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Berriwis and the BeMuse

March 28, 2012

There is one reason why you must come to Oberlin.

We have berriwis!!!
This is the look of calm confidence. Your college search is over.
Kiwis crossed with berries. Berriwis! And not just any old berriwis...

Only the best in Oberlin.

Does this actually exist? I'm not sure, but it's going in my mouth either way.
All the benefits of a kiwi, but bitesize and no nasty hairy skin! Heaven! Hmm, I wonder if these are some kind of weird GM thing? Ah, who cares!

This wonderful chap will give you some additional info:

So I was just pottering around Gibson's (local store) one normal procrastinating day, and there they were. There was a moment of shock, and then pure ecstasy. Wow, wow. I don't know what else to say!

Seeing as berriwis leave me speechless, and that's not very good for a blog, I thought I'd take this opportunity to talk about the great BeMuse in Composition, as one of the profs calls it - i.e. the BMus degree. Because it really is bemusing. To be honest, I had no idea what exactly I was getting into when I arrived for classes in September, so when I was a prospie, I think I'd have appreciated this. Let's do a run-down of what you're signing up for:

  • COMP 201, 202, 203 and 204: Group classes for your first two years, focusing on counterpoint, orchestration and new music techniques. You do tons of small assignments, e.g. short pieces and fake Bach inventions. In the first year, we write four pieces (for one, two, three and four instruments), find performers, rehearse them and have them performed in the middle and end of each semester. These are our 'exams'. So it's very, very hands on.
  • TECH 201 and 202: Introduction to electronic and computer music composition. You also write four pieces, for pre-recorded electronics in the first semester and with some element of live performance in the second. Exciting, crazy classes with lots of cool synthesisers from the '70s to mess around on. If you want to minor in TIMARA, you just continue with TECH 203 and 204 the next year.
  • MUTH 1-4: Your standard 2-year music theory progression. Boring as hell for the first year. Can't speak for the second yet! Really depends on the teacher you get, though - some of them (e.g. Arnie Cox) stretch the material in fun directions (e.g. the concept of physical empathy in music).
  • Aural Skills 1-4: Just try to place out of it, unless you enjoy singing Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So for two years. I have yet to start these classes, so who knows, maybe I'll love them...but for now, I'm happy to let Julie Andrews do it.
  • Music History 101: Everything you ever wanted and didn't want to know about music history!
  • Ensemble requirement (4 semesters): join an orchestra, choir, jazz group, new music improvisation group (such as OINC), or start your own ensemble to perform the choral works of Arvo Part. Whatever you fancy.
  • Piano class (2 semesters): Easy enough to place out of if you play piano.
  • NO requirement for performance on an instrument! Yes!! (I'm not really the performing type - I tend to start shaking and try to run away really fast.)

This is where it gets exciting:

  • Private lessons, an hour a week, for three or four years. With the same teacher, different teachers, I think it's all up to you. These also include studio classes, which meet once a week, where students present what they're working on to the group and get feedback.
  • 2 Composition seminars or TIMARA electives: more of the same, but harder! (That's basically the definition of any degree in six words.) Analysis and discussion of music by guest composers; open rehearsal-discussions; score-reading sessions; visitors from other creative arts areas on campus; outside readings in criticism and aesthetics. I may have just copied and pasted that from the catalog - but really, I don't know, I haven't got there yet! It sounds pretty broad and flexible to your specific interests.
  • 2 advanced music theory and 2 musicology electives: many great options in the catalog. Everything from 'Music and Embodied Cognition' to 'Medieval Blah Blah.' As you can tell, I'm not the best source of info for this yet - I'm still trying to get the core requirements under my belt. But I'm excited about these courses looming in my future!
  • Junior and Senior Recitals: concerts of your music! Look forward to much, much work, countless rehearsals, organising performers (eek!) and forty minutes of extreme happiness or embarrassment.
  • 'Long' and 'Tall' works - a long piece, and an orchestra piece. Which will hopefully get performed by one of the orchestras here (there are various competitions for this).
  • 24 credits of Liberal Arts electives. No worries if you're double degree - this will automatically be taken care of. It really means any course in the college, from multivariable calculus to yoga.
  • Also, you can take whatever else you want in the conservatory or college - performance, conducting, ethnomusicology, neuroscience...it's endless. But do remember to sleep every now and then.

I won't go into the other opportunities you can take up whilst you're here, except to say that there are too many to mention! Examples: concerts of student works all the time, collaborations with dancers and filmmakers, radio shows, theatre, you get the idea! It's safe to say, you're not going to be bored.

If any composition prospies have more questions, do go ahead and leave a comment. Basically, the Oberlin BMus is as flexible as you can get, given that it's a BMus, which means it's supposedly a professional music degree - that always makes me laugh, the idea of a professional artist! Oh dear. Well, we've all got to make money at the end of the day (cringe). Anyway, coming from someone who hates organised education, I don't think I'd survive anywhere else except Oberlin. Most importantly, the teachers are brilliant. You will be challenged, stunned and made to question everything. That's really all that matters.

Phew! I'm going to need a serious berriwi supply to get through this! See you in five years...

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