Journeys Through Middleground: Holding Space Between Academic Analysis and YouTube Entertainment - Jennifer Campbell
Episode 1521st April 2022 • SMT-Pod • Society for Music Theory
00:00:00 00:38:28

Share Episode

Shownotes

In this week's episode, Jennifer Campbell walks us through an end-of-term project for her 19th-century graduate seminar - both from her point of view, as well as her students'.

This episode was produced by Aaron Hynds and Jennifer Beavers. Thanks to Kaitlyn Norman for recording intro and outro message as well as finalizing the transcript.

SMT-Pod Theme music by Zhangcheng Lu; Closing music "hnna" by David Voss. Bumper music included in this episode was graciously licensed by Naxos: Jeno Jando's performance of Liszt's Piano Sonata in B Minor, and Milly Alexeyevich Balakirev's performance of Walker's Piano Sonata in Bb Minor. For supplementary materials on this episode and more information on our authors and composers, check out our website: https://smt-pod.org/episodes/season01/.

Transcripts

SMT:

[SMT-Pod Theme music]

Kaitlyn Norman:

Welcome to SMT-Pod, the premiere audio publication of the Society for Music Theory. In this episode, Jennifer Campbell walks us through an end-of-term project for her 19th-century graduate seminar, both from her point of view, as well as her students’.

Jennifer’s Student:

I love YouTube.

Jennifer’s Student:

YouTube is.. amazing!

Jennifer’s Student:

Yeah, I've watched a fair bit.

Jennifer’s Student:

That is my primary form of watching things

Jennifer:

That is your primary form?

Jennifer’s Student:

Yes. For example, people have Spotify, I have YouTube Prime.

Jennifer’s Student:

I watch YouTube a lot because it's very accessible and it gives you access to so many different things.

Jennifer’s Student:

I have been known to, for my own edification, especially in the last year of undergrad, watching YouTube videos on these music theory concepts that I didn't even begin to understand.

Jennifer:

YouTube. The now ubiquitous video platform was created in 2005, acquired by Google in 2006, and is currently the second most visited website on the internet in the United States (the most accessed being Google itself). According Semrush.com, which uses its own analysis tool for website traffic, the data collected on YouTube in January 2021 shows over 4.2 billion U.S. visits to the site, with approximately 81% of those clicks occurring from desktop/laptop hardware and 19% from mobile devices.

Jennifer:

It seems like everyone has watched or is watching something on YouTube, and even if you yourself might be a naysayer, you’re probably aware of people in your circle (family, friends, and especially students) who are enthusiastic YouTube consumers and perhaps content creators. But this podcast isn’t a rehashing of YouTube’s evolution and popularity; this episode unpacks a pedagogical experiment—an experiment that has YouTube, music theory, and a graduate seminar in late nineteenth-century music as the backdrop.

Jennifer:

During Fall 2021, I taught a music theory seminar for graduate students titled Techniques and Transformations: Analysis of 19th-Century Music. Although this was an advanced special topics seminar typically geared toward graduate students in music theory and composition, I knew the student population that semester would represent a range of programs, including masters and doctoral students in vocal and instrumental performance, conducting, music history, and ethnomusicology.

Jennifer:

To get us started, I invited Dr. Richard Bass, Professor Emeritus at the University of Connecticut and author of several articles on late Romantic Harmony to speak with the class via Zoom, and he articulated helpful insights on how students could approach music from this chromatically rich period.

Richard Bass:

First, no matter what anyone tells you, and they will tell you, there is no one approach or specific method that reveal everything there is to know about harmonic practice in this music. So, you need to develop a blended set of approaches that you can apply in a logical and orderly way. Second, it's pretty clear from what composers of the period said and did, that they saw themselves as part of an ongoing western tonal tradition. They certainly sought to incorporate innovations and expand their harmonic palate, but they were not looking to replace tonality with a completely new compositional system.

Richard Bass:

And then finally, given that mindset, it's important in analyzing this music to begin by explaining as much as can through conventional tonal analysis and then after that, consider the outlying harmonic content from a broader range of perspectives. And so, the goal of a class like this, in my view, is to give you a set of tools for doing that.

