September 25, 2016

The Fist Clap

I was recently at a live music event where the music inspired audience participation in the form of clapping. The people on either side of me looked in puzzlement when I chose to fist clap. Afterwards, one of them said, “What’s with that?”
For many years I’ve been involved in the field of aesthetic education where teachers and students study works of art and find ways to connect them to their grade level and curriculum. A work of art could be in the field of dance, writing, visual arts or music. I’ve been fortunate to be able to witness some incredible performances, none more so than the a cappella Gospel group The Fairfield Four, from Nashville. My first impression of them was visual: the five members (yes there are sometimes five members in the Fairfield Four) wore blue jean overalls with black tuxedo jackets and bow ties, suggesting earthy elegance. During one song, “Standing in the Safety Zone,” they started swaying rhythmically to the music while fist clapping on the back beat.
The Fairfield Four

So what is it? The fist clap simply looks like this:
It struck me as one of the hippest things I’d ever seen. We normally associate the fist with aggression. In this context it portrayed subtle power and provided just enough rhythmic backbeat to propel the music but not interfere with the vocal harmonies. From that day on I was a fist clapper. Next time you’re at an event where the music inspires clapping, give it a try. Make sure you’re on the backbeat: 1, 2, 3, 4. Of course it’s best done while standing and swaying in time with the music. Don’t be bothered by those around you who might look askance. If they are hip at all, they will get on board with their own fist claps. As a bonus, it’s easier on the hands.
Just for practice, try fist clapping with this version of the Fairfield Four’s “Standing in the Safety Zone.” Feels good, doesn’t it?

September 5, 2016

Return of the MOOC

Last spring from July 2015 through February of 2016 I was engaged in an intense new experience creating a (FREE) Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) for Hamilton College entitled Jazz: The Music, The Stories, The Players. The tech team at Hamilton brought to life my ideas for presenting jazz to a worldwide audience. In its inaugural run, over 9,200 people signed up from 134 countries. The response was overwhelmingly positive after the 6-week run. We explored such major concepts as swing, improvisation, and group interaction. The course was designed to appeal to casual fans and musicians alike.
Acknowledging the success of the spring launch, Hamilton decided to run the course again. We have added new material and revamped modules in response to class discussion. The first week of the course launches at 7 PM EST tonight, and it is not too late to sign up. You may take the course at your own pace and there are no deadlines. Each week’s content is delivered to your email exactly one week after the previous week. Even if you are reading this well after the launch date, you may still sign up and begin participating in the course.
Here is alink to an introductory video which takes you to a sign-up. Hope you’ll join us.