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Binghamton Visit, 2/8

Dear all…

Long time no see. I hope the semester is treating you well, and that you are happy, healthy, and listening to lots of dope music.

For any lingering readers: an announcement that I’ll be in Binghamton this Friday, 2/8. Same digits… text me if you’d like to meet up.

With gratitude,



and that means…




Update: Grades + Valedictions

Part I: Grades

Dear all,

So, as I hope many of you have noticed (still don’t have access to your Bing email addresses), the grades were not posted due to some technical difficulties and general miscommunications about the uploading procedures. They should be formally posted in a matter of weeks (after the break, but hopefully before); in any case, it will be as soon as possible. My sincere apologies for the delay.

In the haste of last week, I was unable to accommodate requests about grades; however, if you’d like to know your grade now, please feel free to email me: and I will get back to you ASAP.

You can also call me, but my phone is dead — however, I will have a new phone today (which is 12/27, and on Friday at the latest), so to be on the safe side, please call/text on Friday should cellular devices be your preferred mode of communication.

The China tests were excellent — with a mean of 91.09 — and I greatly enjoyed seeing your selections from the Playlist Assignment. Seems like Kyary Pamyu Pamyu confused a lot of you, LOL!

Proud of you all.

Part II: A Zen Parable (i.e. an incarnation of The Giver Should Be Thankful)

–12:51am —

Oh man…
really gotta get some sleep, but I can’t go to bed now. The Brooklyn Italian Association or whatever had their monthly party and they were still drinking the anisette at 10:30… ahhh, screw it, I’m gonna listen to Sun Ra and read about chess theory and runes little longer.

I’ll sleep on the bus…
famous last words.

–5:34 am–

Ugh,  gotta change that alarm, it’s so awful, turn it off turn it off turn it off. Can’t snooze, gotta get up, bite the bullet, do it, get to the train by 5:55 latest 6 LATEST. Don’t wanna have to sprint. Almost missed the bus that one time, cutting everyone at the CoachUSA counter, panting, “I’m really sorry, I really have to catch my bus, it leaves in 4 minutes, *gasp* I have students, I have to be there…”

Grab the thermos with pre-made miso soup that just needs hot water (#selfcare), grab the other thermos with the burdock root that supposedly helps with colds. Can’t afford to get sick again. Grab the duffel and throw in the Music of Asia textbook and… where are we this week? India still, OK, grab Siddhartha. OH WAIT, speakers, gotta make sure cuz the tabla is too cool to have any of its sound compromised by those speakers in FA27, blech. Computer charger, check… alright, that’s everything. Yesssss, out the door, let’s do this.

— 6:44 am —

OK, OK, 16 minutes, might have to sprint a little. that’s ok. oh sh**, this corridor is slippery and the bags are too heavy omg i’m going down this is real, this is really happeningggggg…

“I’m OK, I’m OK, thank you,” I say, too embarrassed to look the man who helped me up as I gathered my books off the ground. Judging by the edge of his sleeve, he was probably early 40’s, maybe six feet tall, probably 220 pounds. He may have had on a high school ring.

–10:23 am–

“Would you like so more coffee, Jillian?” asks A, server at Val’s Diner in the Bing Bus Terminal

*refills cup as I scribble notes on Carnatic classical music while reviewing Siddhartha’s relationship to Kamala*

“… I guess I don’t have to ask you at this point, do I?”

Smart lady.

— 6:19 pm–

“Go ahead, Jillian,” says V, the driver from OurBus, in front of all the other passengers who are waiting in line.