Jennifer:

Bass’s words proved especially valuable once students began work on their culminating projects, which they embarked upon at the outset of the semester rather than closer to the end. While designing the course, I had begun rethinking the final written analysis paper and class presentation on a piece of the student’s choosing, both commonly due at the end of the semester. I firmly believe in the practice of analyzing and writing about music and also in helping students work through the writing process in a methodical way from topic selection to a final product due at the end of term. For this course, however, I decided to change it up, and I announced in the first class the immediate need to find a piece from the 19th century to analyze because the paper would be due at midterm.

Jennifer:

Additionally, paper submission was only phase one of ultimately a three-step project. Post midterm, while I read through the papers and provided feedback, the students would transform their work into YouTube videos, which meant the papers needed revised and edited into scripts prior to video creation.

Jennifer:

Here’s the catch: I wanted a specific style of video, one that was approximately ten minutes long and in the vein of current, popular Music Theory YouTubers. Ultimately, I wanted each student to not just share a heady paper analysis or manufacture entertaining content, but to craft a something that could bridge the chasm that complex chromatic art music and academic papers often fail to cross. Essentially, I was requiring that students insert themselves into a middleground of both visual media and music analysis by producing an “edutainment” style product that doubles as “public” music theory. Their reactions varied…

Jennifer’s Student:

I guess my original thought was "holy crap, this is not something that is in my ball park!"

Jennifer’s Student:

My initial reaction was "Oh God."

Jennifer’s Student:

I was only worried because I hate recording myself.

Jennifer’s Student:

I was kind of excited!

Jennifer’s Student:

I do not like recording myself. My first reaction was just "Oh. Dammit!" (Laughs)

Jennifer’s Student:

I thought it was pretty cool! I watch a lot of YouTube but I never thought about how to contribute or do anything and so, I feel like most of the time, if a project can get you to do something, that's a pretty cool thing and it's nothing I've never heard brought up in class before, so I thought it was pretty awesome!

Jennifer:

I’ll return to what I mean by edutainment and public music theory in just a bit, but first I want to examine the evolution of select scholarship on music theory pedagogy and YouTube a little more closely. In my research, I unearthed an abundance of scholarly articles and studies about YouTube and the educational environment in fields such as communication, computer science, and medicine;. there are significantly less studies in music.

Jennifer:

One of the inaugural articles about YouTube and music pedagogy is found in the 2010 volume Pop Culture Pedagogy in the Music Classroom. In her chapter “Global Connections via YouTube: Internet Video as Teaching and Learning Tool,” ethnomusicologist Hope Munro Smith focuses on the benefits and effectiveness of integrating YouTube videos into her world music undergraduate classroom lectures, something that twelve years and one pandemic later we no longer need explained to us.

Jennifer:

Even so, Smith’s contribution serves as a milestone that documents a dramatic shift in the availability of music-related visual resources, their potential to enhance teaching and learning in the classroom, and the ethics surrounding the inclusion of this material.

Jennifer:

At the end of her chapter, Smith states, “As educators, our challenge is to fully realize the various pedagogical possibilities of Internet video websites—otherwise, we are simply updating older audiovisual formats with newer technology, much as CDs replaced cassettes and LPs.” (And now, of course, CDs have themselves been replaced by digital music and streaming services). Smith concludes her piece by advocating for projects in which students create YouTube channels and upload and comment on original content, such as their own performances, compositions, or reflections on course related material, which was certainly sage prophecy of things to come.

Jennifer:

In the field of music theory pedagogy, the years 2012 to 2014 saw the emergence of articles and book chapters explicating the concept of the flipped, or inverted, classroom—a topic to which YouTube is tangentially connected. The premise of flipped classroom instruction hinges on content being provided to students before class sessions, which meant pioneering music theory pedagogues sought out and acquired skills in video development and production.

Jennifer:

Greg McCandless and Anna Stephan-Robinson’s 2014 article “Video and Podcasting Tools for Blended, Flipped, and Fully-Online Music Theory Courses” in Music Theory Pedagogy Online 4 touts the value of such methods and offers practical technological advice to help instructors create their own podcasts, screencasts, and videos. The bibliography of Anna Gawboy’s chapter “Teaching Music Theory with Video” in the 2018 Norton Guide to Teaching Music Theory offers a valuable summary of flipped classroom and music theory pedagogy articles from the earlier 2012-2014 period, and the article itself delves further into video integration, including its uses for flipped-class instruction, remediation, in-class engagement, post-class review, and assessment or feedback.

