Creative Writing a la Español

Part of my background is in creative writing leaning more into Spoken Word and quirky, sexy monologues. The English language has a vast amount of words to toy with and dress up a character, accentuate an emotion, and colourise a scene. Think of Oscar Wilde’s brilliant depiction of Dorian Gray, describing the story’s imagery with a fantastical yet elegant style. In lyricism, I often think of Morrissey’s penchant for moody and witty sarcasm, while cleverly signaling to queer culture (e.g. “Picadilly Palare“, “I Have Forgiven Jesus“). Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant is more polite, poking fun at the hypocrisies of society using sarcasm and introspection (e.g. “I’m With Stupid“, “Rent“). On the more fun side of lyricism, the English language supplies plenty of naughty humour, with the likes of such odd acts as Aqua (e.g. “Bumble Bees“, “Barbie Girl“), and let’s not forget the socially conscious and poetic rhymes of the hip-hop culture (e.g. 2Pac’s “Brenda’s Got A Baby“, Queen Latifah ft. Monie Love, “Ladies First“).

However, the embracing of English in order to make an entrance into the North American market takes away from the importance of learning another language and contributes to the loss of linguistic diversity. To learn a second, or third, language well is to appreciate what it offers in its own unique creative expression. It creates a bridge to others and breaks down walls of misunderstanding and prejudice. The English language should not be considered the only lingua franca of business, entertainment, media, popular music, literature, and social media. In regards to creative writing, many languages – if not all – rival the beauty of expression, and it is refreshing to see higher institutions establishing university programmes in languages other than English (e.g. University of Iowa’s Spanish Creative Writing MFA). In other instances, PhD candidates are defending their dissertations (also known as ‘thesis’ in other countries) in indigenous languages (e.g. Peruvian scholar defends the first thesis in Quelchua language).

As part of my own exercise into practising what I preach, I will be posting in Spanish as well as in English. Hopefully, it will invite diversity of thought and also demonstrate how equally expressive and charming another language can be.

(Speaking of charming, here is a perfect example of beautiful expression: Pablo Montero, “Hay Otra En Tu Lugar”, ca. 2002)

Thinking About Generational Shifts…

So here are the ramblings of an educator watching how society is changing in front of her eyes:

This week my students & I were talking about generational theories (which for the most part I don’t wholeheartedly subscribe to but find fascinating in relation to historical events & how technological advances change human behaviours). I noticed that much current information on the subject stopped at the GI (Greatest) Generation. I remember a decade or more meeting people from the Lost Generation & I was willing to put money on the notion that there were still members alive from that cohort.

I would have lost that bet; the last member of the Lost Generation in the world died last month. It is mind-numbing to discover that a whole generation is gone in the world, while the Greatest Generation, their children, will be gone in the next 10 years (which will include two of my relatives). What is even more of a reality check is that the large demographic of Baby Boomers (my mom’s cohort) has started to make their exit, and my father’s generation – the Silent one – is quickly dwindling away. We all know that our stay here is temporary but when we confront the passing of time, that is another level of realization – and knowing that I will see four generations in humanity gone in my lifetime is mind-blowing.

This term that just ended was the first time I felt a generational shift (as a younger Gen Xer, a classroom full of Millennials never really moved or impressed me much 😂); the majority of my students were Gen Zers, & their astuteness, quickness, intellectuallism, activism, collectivism, & ability to multi-task w/ technology & still be perceptive to what I was teaching was disorienting. Their tolerance to modern-day issues & people’s differences made me realize how older generations, as much as we moved the bar in our times, are still subconsciously stuck in eras where we were emotionally vested in our futures & continued to push against older values until we settled down, or conformed – and then time stopped for us. Our musical tastes are an example of how we are frozen in time (see Adam Neely’s video below). So how can I as an educator today, knowing that in less than 10 years Alpha Gen (the first fully-born 21st Century generation that will never know what it is like to live in a non-digital world & will have a quicker, more intuitive ability w/ lighting speed information) will be making its entrance into my classroom, forbid students their technologies or get irritated at them when they are on their smart gadgets & laptops multi-tasking & processing info at fast speeds in my class? Or have the attention span of a gnat & must be stimulated quickly to not lose their focus? It is not them that has to adapt to me, it is I who must progress….

(I really do hope reincarnation is real, lol.)

Precursor to Many…

Gymnopédies and Gnossiennes may be his two most known pieces; however, he was far more prolific and influential than previously thought. He was the godfather of the French collective of composers called Le Six; John Cage once called him “indispensable”; he was labeled a precursor by the Impressionist composers; and he collaborated with painters, writers, and artists. He was an odd man with an odd life who gained celebrity later in life.

He was the man who explored boredom in harmony and once wrote a piece that when performed, lasts for ~19 hours.