Wow, everyone is glaring at me, haha. On the one hand, she took it upon herself to offer me this generous treatment every week, but it’s still unfair because I’ve only been waiting out here for like, a minute and all these people have been staking out their place in line in the cold. On the other hand…

*giddily strides onto bus*

— 9:46 pm —

Honestly, what even is the W train? Doesn’t it go like, up the East Side or something? I didn’t even know it ran through Times. Who even rides that train?? When the W shows up is even worse than when two R’s go by while the N is like, 16 minutes away. Ugh ugh ugh. Where is the NNNNNN….. meanwhile here, Q’s are zipping by every five seconds. Hmm… what if I took the Q? Is it walkable? Eh, nah. And if I’m gonna walk, I might as well just take the R, but it chugs along to every single stop and I’d still have to walk with all these bags. Plus, it’d prolly take longer than if I just waited for the N, and it would also mean I wouldn’t have to haul this gear for three avenue blocks.


I wonder if there’s anything good at the magazine stand?

— 11:06 pm —

door slams shut, bags drop on floor, contents promptly explode, stuff face with cold white rice with seaweed on top to form some semblance of a meal other than those peanuts and the mini Snickers bar I ate out of desperation at the Bing bus terminal, shower, zzzzzzzzz…

actually jk, how should you use pawns?

— 11:33 am, more or less every Friday–

Get up only after sleeping as much as my body can handle for a night, and linger over coffee and a bun from the Chinese bakery next door. Yes… another week for the books. Time to update the website and make it official.

#fulfillment #gobearcats

Reflecting on our discussion of Zen parables and principles wayyyy back in the Japan Unit, it seems that, at its core, Zen is as much a mode of pedagogy (a way of teaching) as it is a way of life. Every parable we read has something to teach us, beginning with the very first (A Cup of Tea): “Like this teacup, your mind is already full of its own ideas. How can I teach you Zen if you don’t first empty your cup?”

Unlike the Tao, which is at once more abstract and specific, Zen parables are stories– examples of principles in action.  We can read Zen parables as portraits: demonstrations of how a certain, yet undefined set of intellectual and spiritual principles are enacted by some truly, wonderfully wacky teachers.

If you review the Zen texts, you’ll notice that the teachers never preach Zen outright to attract students; we can easily see this in the parable about the drunk-turned-Zen Master. Indeed, it seems that Zen inevitably find its students through a process beyond comprehension (the Tao, perhaps? #intertextuality), who then have the free choice to seek out a teacher of their choosing: be it a person, a memory, an idea, a situation, or perhaps even a plant (how sweet the raspberry tasted!).

This is where we’ll leave #111. It was an honor and pleasure to have you as students– every moment, from Port Authority to FA27 and back, reading your tests and assignments in the Dim Sum restaurant next to my house (“Hey, are those yin yangs? Are you teaching about China??”) and on the train. Returning back to Zen principles, it must be explicitly noted that the soul of a teacher realizes and respects the undisputable fact that one’s students are, in actuality, the teachers. Reading your responses on the tests as well as your playlist assignments, each one of you taught me something new, offering a perspective that no one before you or after will ever conjure (and sometimes wrote answers so clever and funny that fits of laughter ensued). I was, and am, proud of your hard work, and all that you have accomplished this semester as scholars, listeners, and thinkers.

I will update here of any trips to Binghamton. And I dream of the infinite constellation of how our paths might meet again.

With respect, gratitude, and 愛,



Dear all,

Greetings… long time no post.

A separate, valedictory post is on its way, but in the meantime I wanted to update you all about grades. The deadline is today, 12/21, at midnight, but I cannot remember my newly minted Bing ID password and therefore haven’t updated them yet. Not to worry, you will receive your grade without trouble, probably sometime on Monday. Until then, please do not contact me regarding your grade; I will provide updates on the website as necessary, but they should be in by Monday.

Also, my phone is more or less dead and can no longer reliably receive or send texts… will have a new one by Christmas. *^^*

Thanks for your patience, and hope you are all enjoying break!