Jennifer:

YouTube receives mention in both essays, but mainly as a way to enhance recorded video content through YouTube’s annotation function, or as a source of entertaining or humorous videos that could spark class discussion on a topic. Also, the scope of both essays is focused on helping the instructor navigate video technology; there is little to no mention of students developing videos themselves.

Music:

[bumper music playing]

Jennifer:

Although research about inverted classrooms, video microlectures, and teaching music theory online has steadily trickled in, during late summer 2021 I found myself with a void of information about student video creation and its effectiveness in the music theory classroom experience.

Jennifer:

I had a science journal article titled, “Video clips for YouTube: Collaborative video creation as an education concept for knowledge acquisition and attitude change related to obesity stigmatization”—an article that at least offered proof of concept when it came to student video creation as a viable mechanism for learning and information retention. And I could also, to some extent, draw upon the instructor-related music theory pedagogy literature about creating my own lectures for a class and convert that material into a helpful guide for students.

Jennifer:

Even so, I felt I needed more justification before initiating my “YouTube-video-as-final-paper-presentation” grad-class experiment, and I turned to recent writings on the topic of public music theory.

Music:

[bumper music playing]

Jennifer:

What is the definition of public music theory? It is, as I understand it, what music theorists do when they generate content for non-music theorist specific audiences. When music theorists create program notes, give pre-concert lectures, and do community-interactive types of projects, they exemplify what is meant when academics say they are working in the public music theory sector.

Jennifer:

Professor J. Daniel Jenkins is a current expert and has a body of recent publications on this topic, two of which were accessible when I was revising the format of my class’s final presentation. Jenkins published his essay, “Towards a Curriculum of Public Music Theory,” in the online volume of Engaging Students: Essays in Music Pedagogy, Vol 5 in 2017, and he wrote the “Music Theory Pedagogy and Public Music Theory” chapter in The Routledge Companion to Music Theory Pedagogy, available in 2020.

Jennifer:

In his earlier essay Jenkins writes, “It became clear that were he alive today, Schoenberg would have embraced blogs, podcasts, YouTube, and other novel opportunities available in our current media landscape. It seemed wherever I looked, in media both old and new, examples emerged that were geared to, or accessible to, a general audience that served to help listeners better understand a musical work, musical phenomena, compositional process, or musical effect.” Jenkins describes how he designed and taught a graduate course titled, “Public Music Theory.” He provides the foundational reasons of why and how music theorists engage with the general public, and he recounts projects that his class completed, including program notes, blogs, podcasts, and videocasts.

Jennifer:

He also articulates the “positive takeaways and lingering challenges” involved with this type of course. It was this particular article that supplied fruitful evidence validating a YouTube video experiment in my own class, but, even more helpful was Jenkins’s later essay “Music Theory Pedagogy and Public Music Theory.” This Routledge Companion chapter goes into more detail about video recordings for pre-concert lectures, how to create them, and how to use them, and Jenkins discusses the problem that can arise in public music theory if authors approach it from the perspective of being experts pouring knowledge into the empty vessels of audience members, cautioning the need to be careful that public music theory initiatives are dialogic and not merely one-sided.

Jennifer:

Jenkins’ insights validated my own momentary shift from in-person paper presentations to video creations, specifically because YouTube reaches a general, albeit international audience, and the platform allows for dialogical interaction if the comment and reply functions are enabled.

Jennifer:

Thanks to Jenkins, I found a satisfactory rationale supporting the project; the problem was that I had no idea how to create a YouTube video myself: I needed help. Enter friend and colleague of Dr. Aaron Hynds. Hynds teaches courses on music business, new media, and a host of other things at my institution, and he agreed to guest lecture and assist the students in my class with their technological work.

Jennifer:

I am here talking with my colleague, Aaron Hynds. And we're going to talk about the idea of turning a final presentation into a YouTube video. Aaron, I invited you to come to my class, and I told you what my idea was, what was your initial reaction when I said I want students to create YouTube videos as their final presentations?

