Happy New Year! Thank you for
taking the time to read this blog, and I hope 2011 is your best
Happy New Year! Thank you for
Happy New Year! Thank you for
taking the time to read this blog, and I hope 2011 is your best
My girlfriend worked at the computer labs at New Mexico State. She said students were constantly losing their USB sticks in the labs. Imagine their horror at having lost a term paper or perhaps some important business document.
There’s a better way. Much much better.
Whether you’re a student writing a paper or a singer who needs access to your resume or headshot while traveling, it’s dangerous to transport using a USB stick or laptop. There are safer ways to access your stuff on the go.
Here are five free or cheap services to help you. Most of these are also accessible on smartphones and tablets, and those that aren’t are accessible on a friend’s or organization’s computer. You can store any type of file in these, and those files will be available and safe.
Dropbox is an amazing program that lets you sync files across multiple machines and access those files from a web browser on any machine.
It works like this: install Dropbox, drag files into the Dropbox folder, and that’s it. From then on, those files will be synced across multiple machines (where Dropbox is installed of course). This includes several smartphones like iPhone. Yes, these files are accessible from the internet if you are on a friend’s computer.
Downside: You must have programs installed on whatever machine you want to work. So if you have a Word file, then you will need Word on the machine you want to work on.
Cost: Free for 2 GB, 50 GB for $9.99/month, 100 GB for $19.99/month
Google is trying to completely change the way we use computers and the Internet. They want us to use applications inside of a web browser (like Internet Explorer, Firefox or Chrome).
With Google Docs, you can write a document online, and it will stay there without you having to worry about moving it from machine to machine. Imagine the heartache you won’t feel if your home computer dies and all of your documents are stored in Google Docs. Sure, you’ll need to get access to another machine, but you can start where you left off.
Google Docs will also let you store any type of file there. I’ve used it to store entire albums of music.
Downside: It’s not as fully featured as MS Office is. Also if you upload an Office file (.doc or .docx for example) there will be formatting problems. This is constantly getting better though.
Cost: Free, Google Storage (for files that aren’t Google Docs) is free up to 1 GB, more than that will cost
Evernote is an excellent way to capture information and access it anywhere.
Basically, it’s a note taking program. But you can save nearly anything to it including PDFs and pictures, and it will be accessible from the Internet, most smart-phones, and most computers.
I use it to save research like song and aria translations so that I can access them on my computer or my iPod Touch. I can save web-pages and images, and it scans those for words and let’s me find them by searching for them.
It can do more though: I once read of someone who’d forgotten to bring a document to his doctor. It was stored in Evernote though, so at the doctor’s office he emailed the document to his doctor from his phone.
Downside: Keep your formatting simple because formatting text is miserable in Evernote. If you need a word processor, then use a word processor and save that file to Evernote. Otherwise, you’ll just want to pull your hair out.
Cost: Free with 60 MB/month of uploads or $5/month for privileges and 1 GB/month of uploads
Microsoft has a way of making great products and then not advertising them. Skydrive is one of those products.
It’s a free 25 GB storage space online. That’s it. You can store any file there, and if it’s a Word, Excel, Powerpoint or OneNote file, you can edit it there as well.
All you need is a Windows Live account, which you probably have if you’ve ever used Hotmail.
Downside: Editing Office documents online works, but the editors are not fully featured yet. You’ll still want to have Office installed somewhere if you want to do any heavy editing.
Another great MS product, Windows Live Mesh is best for people who have two or more computers and want to bring one along.
Basically, Mesh lets you sync your primary folders across multiple machines. This means that everything in your My Documents, My Pictures, My Videos, and My Music folders appear identically between two or more machines. It’s amazing.
Some of this (5 GB) can be saved to your Skydrive account to be accessed if you don’t have your computer with you.
Downside: The 5 GB that syncs to Skydrive is – currently – unable to be edited online. It’s like there’s a separate place for this synced content. To work with it you must download it, edit it, and upload it again. It feels inelegant.
There’s also no way to access these files on a smartphone like an iPhone or Android phone.
Again -and I can’t emphasize this enough- there is no reason to lose important data by losing a piece of hardware.
It is becoming increasingly rare that there won’t be an internet connected computer wherever you go. Any of these services can make your life way easier when you have to travel or just move from one of those computers to another. Yes, there are some kinks in each service and learning curves, but the alternative is much worse.
Save yourself the heartache.