Study Guide, Unit 3 (+ the one date you should know)

Terms/Concepts/Facts (Matching + Short Answer):

Musical theoretical principles (scales used, the categories of the musical instruments)

Instrument names

Basics about the Cultural Revolution (what it was, the “Four Olds”) and Mao Zedong (who he was, who his wife Jiang Qing was)

Basics about Daoism (see earlier post for more info; also, review the reading)

Confucianism: basic relationships, philosophy on music and instruments, yaji

Historical Chinese social structure


All the instruments + pop music examples (Tuesday’s class)


Long Answer:

** There may be more than two Long Answer prompts this time around– prepare accordingly!**

Be prepared to go into detail (summary + main themes as they relate to China/Chinese history, music, or society) of at least one non-textbook reading we’ve done:

-“Rules of the Game” and/or “Magpies” from The Joy Luck Club

-“Fajin Passes the Juren Examination” from The Scholars

-“Down with Stinking Intellectuals” from Mao’s People

-“Village Opera” and “An Incident” by Lu Xun

Also, prepare to answer a mandatory question about the Tao (what Tao means, how it expresses itself, how it relates to your everyday life, what the Tao Teh Ching is about)

There may also be a third section that asks you to discuss musical principles in detail. Prepare accordingly!

And… last, but not least: the one date you will be tested on!

The date the People’s Republic of China (the China we know today) was founded: October 1st, 1949

Playlist Assignment Evaluation:

-Did you get all 12 songs?
-Do you meet the page requirement (at least one, no more than two pages)?

-Are your selections earnest, and creative?

You are encouraged to have fun with this assignment. The more fun you have with it, the more your own voice will come out in your writing– and voice is the key to clear, interesting writing!

Best of luck, comrades!

Until next time,




Readings, 12/4 + UNIT 3 TEST, 12/6

Dear all,

Can you believe it? The last post for reading assignments! What a semester it has been… #111 #gobearcats #premierepublicivy #sunyharvard #binghamton #bu #YES #bestsemesterever #notovertillitsover

Now that overzealous hashtags are out of the way…

For next Tuesday, please simply skim the chapter in the Textbook on pop music from China and Taiwan. It’s long-ish, so just try to get a gist of the main content. Our primary reading assignment is the following two essays (both short, one is super short!) written by Lu Xun (pronounced “Lew Shoon”), the activist intellectual of early/mid-twentieth century China who abandoned his study of medicine in Japan to help unify a China in transition through essays written in everyday spoken Chinese (as opposed to the elite, fancy Chinese used by scholars). For our purposes, this means that the essays are interesting and  readable in English, too! “Village Opera” is a nice way to meditate on the “whirling colors” of Peking Opera (many thanks to the Confucius Institute for their fabulous presentation, and to our very own Ms. Amber for so generously and competently offering her translation abilities!), and the shorter of the two, titled “An Incident,” may very well stay etched in your memories.

Lu Xun

There are no readings for Thursday because that is the day of our third and final test! Another post is coming shortly with items to study (terms, musical instruments/song selections), along with a loose rubric for the Playlist Assignment, due December 13th in our final exam.

That said, our final is NOT a final– it is required for you to come to hand in the Playlist Assignment (hard copies only, please!), but our primary activities will be relaxing, conversing, a trivia game to recap all the amazing things we’ve learned this semester, and lots of music: which you, the students, get to choose! That’s right, YOU can play videos directly from the computer of your favorite Japanese, Korean, Indian, and/or Chinese (+ Taiwanese) music! Player’s choice, y’all!

Light refreshments will be provided. 🙂

OK, that’s all for now. Stay tuned for the subsequent post detailing studying guidelines for the Unit 3 Test and for a rough sketch of the Playlist Assignment evaluation rubric.

Keep posted,


Readings, 11/27 + 11/29 // UNIT 3 TEST, 12/6

Dear all,

Wishing you all a fun, safe, restful Indigenous People’s Day/Thanksgiving! I am grateful to share a classroom with such bright minds, shining souls, and high-quality junior scholars.

