The One Percent at OSU

Last year I made this booklet to try to get the word out about the Institute for Policy Studies report that ranked Ohio State the #1 most unequal public university in the country. The report shows the clear connection between high student debt, low faculty wages, and the extreme increase in administrative pay (combined with the expansion of university facilities).

I am posting it here, simply because I have not done so until now.

I wrote this with the suspicion that many of the undergrads at OSU do not understand what’s going on–in other words, that it is not just a “fact of life” that college is expensive, but it is rather the direct result of a series of decisions designed to benefit administrators rather than teachers and students. It doesn’t have to be this way, and it is not in much of the world.

Unfortunately, my printing privileges only go so far, and I was not able to flood campus with these. If anyone is inclined, I would be appreciative if you could print and distribute as much as possible. Please also feel free to email me if you’d like to make changes to the text; perhaps if there is enough interest, I will make a general version that is not OSU specific.

(If you do want to print this, make sure to print on both sides, with the “flip short edge” option.)


Hello friends.

I have been traveling for the past month, but soon will return to Ohio for the summer. I have a few things going on:

First, I’ve recently been playing with my old buddy Tom once again. Coming off his Dick’s Den residency (which was really fun) we’ll be playing a few more summer dates:

25 June, 21:00-1:00: Tom Davis Quartet at Carabar

26 June, 14:40-15:30: Tom Davis Trio at ComFest (I Wish You Jazz Stage)

18 July, 11:00-12:30: Tom Davis Quartet at Jazz and Ribs Fest (Jazz Café)

Second, I’m in SUMMER SCHOOL, which will be great. I have to read a lot of books and learn French.

Finally, rest assured that Too is hard at work writing songs where nothing ever happens. We are continuously recording long-distance, but will also record TOGETHER in July. You are not as excited as I am, but there’s still time.

New Music (Again!)

A few years ago, I was working on my M.A. and had almost no time to play music. In order to work on something musical when and where I could, I asked my friends to send me individual recordings that I planned to put together into tracks. I had hoped that this process would be somewhat akin to improvising, and would produce a rather coherent set of material. This isn’t really what happened, and the project sat on my computer for a long time.

A couple weeks ago, I remembered all of these tracks that I never did anything with, and I mixed them together all at once in a day or so. The result is not coherent, but has a character of its own, I think. The sounds are from places as diverse as Thailand, Korea, Scotland, Los Angeles, and Columbus, and were either sent by friends or recorded on my phone. They each bring me back to places and times that are now far gone, and I think each track has some moments that are really nice. (In particular, I am kind of blown away by the way track five came out, where this cymbal bowing that I did in five seconds made a melody that I could never have intentionally made–IN THE KEY that Aaron’s track is in.)

I’m happy to say that I am playing music again, but at the same time, my friends are as scattered as they have ever been. I think I might like to try something like this again, in order to keep exploring what Cage called “musicircus” (simultaneity of unrelated intentions) through pre-recorded material. It is a way to make music, perhaps, with far away people.

You can click on the individual tracks to read about what source material was used in each case.

New Music

In February, Aaron put on a show of music composed for the event. I wrote this piece, which is meant as a kind of long-distance duet (at first between myself and Aaron, but subsequently for anyone).

In the guitar part, the first movement has pitches but no rhythms; the second movement has rhythms but no pitches. The accompaniment part, on the other hand, is to be completely improvised and pre-recorded. In the end, the idea is for the guitarist to fill in what is missing in the score by improvising with the recording in the moment.

The point of keeping this interaction ‘secret’ until the show is meant not only to simulate what a duet might actually be like, but also to ensure that the choices made by the guitar player with regard to rhythm or pitch are in part reactions to the accompaniment part in real time–in other words, to the point is to make sure that they are improvised as they would be if the duet was playing together in a live situation.

Finally, the instructions dictate that each time this work is performed, the accompaniment recording must be commissioned anew. Repeat performers are fine, as long as the recording is different for each performance. Alternatively, a recording of a full performance of this piece (with both accompaniment and guitar parts) may be used as an accompaniment part in a subsequent performance.”

I am really happy with the way it came out. Aaron knows all the right notes.

HERE is the score.

HERE is the recording from the show:

Small Songs

Alex has posted some recordings of the most recent gig that we played. They are a little rough, but mostly will give a very good sense of the kinds of strange approaches that we are trying to navigate in that band. Namely:

1. A collapse of the roles of improvisation, melody, harmony, and rhythm

2. An equal emphasis on maintaining the spirit of the compositions and on making them our own

3. An effort to balance the source material with original material

So far these things have been worked out in rehearsal. Alex will bring in a small sketch that he has transcribed from a recording of one of his piano students, and we will play through it. Then there is usually this weird phase where we kind of ‘feel’ what ‘needs to be done’ with the material. It is an experience I have only had a handful of times, as typically the musicians I have worked with bring in music that is at least mostly conceptualized. It is a really challenging and fun change.

While we have come to some solutions on a tune by tune basis, I think that the idea of the band as a whole is still very much undecided. For example: all of our songs so far have been combinations of original material, student compositions, and impromptu ideas about how to arrange those ideas; we have not yet written any completely original material. Should we? Is it better to keep working from the students’ music? If so, how can we incorporate structures that ensure our “natural approach” to these tunes does not become monotonous?

These questions, for me, imply three levels of improvisation: first in the tunes themselves, each time they are performed; second as a slow process that collectively interprets source material and what should be done with it; and third, an even slower process that will result from continuing the first two over an extended period of time. In the end, we may come to some sort of an idea regarding what the band is “about”. On the other hand, it might be interesting if we don’t.

Blogs, Shows

Of course, I periodically fall in and out of blogging. This is not on account of the fact that blogging is apparently dead (you wouldn’t know it given Aaron’s recent tear), but directly corresponds with periods of flux. In other words, it is difficult to write about what you’re doing when what you’re doing is up in the air.

One thing that I have slowly pieced together for myself during this most recent period of change is not how I am transitioning from one discipline to the next, but how both of them are crucial to make the other work. I enjoy my academic work more after working on music, and vice-versa. This is all to say that as I figure out what I’m doing, I always also feel like returning here to write about it.

At any rate, I’m playing this show tonight, if you’re in Columbus. Alex Burgoyne‘s Small Songs band plays improvised music based on compositions by his young piano students. We’re talking like eight year-olds. More on this and other topics soon.