPDATE 2: Now if I could just digitize my clothing, so I could dial up PurpleShirt.fab and put it on, I’d have this traveling business down….