Aaron Hynds:

Well, generally speaking, I think any sort of way that we can implement technology into the class these days is a good thing. It has to be done smartly, and I think this is being done smartly but I think it's a good way to get students out of the rut of essay/exam, essay/exam, essay/exam, which is just something you do in every other class. So, finding a way, that was my initial thought, finding a way to change things up, making a different type of assignment and overall that was my reaction. "Hey, it's something different!" And it's also something I have done a lot myself.

Jennifer:

Have you had students do YouTube presentations, or do you mean, you've created your own YouTube presentations?

Aaron:

I've created my own presentations a lot. And so, I've done a lot of that for my own classes. Especially over the last two years, cause the Pandemic. So, it's something I'm fairly familiar with. And I have had students do some of their own as well.

Jennifer:

Hynds offered some helpful information that could get anyone started transforming their papers into video presentations. In our post-semester interview, he recapped some of his advice about recording and editing videos:

Jennifer:

How about recording the video, you gave the students a couple of ways in which they could record the video. What were some of your suggestions?

Aaron:

An easy one, now a days, is to do a "Zoom Room" with yourself for your presentation part, record that. As far as, to kind of go back a question, with their smartphone, they can record a video of themselves on their phone giving their presentation. I've had students do that for certain projects in my other classes. You kind of have to recognize that it's maybe not the most professional of things, when they're using a "selfie cam", but it gets the job done. But using a zoom room to send the recording to yourself, using a smart phone. If they have a laptop, there are built in apps like QuickTime where you can easily create a video. It's a little bit easier on Mac than it is on Windows.

Jennifer:

My challenge to the class though, was not just to video themselves doing the presentation. We had talked a good bit about music theory videos on YouTube and specifically related to things like neo-Riemannian theory and topics that were related to what we were studying regarding late 19th century music. You helped dismantle some of our confusion about how do you insert things like text and other videos. Can you provide us with some information here about what you said to the class about ways to fancy your video up?

Aaron:

Well, the couple of things that I mentioned, the first thing is just watching those videos and taking notes and seeing how to they transition from one thing to the next. What is some of the visual language that they use. More specifically, I talked about using text on screen to emphasize and to pinpoint specific concepts, is a big thing. Using visual aids to kind of get across, whether it's a static image or if it's a video clip. That's a big, big tool in the arsenals of people who make these types of videos. And also, really just using visual language to pin point and guide the listeners attention.

Jennifer:

Absolutely. But how do you do that? What are the mechanisms, I mean, because I think everybody in the class, when you were speaking, everyone was fine when you were just talking about recording and how to record the video. And then when it shifted to how to insert something, there was a different level of comfort. I could tell that some people were like "Yeah, I can do that, I've done that" and there was a level of comfort there. Then others, their eyes got somewhat round and they almost freaked out on me a little bit.

Aaron:

So, I'll start with the one that I think is the easiest thing that you can generally do to play up a video, to spice up a video, is text. Text on the screen, and any video software is going to have the ability for you to add text to a screen. And even editing software! I recommended a software, I'm blanking on the full name, but I believe it was called Adobe Rush. That is a simplified version of premiere pro. You do have to have some familiarity with the tools, and if you need, watch a tutorial and do that. So, at a basic level, there is going to be some learning of tools involved. But, any video editing software has the basic ability to add text to a screen.

Jennifer:

Does that mean, like, that iMovie has that ability?

Aaron:

Yes, I'm sure that it does. So yeah, making a video lecture eventually circles down to you needing to learn an editing software of some kind.

Jennifer:

And the editing software, Adobe is great, as you said, Adobe Rush is more simple than premier pro, then iMovie. Any others off the top of your head?

Aaron:

There's a free one, but it's a little complex, called Da Vinci Resolve. It's a little more, I mean, it's a fully featured, professional program. There's a free version of it. So that's another one. But Da Vinci Resolve, Adobe Premier, oh, Final Cut is on Apple. That's also a fully featured professional editing software.

Jennifer:

Armed with guidance and support from Hynds, students spent the second half of their fall term revising their papers and crafting them into ten-minute YouTube videos. (I should clarify that students also completed additional class preparation, readings, and short-term assignments during that part of the semester, so this experiment doubled as a lesson in project management as students balanced short-term weekly work with the longer-term paper/presentation requirements.)