This coming Tuesday, we will have a guest lecture from the Confucius Institute of Chinese Opera,  who are putting together an exciting presentation on Peking Opera (it’s so next-level). To prepare, please read through the chapter on Chinese Opera in the textbook. Please also skim some more passages from the Tao Teh Ching, accessible on last week’s post. Again, skim for general content and a feel of what is meant by “Tao,” and how to best unite with it.

For Thursday, please prepare the following real-life stories from the book Mao’s People: Sixteen Portraits of Revolutionary China, compiled and translated by Harvard University historian Michael Frolic:

Mao’s People

Also: It has flown by, and we haven’t had as much time to spend on China as would be ideal (i.e. Music 111 would be an awesome 2-part class ^^), but the Unit 3 Test on China is around the corner on Thursday, December 6th, usual class time. I’ll be sure to let you know what to study in class tomorrow (and in subsequent classes thereafter), but you should study the instruments, as well as the meaning of the Tao.

Looking forward to reuniting on Tuesday! I will be in Binghamton on Wednesday afternoon and evening, as well as all day Thursday, so extended office hours will be offered. #111 #304

And for those of you who missed Tuesday: I have your Unit II Tests!

Until next week,


Readings, 11/20

Dear all,

I trust you enjoyed the guest lecture yesterday! We will briefly review the material covered (musical instruments) to make sure we’re on the same page. Don’t worry– we aren’t moving “slow” with the China Unit, but rather taking our time to really soak up the spiritual/philosophical/social tenants and to go into greater depth with the music than we have maybe with any other unit!

So, for next week, please read Laozi’s Tao te Ching (or “dao de jing” 道德經– literally, “the[great] book of the way/morality”)written in the 6th century BCE. The philosophies contained within are the fundamentals of Daoism, which influenced Confucianism and Buddhism in China as well. There’s a lot here, so (like the Zen parables), skim this content to get a sense of what the Dao is, and how to best unite with it. (You may find that you’ll read the whole thing!)

Click to access tao_te_ching_en.pdf

Please also read the following short story by Wu Jingzi, “Fa Jin Passes the Juren Examination,” from his novel The Scholars (儒林外史, “rui lin wai shi,” literally “The Forest of Scholars, Outside History” [or: “The Unofficial Account of the Scholars”]). This book was written in 1750, and satirizes Chinese society’s (historical) emphasis on exams and the reverence of the so-called “gentlemen scholars” who occupied the top rung in Chinese society. #Confucianism

Click to access 3-4.pdf

As for the textbook, we will be putting what we have already read into context, specifically the ensembles/performance contexts of the instruments that Ms. Emily Owen introduced on Thursday.

**We will briefly review these, given that there might have been some confusion during the initial presentation!**

Looking forward to diving deep into Chinese thought with you all next Tuesday. Stay safe and warm in the snow — and frolic as necessary!

Until next time,


China, Days 1 and 2: Between Heaven and Earth (Overview of History and Fundamental Spiritual/Musical Principles) + Other Odds and Ends (Important!)

Dear all,

It was wonderful to see you all yesterday.

So, to make some sense of the stratospheric directions we found ourselves going yesterday, here is a run-down of the important topics we covered and/or missed. This guide also serves as a reference for topics covered in tomorrow’s class, which will be conducted both digitally and with a guest lecture. We will review these concepts briefly via digital interface, along with a discussion ofMagpies” from The Joy Luck Club, before our guest lecturer (info and qualifications below), Ms. Emily Owen, leads a discussion on Chinese musical instruments.

1. China: A Brief Historical Overview
Dates are listed here to provide a sense of context; important specific dates for our purposes/the test will be determined later; all information is also available in the textbook in greater detail, but here is a distillation

Key Point: Balance between opposites (heaven and earth, light and shadow, positive and negative forces) underpins much, if not all (generalizations aside), of ancient Chinese spiritual, philosophical, and musical principles.

