02 avril 2006

Week 3 without classes

With President Chirac's proposed changes to the CPE law, and the unions still not backing down until they get exactly what they want, we may have week 4 of no classes this Wednesday (they're beginning to talk of tutorials for us international students). The proposed changes: the contract is only for 1 year, and employers have to tell employees why they are getting fired. Last night we saw a group of protesters blockading cars from driving down the road - it's starting to affect more than just university students now.

Having no classes makes it hard to even get in an academic mindset, honestly. Wednesday night, I went to a bioethics lecture on the value of suffering. To my dismay and surprise, I found it very hard to follow along after being out of classes for so long. I'm concerned that my academic French listening skills are falling by the wayside here. However, it did prompt a very interesting discussion between Lisa and I afterwards - we succeeded in sticking to French the entire time, good for us! Speaking of um, speaking (teehee), I gave directions to a couple of lost strangers in French the other day! successfully! without them asking me, "you are English?" yay! So...gold star for me?

The Story of How I Came Up With My Thesis Topic
So there's an international noir festival here this weekend: film noir, detective lit, anything else that merits the name noir. Freaking out about this since I absolutely loved the film noir class I took a couple years ago, I decided to check it out. On my way, I encountered a African dance ensemble performance in Place des Terreaux, but that's neither here nor there, that's just awesome :D Today they were having a book fair with lots of French noir novelists and even some cartoonists. I stopped to watch that for awhile because the graphic novelists were signing their books with full-page caricatures of each person! If I were a comic book fan I would have been all for getting that but I'm not :P Browsing around a bit, it dawned on me. If I was looking for books to do my French thesis for next year on, this was the perfect place! Where else would I get this opportunity?? I noticed that a lot of the books had some sort of "voyage" in them - so picking this as my central theme, I picked up 4 novels (Les Ombres mortes, Arret d'urgence, Le Train vert-de-gris, et Un Voyageur solitaire est le diable), 2 of which were signed by the authors ! One of the books even takes place on a train departing from Lyon. So excited about this! I've never had any books signed before!! And I can't wait to start reading the books and define a more specific direction for my thesis. This is great. I would never be able to do something like this at UVA, they certainly don't offer any classes like this in the French department! I just have to talk to a faculty member now and see how to make it feasible. But this is a step in the right direction :D

Also, a little shout-out for the Pierre de Bethmann sextet. They put on an incredible jazz concert tonight at the Opera de Lyon Amphi-Jazz! Definitely more of a modern jazz sound, probably the best one I've heard yet. It was just so richly layered and evocative - especially thanks to the chanteuse whose voice was more of an instrument than a voice! I really liked the sound of that fender rhodes (electric piano). also with alto sax, tenor sax, bass, drums, guitar. I'm lucky I got to see it - I got there just in time and snapped up a ticket from someone who needed to get rid of one, otherwise it was sold out, and with good reason!

Today's ponderings: How would you describe a color without using any visual words whatsoever? How would you describe a visual world entirely by using sound? Is music supposed to represent another sense such as vision or emotion, act as a metaphor, or is it to be created and appreciated on its own merit? (Best answer gets a gold star? and a hug? and some crepes?)

Gourmet stylings of the week: Asian food. The Asian market is like crazy ridiculous with all sorts of stuff I have never seen in my life, so now I have to try it :D So you know when someone makes you try a food, but then you can't ever find it in stores and it drives you nuts cause it was that good? Well that was me and lemongrass shrimp thai ramen in the 12th grade. And what do you know, they sell it here in France. so w00tOMGITOTALLYBOUGHTSOMEANDRANHOMEANDMADEIT.

3 commentaires:

Em a dit…

I think music is a sense? Hrm...I remember watching the movie Amadeus (ever seen that?), and Mozart only made one copy of all his compositions. He never went through drafts. It's as if he felt all the music running through him. It was just always in his head.

That's just my opinion.


Anonyme a dit…

envyyyy! Wish I coulda heard that jazz concert - with a Fender Rhodes (my dad's favorite electric piano) to boot.

You could go with the scientific explanation of color: Different materials reflect different wavelengths of light, and the eye registers those differences and the combination of wavelengths with great precision. Hue is in fact easier to distinguish than brightness in most cases.

Or you could go with an analogy to sound: Just as you can hear very small frequency differences in a sound, you can see very small wavelength (==frequency) differences in a ray of light. And just like some sounds produce noise across a range of frequencies in the audible spectrum, some objects reflect all or part of the visible spectrum the eye can see. Of course, there are differences: You see at many points but hear from only two points, you adjust your vision for different levels of stimulation but not your hearing, etc.

Or you could go poetic: For people with perfect pitch, a note is like a color, and it's just as easy to tell between F and F sharp as it is to tell between blue and blue-green. The metaphorical meaning of "color" is (off the top of my head) the quality of something that sets it off from other things like it in a subtle way, so that it remains in a category with the other objects. When speech is colored with emotion, extra content is added that a monotone or robot voice would not have provided, without losing the original meaning of the speech. A skillful musician can add color to music by making small pitch, duration and resonance changes so that the notes mimic the operation of our minds and hearts in the situation the music describes. And, of course, color itself can have vivid memories attached to itself, and a different color on the same object (say a fruit) can have a big impact on the meaning.

On music (although it applies to any creative art form): The goal of most music is to evoke emotion in the listener. Some music is also created to celebrate the technical skill involved in creating and performing it. Music can be created in reference to other music, but that I would argue is covered under technical skill, while arousing some humorous or ironic emotion.

Granted, there's plenty of music which displays no technical skill whatsoever. This, however, is regarded (rightly) as inferior to music which is made well and has a powerful effect.

A game, sport or competition is not art because it fulfills only one of those two, the technical skill aspect. A game arouses emotion not because of its intrinsic qualities, but because some external value has been added to it (the allegiance of sports fans, the time of video game players, the national identification of the Olympics) that makes some audience members emotionally invested. We all know this effect: it's difficult to be interested in sports you don't follow, because you have no reason for emotional commitment and you don't know enough to appreciate the technical accomplishments involved.

As a concrete example, video game players have been making home movies of themselves playing games for as long as there have been video games that require technical skill. Some even call themselves "music videos", although it's difficult for anyone except the creator to feel the music more strongly when it's layered over by a (primarily visual) game. However, a few videos are universally lauded as having transcended this skill-showing-off paradigm and vaulting into the realm of art - Ode to the 2-Hit Combo for Street Fighter and Maptacular for Halo are the two best examples. Even people who have never played the games in question think these are cool, because they speak emotionally as well as technically.


Anonyme a dit…

Re: colors. To describe color without visual words, just map the color attributes to the attributes of another sense.

Example #1: Mapping color to temperature:

hue = temperature. Red = hot; Blue = cold, etc.

saturation = intensity. Vivid Red = intensely hot; Dark Red = dully hot; etc.

Example #2: Mapping color to sound.

hue = pitch. Red = low; Blue = high.

intensity = loudness. Vivid Red = Low and Loud; Dull Red = Low and Soft.

These are just off-the-cuff examples, but I think the pattern is pretty solid.

- Dave