Jennifer:

The question might arise, “Why only ten-minutes?” The time parameter length comes partially from Anna Gawboy’s article that I mentioned earlier, in which she writes, “Guidelines for the inverted classroom suggest limiting the focus of each video to a single subject and limiting the length to 5-10 minutes.” I also consulted non-music specific sources, such as the book, The YouTube Formula, which offers insight on how to construct engaging videos and retain audience attention. And, lastly, I watched a significant amount of music theory-related videos, and took notes on how long I tended to stay interested. I determined that I watched 10 to 15-minute videos in full, especially if they included graphics, text, embedded videos, scrolling scores, and/or animation. In other words, I, myself, became seduced by edutainment.

Jennifer:

The term “edutainment” dates back to at least 2001, when an education article by David Buckingham and Margaret Scanlon was published. In it the authors defined edutainment as “a hybrid mix of education and entertainment that relies heavily on visual material, on narrative or game-like formats, and on more informal, less didactic styles of address.” Although Buckingham and Scanlon were educators evaluating magazines for young children, I think the label fits the style of music theory video that currently tends to draw in the most viewers on YouTube: there is depth of content, but it is compressed into 10 to 15-minute video segments and accompanied by a host of visual and musical interjections that highlight key points. This is a potential middleground space between full class-length recorded lectures and the short five-minute micro lecture on a single concept, and it is the space I was hoping the students would successfully inhabit.

Jennifer:

After all that build-up, you are probably ready to ask, “Well, how did it go?” In short, eleven students successfully created video presentations about their analysis papers, and eleven students provided their consent to allow use of audio and video from their projects and/or to participate in recorded interviews that could be used for this podcast. Let’s hear some feedback from them:

Jennifer:

So, how much time do you think it took you to do the analysis of your piece?

Jennifer’s Student:

Almost 50 hours.

Jennifer:

50 as in five, zero?

Jennifer’s Student:

Yeah.

Jennifer:

So, about how long do you think it took you to analyze the piece? Like, do you have a number of hours? What do you think?

Jennifer’s Student:

Well, here's the thing. So, the things that were easy to analyze, I analyzed them in two days. I sat down at the piano, I played the chords, and it was just two days, forty to forty-five minutes each day. That was easy. The things that were difficult to analyze, the pages with no tonality, I was you know, reanalyzing them every single day until I finished that paper. So, I mean, I couldn't give you an exact time frame, because even if I go back now I might find something different or I might think differently. So, it's an evolving analysis process, I guess.

Jennifer’s Student:

I guess, all in all, the analysis took a couple weeks. I'd say probably around 10 to 12 hours of really sitting down with it and trying to find the sections I wanted to really focus on because it's so dense, it took a bunch of listens to really understand, or to even remember how it goes, let alone what's going on. So, it probably took about, yeah, around 10 to 12 hours over the course of a couple weeks. And then as far as making the script for the video, I kind of just took my paper and just sort of started cutting away at it. I highlighted the sections I thought were like, the tent poles of the paper. Like, I need to get from here to here, and here to here and then just how quickly can do that in a way that will still make sense when I'm just kind of talking and flashing graphics on the screen.

Jennifer:

What was revealed to me through the interviews was that both the paper and video were labor-intensive projects. Students indicated that after they selected a piece, they started immediately working on it, and time ranged from 5 hours to 50+ hours spent on the analysis alone, depending on the type of piece they selected and their background and facility with the musical analysis process.

Jennifer:

Students approached constructing a video script in different ways, but all of them cut their papers substantially and reworked their theses in order to compress their papers into 10-minute videos. This usually meant they could talk about one key point of their analyses in depth. The amount of time it took from creating the script to recording and editing the video varied, but students tended to take an average of two weeks to convert their papers to scripts, then a set of intense days as they recorded and edited their projects to perfection. Here are a couple of additional reflections:

Jennifer:

So, did it help to start the paper early, and to do the paper midway, and then you got feedback on the paper, and then you could adjust. Was that helpful?

Jennifer’s student:

Absolutely. First of all, I was, I needed to make sure I was talking about the correct thing and getting the feed back that I'm not wrong, and then making a video about it. So I was little bit more confident.

Jennifer’s Student:

I'm basically in full agreement. I thought it was nice to really have time to gather our ideas, because I'm also quite nervous, I don't like being recorded either. so it was nice to have a lot of on paper feedback, which made the process to record much more of a breeze then I thought it was going to be.