Preface: China was governed by Dynasties until 1911, when this system collapsed under imperial pressures and the civil unrest it caused China. Dynasties were dictated by a concept known as The Mandate of Heaven, which our classmate George aptly described as an emperor’s “right to rule,” determined by whether good, prosperous events occurred under his leadership or chaos ensued. Leadership was seen as a link between heaven and earth

1700 BCE – 1027 BCE: Shang and Xia Dynasties (writing systems invented on oracle bone inscriptions, or hieroglyphs etched onto the turtle shells and ivory that archaeologists continue to find in contemporary China)

1027 BCE -256 CE: Start of the Zhou Dynasty: much of contemporary China’s geography is established; the time of two important Chinese philosophers:

Confucius: constructed ideal models for social interaction based on parent/child, teacher/student, husband/wife, the elderly/young people, and so forth

Laozi: recognized as the “Father of Daoism,” a philosophy of how humans can come into maximum harmony with nature, and thereby heaven


206 BCE – 220 CE (further research suggests that there is some overlap between the dynasties, due to China being split into regional states following the collapse of the Zhou dynasty): the Han Dynasty Is established, which (along with the concurrent Qin dynasty) created Chinese society’s main hierarchical system, even to this day: The Confucian system, where scholars occupying the top rung in society, and the principles of Confucius’s thoughts (written above) guided social interaction

618-907: The Tang Dynasty, known for its beautiful poetry, art, music, painting, pottery, and calligraphy; greatly influenced the arts of Japan, the Korean peninsula, and southeast Asia. During this time, the Silk Road also brought artistic/musical influences from Persia and India to China!

960-1279: The Song Dynasty, or the “age of invention”: block printing, paper, clocks, compasses, gunpowder. Genghis Khan comes along, defeats the Song Emperor, and…

…1271-1368: The Yuan Dynasty is established. During this time, the West’s first encounters with China are recorded (Marco Polo’s visit, for instance)

1368-1644: The Ming Dynasty, known for its gorgeous pottery and the revival of classical arts

1644-1911/2: The Qing Dynasty, the last Dynasty in China.

**The 1800’s such much upheaval in China, with Western nations (notably Britain, who had a strong presence in Asia due to their colonization of India during this time, but also the United States, France, and other European powers) trying to colonize China. The Opium Wars (1839-42, 1856-60) arose when Britain introduced opium (from which heroin is derived) to Chinese merchants in an attempt to establish trade, but ended up getting locals hooked on the substance which ultimately allowed Britain to gain control over Hong Kong, as well as Guangdong (or Canton), Fuzhou, Shanghai, Xiamen, and Ningbo.

Following the collapse of the Qing dynasty, the Republic of China was established, with Sun Yat Sen established as Prime Minister– to these new rulers, the Dynasty system was considered unfit to compete in the newly globalizing world. However, the 1920’s saw the rise of communist forces in China, leading to a split between those favoring the Republic of China (in a group called the Kuomingtang, which received financial backing from the UNnited STates), and those favoring a communist government (the Communist Party, which received financial backing from Russia). After the Japanese invasions in the 1930’s and the subsequent fall of the Japanese empire in 1945, the Communist Party took over China in 1949, with Chairman Mao Zedong as the leader.

We will cover 20th century Chinese history in more depth later in the unit; there’s a lot to say, obviously!

2. Chinese Philosophical/Spiritual Principles

**Indeed, philosophy and spirituality are linked in Chinese society!

Three major philosophical/spiritual traditions:

  1. Confucianism (as discussed above); believed people should cultivate four important qualities: ren (benevolence), li (adherence to ritual), yi (duty), and xiao (respect for elders)
  2. Daoism (as discussed above); centers on finding balance with the dao, or “the path” or “way” (道 in Chinese). This stems from Lao ZZi’s conception that the world is in constant flux, always trying to achieve balance between opposing forces– an idea expressed by the yin yang symbol, below:

    Image result for yin yang
  3. Buddhism: similar to what we covered in class so far; based on self-realization and attaining nirvana. Originally came from India via the Silk Road– Chinese Buddhism takes on traits of Daoism and Confucianism (paying respect to one’s elders and paying attention to ritual, for instance, might be a path toward reaching nirvana; similarly, the dao understands the material world as maya, or illusion– giving up attachment to things or expectations can lead to bliss, and ultimately help us on our journeys onward).

