Is Algebra Necessary? – NYTimes.com


I certainly sympathize with the author’s concerns. I have often found myself teaching algebra and calculus concepts when I’ve needed my students to understand concepts in music, and especially in the physics of sound. But the idea that students should not have to take algebra if it impedes their educational process is fundamentally flawed.

This only perpetuates what I call the C. P. Snow myth, that the arts/humanities and the sciences are so separate and distinct that they have no connection or correlation to one another, that they can and should be studied separately, and that we shouldn’t expect people to be able to understand both. The myth is just that, a myth.

The challenge we have is in the way we teach Algebra in high school, and math in general. New technologies can help make math more visual and relevant. We must approach its teaching from our 21st century perspective, with real world problems and their computational implications. If we really want to solve the problem of math illiteracy, we need to address its teaching, and not vilify the subject.

To paraphrase JFK, we study math not because it is easy, but because it is hard.

Is Algebra Necessary? – NYTimes.com.

Inspiration from Steve Jobs


In light of Steve Jobs‘ announcement that he is stepping down as CEO of Apple, the Wall Street Journal put together some of his best quotes. There are two that really resonate with me.

On creativity and design:

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.”

[Wired, February 1996]

On life and achievement:

“I think if you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what’s next.” [NBC Nightly News, May 2006]

You can find the complete list here: http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2011/08/24/steve-jobss-best-quotes/

New Digital Media Center for LSU


There are times when a particular event becomes a landmark in one’s life. Sometimes, we know when they occur (marriage, birth of a child), and sometimes we only realize their importance years later. Yesterday, was one of those days, and it game me a chance to reflect on my career as a composer, a teacher, and an administrator, all at the same time.

Yesterday, we broke ground on a new building for LSU’s campus, the Louisiana Digital Media Center. The LDMC will be home to CCT (and the AVATAR Initiative) as well as to EA’s North American Testing Center for quality assurance.   This building has been “in the works” for at least 4 years, and represents the efforts of a lot of people at the university, city/parish, state and federal levels. There are too many people to thank directly, but you know who you are. For everyone’s effort, I am extremely grateful.

This building represents a vision for how a university can bridge teaching and research with economic development. It goes far beyond just workforce training for specific industries. It’s an environment where new ideas can bubble up out of casual conversations in the hall or over coffee, ideas that can lead to remarkable innovations that make our lives better.

The LDMC opens a new chapter for the CCT, and in the evolution of our AVATAR Initiative in digital media, fulfilling a vision that my late colleague Michael Daugherty and I shared when we started the Music & Art Digital Studio (MADstudio) back in 1995. I spent a lot of time thinking about Michael, our first projects, our collaborations, and our wild fantasies of how we would have an iconic place on campus that would rival the best digital media research centers in the country.

Yesterday shows that to realize big things, sometimes you need a few wild fantasies to get you on your way. To everyone who joined in on these wild dreams, thank you.

News: SCOTUS Rules Against Stanford


I had tweeted about this earlier, but I wanted to add a few thoughts about this ruling. Basically,  the Supreme Court decided that under the Bayh-Dole act, universities could not universally force its faculty and researchers to cede all rights to any invention they may have developed or derived as a result of federally funded research. This is truly good news for us faculty as it protects our rights as creators under the context of federal patent law, that being “rights in an invention belong to an inventor.”

News: Supremes Rule Against Stanford – Inside Higher Ed.

Universities have long struggled with the relationship between academic research and the commercialization of the resulting research product. The case of Gatorade and the University of Florida is perhaps the starting point for the typical approach many universities now have regarding patentable research.  Generally, the approach is “we (the university) own everything, even if you create something outside of your research.” This ruling changes that, and will force universities to be more pragmatic with their policies. But it will also allow university faculty to have more control over their inventions and to be more entrepreneurial (to the benefit of all).

A great student project


One of my graduate students developed a great installation piece called “Bugs in the System.” It uses sensors, cameras, microphones, an Arduino board, and these really cool electronic bugs (you have to see these!). He did it as part of Jesse Allison’s augmented instruments class last semester. Here’s a link to his online documentation.

Nick Hwang: Bugs in the System

Grid makes laptops sing


Last week, I spoke with an editor from the International Science Grid This Week about our research in laptop orchestras.  She was particularly interested in our work with computational grid frameworks like SAGA in support of laptop orchestra performances. Our software, GRid ENabled Deployment for Laptop orchestras (GRENDL), has received some interesting notice, both at recent SIGGRAPH and SEAMUS conferences. But this is our first notice in the press on the subject.

Grid makes laptops sing | iSGTW.

Internet Music Score Library Project Raises Copyright Concerns – NYTimes.com


I remember when this project first came online. It reminded me of Dover scores, a collection of low-cost reprints of classical piano, orchestra and string quartet music. What Dover did was find old music editions that were out of copyright, scan them, and reprint them in a collected fashion.  Everyone knew that these were not “critical” editions, and they didn’t include parts for orchestral pieces. But having large full size scores of all the Beethoven symphonies, or Mozart Piano Concertos, or string quartets, or Debussy orchestral music for a nominal cost was sheer joy to a young composer like me.

The IMSL is not much different from this, except it’s broader and user-driven.  The purpose of copyright is to protect the rights of the composer and publisher. But when music is out-of-copyright, it should be open and available to whomever, wherever. I just don’t see this as being so different than what Dover started doing 30+ years ago.

Internet Music Score Library Project Raises Copyright Concerns – NYTimes.com.