Jennifer:

In terms of technological tools, students gravitated toward the same types of hardware for recording, primarily smartphones, iPads, and laptops. Their selections of software varied, however, depending on what they were comfortable working with already. Their preferences included GarageBand, iMovie, Adobe Rush, Adobe Premiere Pro, Screen-o-Matic, and the animating softwares Adobe Animate and VideoScribe. One thing that became evident is that three of the six students presenting as female preferred not to capture their actual faces on screen, opting instead for digital avatars or total video animation of their scripts. And this is a point I will return to in just a minute. As a result, I continue to think that a project like this must allow for flexibility and creativity when it comes to students filming their self-images.

Music:

[bumper music playing]

Jennifer:

Fast forward to March 2022. Yes, the March after my seminar ended. While pulling together all the necessary research, IRB permissions, and interviews that I needed to assemble this podcast, I suddenly learned about an important must-read, hot-off-the-press article (shout out to Chelsea Burns at UT Austin for the timely tip!). I am talking about Julianne Grasso and Cory Arnold’s co-authored chapter, “Music Theory YouTube,” which is now available in The Oxford Handbook of Public Music Theory. (Sidenote here: when I was trying to access the article, my institution did not currently have the subscription turned on for this resource, and Oxford no longer allows single subscribers to sign-up. Our Fine Arts Librarian, however, was able to get a copy through Inter Library Loan within a day. This felt a little ironic, though, that a handbook on “public” music theory wasn’t all that readily available to the public…).

Jennifer:

In “Music Theory YouTube,” Grasso and Arnold examine the evolution and content of music theory videos on YouTube. They start with history and context of English-language music theory content, providing a helpful timeline and also offering an insightful look at how the YouTube platform itself works. They offer set categories of music theory videos based upon how the creators sell their topics in order to build audiences and online community. And they discuss the complexities of being a music theorist on YouTube and identify the complications that come with YouTube, the academy, and the democratization of music theory knowledge. This article should be the first point of reference for anyone attempting to implement the kind of video presentation experiment that I’ve outlined in this podcast or for those wishing to write articles related to YouTube content and music theory.

Jennifer:

Although Grasso and Arnold’s chapter was not publicly available when I developed the project for my class, it validated, albeit retroactively, the rationale for the final presentation as video, something initially designed more upon hunch and instinct than proven research. Within their six categories of music theory videos on YouTube, Grasso and Arnold label the third category as “Analytical Content,” or what they define as videos in which “the creator promises to use music theory to provide viewers with a deeper understanding of a piece (or collection) of music. Since audiences are generally most likely to click on analytical videos about music with which they are already familiar, these videos tend to focus on popular songs, letting the music’s popularity do the heavy lifting in drawing a crowd.”

Jennifer:

Grasso and Arnold confirm that popular genres like jazz, pop, rock, and hip-hop tend to get the most attention, but they clarify in a footnote that “Analyses of European classical music are less common than analyses of popular music on Music Theory YouTube than in academic settings, but they do exist.” In other words, there is still significant space on YouTube for more academic-type analyses of art music that can be packaged into middleground edutainment- style videos. Music theorists and their students, therefore, can make valuable contributions to public music theory by converting analysis papers, in which many hours of time, research, and refinement have already been invested, into videos and make them available for anyone who might enter related keywords into YouTube’s search bar.

Jennifer:

Obtaining the music theory Youtube article also clarified something I had observed in the class projects. Remember when I mentioned that 3 of the class members used digital avatars or animating software for their presentations? Well, Grasso and Arnold address this within the context of marginalized creators and audience reaction.

Jennifer:

They write “One sentiment analysis of the comment secions of science communications channels found that hosts who presented as women received significantly higher proportions of negative comments criticizing the work, as well as significantly more harassment in the form of hostile of sexual comments and comments about their appearance. These factors may further serve to push women away from the field of educational YouTube in general and presumably Music Theory YouTube in specific, as well.”

Jennifer:

Although the students in my class were not worried audience reactions since our YouTube was set to private, I think the student’s choice to not show their self image, is rooted in this larger concern that Grasso and Arnold describe.