3. Musical Principles

  • Music is conceptualized in groups of five and twelve (as well as eight, which we will cover next Tuesday).
  • 5-tone, or pentatonic scale: known as wu sheng, and said to correspond with five elements: water, wood, fire, earth, metal
  • The 12-tone, or chromatic scale: corresponds to the 12 months of the year

4. Guest Lecturer Info

As mentioned, tomorrow I have an unavoidable work commitment in the city (sigh), but I will be digitally present for the first part of class, while our guest lecturer, my dear friend and professional colleague Ms. Emily Owen will lead a discussion on Chinese musical instruments in-person. While not trained in Asian music, Ms. Owen is an educated, competent woman as well as a trained actress and sous-chef, having worked in Michelin-star restaurants in New York City and for events such as New York Fashion Week and Vogue Magazine’s annual summer party, and is a musician (flute, voice; was frontwoman in her own band for several years, which toured throughout the southern United States) and small business owner. You are in good hands with her, and I know you will treat her with the same respect you show me. Notable professional qualifications are below:

Maggie Flannigan Studio, 2016-2018 (trained in Meisner Technique)
Stella Adler Studio of Acting, 2015
Lee Strasberg Institute of Acting, 2014-2015

Image may contain: 1 person, standing, outdoor and closeup

Last, in the wake of the second student death on Binghamton’s campus in two weeks, here is a list of resources you can contact should you feel any stress, worry, anxiety, or overwhelming emotion as we enter finals. I also include my phone number on this list. Please remember, self-care is of utmost importance: take time for yourself to relax and destress, and to approach your studies with an attitude of self-respect. You are not alone!

Contact Numbers for (Mental) Health @ Binghamton University

§  Crisis Center at UHS Binghamton General Hospital: 607-762-2302

§  Alcoholics Anonymous (Broome County), 607-722-5983

§  Binghamton University Interpersonal Violence Prevention Program (rape, sexual assault, bullying and stalking information)

§  Crime Victims Assistance Center, 607-722-4256

§  Harpur’s Ferry volunteer ambulance squad, 607-777-3333

§  Rape and Abuse Center (Crime Victims Assistance Center), 607-722-4256

My phone number: (607) 379-0766

Until tomorrow,



Hello again,

At long last, I present to you: the Playlist Assignment!

By December 13th (our final), please select THREE OF YOUR FAVORITES as well as ONE SONG THAT CONFUSED YOU THE MOST for each unit, totaling TWELVE SONGS TOTAL. Then, as a Word Document (or whatever typing platform you use), please write one or two page (two max!) explaining your choices. Be sure to indicate the songs on your playlist in your document!

The goal of this assignment is to review the content we’ve covered throughout the semester, give you a chance to explore these musics on your own terms, gain a sense of perspective — and to have fun!

Hard copies by December 13th, please!

You will be evaluated on:

-fulfillment of requirements and timeliness

-effort (teachers can always tell *^^*)

Have fun! We will go over more details on Tuesday.

Until then,


Final (?) Notes on Indian Music!

Hello again,

So! Our very own Neha Ramaswamy sent an exciting playlist of more current, up-to-date Bollywood videos that apparently changed the game. For anyone who can’t get enough of the colorful, exciting intertextuality (there’s that word again!) between music/dance/acting, enjoy!

Next Level Bollywood

Also, since the tanpura video was inaccurate, THIS is what it sounds (and looks) like:

Last, I will finally add a tab for all of YOUR music recs, so keep ’em coming and keep those eyes peeled.

Until next time,