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Sunday, October 5, 2014

A problem

I'm giving a talk in March with musical examples. Here is my problem: duration of my talk = 20 minutes. Duration of my playlist of musical examples: 23 minutes. I can't talk over the music. A few musical examples are already short. Some I can truncate a few others to a minute or so. Still, even cutting it down to 10 minutes of music gives me only 10 minutes to talk. How long are talks at musicological conferences? (Mine is the Comparative Literature Association).


Vance Maverick said...

I have no knowledge of musicology, but I do have experience of music classes. And even there, listening to music examples only works if you have hours of time. Snippets don't cut it -- they don't make their point.

(I valued those long classes with listening and discussion very highly, but it's a different goal than a talk.)

Thomas said...

I once used two 4-minute versions of Bach in a conference presentation. As I recall, I basically just stated my conclusion, played the music, and said "See?" It didn't really work. I agree with Vance that you can't let anything depend on the audience actually listening to the music.

I'd suggest thinking even of 4 minutes of music as you would a story or a (longish) poem. I.e., you wouldn't spend a conference presentation familiarising the audience with it to the extent of actually reading the whole thing out loud (or giving them time to read it quietly). In a sense, you assume they've already read it. You talk about it as something that exists in the world and they can experience for themselves.

The presentation should work on its own, without music, but should of course "continue to work" (i.e., remain convincing) when someone sits down afterwards to listen to the music you've talked about.