Music:

[bumper music playing]

Jennifer:

There are plenty of difficulties with implementing this project, but I will lament just one at the moment: peer review, or the lack thereof. Anyone can upload videos to YouTube that haven’t been vetted or reviewed for accuracy of content, consistency of terminology, or verification of facts. This means that, as an instructor, if I want to illustrate a point or recommend something for students to watch as a supplement to their learning, then I have to spend time myself reviewing videos since there is no peer review process helping sift out the grain from the chaff.

Jennifer:

Sometimes this feels overwhelming, and I experienced a similar sentiment while in the throes of this video project. Because each student selected a different piece, I ideally needed to be an expert on all the works they were studying. In the middle of the semester, that felt like a nearly impossible task, and I failed to have adequate time to familiarize myself deeply enough with each work to the level that I could parallel what peer review does for academic publishing.

Jennifer:

This meant that I was providing feedback on the content, organization, and writing style that they presented in the papers, but I did not have expert-level insight that two or three peer reviewers who are scholars a singular piece and/or composer could provide. Because of this, I was reticent to have students make public the videos that we uploaded, and we kept our YouTube channel setting on private. It is not that the class failed to do outstanding work; it is simply that I’m not 100% confident about the correctness and accuracy of every detail. So while I stand by the value of this experiment, I recognize its shortcomings.

Music:

[bumper music playing]

Jennifer:

Would you want to do this again in a class, do you think, as your final?

Jennifer’s Student:

Yeah, I think so. I mean, since music theory is not my major, but in my ethnomusicology class, if I wanted to make my major paper [into a video essay] I would love that!

Jennifer’s Student:

Not as a student, but as a teaching assistant! Like, explain this, this is this, there is a very low percentage of you making a mistake with the information because it is corroborated. And teaching theory, for example, like we're talking about today, if I understand correctly, I'm happy to make a video to explain for others to learn. Sharing my own perspective of an analysis, even simple analysis, it's like "What if I'm wrong?"

Jennifer’s Student:

I thought it was a really cool thing to do, it was different like, very different. And even though it was difficult at the time, especially the time of year, but looking back on that, I'm really glad that I did it and I'm really glad that I got the opportunity to, because I don't think I would have ever made myself do it ever before. And I think it opens the door to not only doing that in the future, if I wanted to do a YouTube channel where I talk maybe about jazz harmony or trombone. It also makes it seems like I can edit my own videos like, performance videos. The possibilities are endless because doing a project like this.

Jennifer:

Based upon the feedback given by students via their evaluations and recorded interviews, I believe “YouTube video as final presentation” was worthwhile overall and achieved the objectives I had in mind. Knowing what I do now and armed with additional scholarship, I will likely do this process again in my graduate-level special topics seminars. I do not want to replace all my graduate course in-class presentations with YouTube video development (there are too many important skills gained from speaking in-person and answering questions extemporaneously in real time), but I think the special topics course is a space where I can successfully and convincingly insert this shift in pedagogy and teaching tool. Given today’s discussion perhaps you and your students will be inspired to attempt something similar yourselves…that is if you haven’t already.

Jennifer:

I’d like to acknowledge several people who helped make this podcast possible. First, thanks to the creators of SMT-Pod, and specifically to Jenny Beavers, Megan Lyons, and Melissa Hoag for their guidance and peer review of this episode. I’m grateful to Paula Hickner, head of the Lucille Caudill Little Fine Arts Library at the University of Kentucky, who speedily procured the Music Theory YouTube article for me at the eleventh hour. An enormous thank to friend and mentor Richard Bass, whose pedagogy and scholarship informed the design of my Techniques and Transformations special topics seminar, and I appreciate his taking the time to Zoom with the graduate students for an entire class session. This endeavor would have been impossible without the generous assistance of Aaron Hynds, who served as a guest lecturer, assisted students with tech questions, spent several hours recording me reading this script, and who primarily edited and produced the episode. And, finally, to the graduate students in the 19th century music seminar, thank you for your support and willing participation in this experiment. Your enthusiasm for the class and project inspired me to see this adventure all the way through from inception to completion; thanks for taking this journey with me.

Music:

[SMT-Pod Outro playing]

Kaitlyn Norman:

Visit our website for supplemental materials related to this episode. And join in on the conversation by tweeting us your questions and comments @SMT_Pod. SMT Pod's theme music was written by Zhangcheng Lu with closing music by David Voss. Thanks for listening!

Follow

Links