His name, Erik Satie.

Is It Noise or Music?

Merriam-Webster defines music as the science or art of ordering tones or sounds in succession, in combination, and in temporal relationships to produce a composition having unity and continuity.

However, does noise fall into this category? Can it be neatly combined and ordered to produce a composition? The Italian Futurists seemed to think so in the early 20th Century. However, their audiences were horrified. Turns out the Futurists may have been almost a century ahead of their time.

PBS Idea Channel makes the argument that dubstep, an electronic sub-genre dependent on noise, is the perfect example of the concept of noise as music.

A Brief History on Gated Reverb

Vox Pop’s Earworm series presents a brief history of gated reverb. This is the production technique that was accidentally discovered in the beginning of the 80s and re-emerged about 20 years ago. Berklee professors Susan Rogers and Prince Charles Alexander speak on the technique.

Long live the 80s!

Jack and Irene Delano: focused on archiving Puerto Rico

This is super exciting, especially for those of us of Puerto Rican heritage. Jack Delano, a Ukranian composer and photographer who settled on the island in 1946, and his wife, Irene, a designer and illustrator, created an impressive archive of photography, illustrations, letters, films, and insights delineating the society of Puerto Rico from the 1940s until the end of their lives.

The archive is now part of Columbia University’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library, in the Latino Arts and Activism Archive.

Jack and Irene Delano: Archive Documenting Puerto Rico’s Past Sheds Light on Its Present from Columbia University News on Vimeo.

Jack and Irene Delano: focused on archiving Puerto Rico

Research Endeavours

01) Teaching module: Collaborative effort – Heavy Metal timeline: Heavy Metal timeline

02) Teaching modules: History of Electronic Music Around the World; History of Fania Records; Sophisti-pop; New Wave; Synth-pop (2013 -2014)

  • Modules I researched and created for my courses, History Of Popular Music I and History Of Popular Music II

03) Publication: Literature Review – Popular Music Journal (Vol. 35, Issue 3): New Wave: Image Is Everything

04) Publication: Book chapter for Bloomsbury Publishing (2018): “Mute, Dirty Electronics and the DIT Spirit”, Mute Records: The Historical and Artistic Contexts of Britain’s Key Independent Record Label

05) Dissertation: How U.S. Latino Musicians Reconcile Latin American Heritage with American Identity in Popular Music: Exploring the Four “A’s” to Musical Hybridity (August 2015 – August 2016)

  • This dissertation explored how U.S. Latino composers/songwriters express their Latin American and American heritages through the music they create. The demographic of focus is first and/or second generation composers/songwriters of Hispanic descent. Musical traits to be explored were phrasing, harmonic progressions, instrumentation, song form, tempo and rhythmic patterns, and production techniques. I have done fieldwork and interviews with a few subjects that fit my demographic profile.
  • The aim of this study was to investigate four possible stages of musical hybridity through a research tool I devised.

06) Graduate research: Exploring Musical Soundscapes – Metal Series, Ep. 4: Percussive Traits (January 2016)

  • Educational radio programme focused on traits of musical styles. This episode was dedicated to metal percussive techniques.

07) Graduate research: Moving the Energy Inside a Capoeira Roda (May 2015 – July 2015)

  • My aims were to understand how the oral tradition of Capoeira music drives the energy and movements of the participants’ dancing and acrobatics. This study explored the singing, rhythm, call and response, and instrumentation that controlled the actions of the participants’ inside the circle where two dancers dance in sync with occasional attack motions. I also wanted to include the participants’ choices in selecting motions, the range of emotions that they have, if they experienced a spiritual connection, and how their particular cultural/ethnic identity is expressed within this Brazilian tradition. Video and audio recordings, interviews, and photographs were produced along with a paper.

08) Graduate research: Morris Dancing (April 2015)

  • The purpose was to understand the musical tradition of Morris Dancing in Britain and the culture surrounding it. A short documentary was produced.

09) Graduate research: How Plena Is Being Used To Connect Puerto Ricans in the States Back To Their Roots (October 2014 – January 2015)

  • In this essay, I attempted to establish how plena music is used to connect Puerto Ricans in the United States back to their roots on the island and re-establish their unique, cultural identity.

10) Independent undergraduate research: Cuban vs. Puerto Rican vs. Dominican Influences in Art Music – Analysis: Amadeo Roldán, “La Rebambaramba”; Roberto Sierra, “La Salsa” Symphony (August 2011 – December 2011)

  • This paper compared the traditional musics of the Spanish Caribbean and its influences in art music
  • Researched early 20th century Cuban composer, Amadeo Roldán, and analyzed his 1928 ballet score, “La Rebambaramba”
  • Researched and interviewed Puerto Rican composer Roberto Sierra, and analyzed his symphony, “La Salsa”