Cloud photo by Michael Jastremski
To accomplish my recent cross-country move (NM to PA), I reduced my possessions by a great percentage and stuffed everything into the bed of my pickup truck. In so doing, I have had to think deeply about the objects that come into our lives and how best to deal with them.
The subject of decluttering is especially relevant now that digital versions of traditionally physical objects become commonplace. Pictures, recordings, and texts are all becoming digitized, and we’re crazy if we think there’s no loss in that. Sure, there are enormous benefits from space savings and easy access, but we should be aware of the consequences of our choices.
Before my move, I’d been reading http://unclutterer.com and http://zenhabits.net. There’s something romantic about living with fewer physical possessions. Before my move, I had accumulated excess stuff, and I had to make fast choices about what needed to be trashed, donated, or sold. Or digitized.
On top of that, bills and other documents just became mountains of sensitive personal information that had to be treated like toxic waste. I wanted the information, but the paper itself needed to be trashed.
So my guiding principle was that the “information” was important while the vehicle was not. IE, a picture of a receipt is just as useful as the actual receipt unless it was for a really expensive item. I signed up for Carbonite online backup and scheduled backups to an external hard drive. There was very little danger that all the information I collected would suddenly vanish.
For the month before my move I used my scanner with OCR (Optical Character Recognition) and my girlfriend’s digital camera to take pictures of receipts, forms, photographs and other odds and ends. I then arranged them in folders on the hard drive with obvious names so that I could easily search for them. If the item was sensitive clutter, I shredded it. I also looked at e-book versions of books that I owned and donated or sold many of my physcial books.
I scanned, shredded and donated to my heart’s content. It was and is magical to be able to just click the Windows button on the keyboard, type a keyword in the search box, and have files pop up. For many items, there was no more digging around in boxes or file folders to find them. If I scan the receipt there’s no more fading of the text.
As I purged, I felt mental clutter vanish along with the physical. It was exhilarating.
During the move, I visited the Lilly Library at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN. There I was shown amazing artifacts that existed because someone decided that they were worth saving. George Washington’s hair. A Haydn piano sonata manuscript. Mexican Gregorian chant found in Guatemala.
It’s beautiful, isn’t it? The caption below it explains that it was only preserved because people thought it was a divine relic. Thanks to them and the Lilly, the text is available for performance and has been performed by early music musicians at IU.
The library is full of things like that. There are several manuscripts of famous books there that contain the handwritten edits of the authors. There are rare and interesting bindings that all reveal the love that somebody had for that particular book. There are multiple copies of the same text but housed in bizarre and wonderful ways (The Book of Common Prayer being a prime example). It became clear that the value of some books was not only housed within the information but also within the physical form of the book itself.
After I had left the library, I realized that there were a few things that I had regretted shredding, and I was grateful that I hadn’t shredded everything that I had digitized.
There were a few things that I photographed or scanned and couldn’t bear to destroy. Letters from my grandparents and my journals were prime examples. I scanned one journal and got the “information”, but it wasn’t the same. The look and feel of the thing conveys much of its information, and at least for now, I’m not a good enough photographer to capture it adequately. So I kept it.
But on the other hand, we as human beings cannot continually collect without some sort of reckoning at some point. Either we:
The person who started the Lilly library was very wealthy and could choose option one for his collection. But the rest of us? We have lives to lead, and many of us don’t know where we’ll be from one year to the next. To maintain an ever increasing library of worthy physical objects is simply untenable without major personal sacrifice. Decluttering can feel like a moral objective.
We have an amazing opportunity for new ways of organization and storage of “possessions” in digital forms. We also have so much inflow that it becomes important to deal with it in some responsible manner.
But I think we should make thoughtful choices in our decluttering about what we destroy or toss out even if we make digital versions. Those treasured objects at the Lilly are the result of many people making choices about what was worth keeping. The person who decided that Washington was a great man kept that lock of his hair and preserved it. That was a choice. Seeing a digital photo is not the same as seeing it preserved.
To illustrate a great loss: Henri Duparc went through a major purge where he destroyed many of his compositions, which included an entire opera. We now have a body of seventeen art songs of his and a few other works. What did the musical world lose when he did that? We may think that our digital information is immortal, but if everything that we write nowadays is hidden behind a password protected vault, then does it exist if we suddenly pass away?
But even if there are digital versions of scores and books that are easily accessible, by keeping everything digital we remove the possibility that future generations will understand how we edited something. That Haydn score at the Lilly had alternative passages to what is presented as the accepted version. If he had just created it in Sibelius, tinkered until he was happy and then printed it, we would not see his creative process or have alternative options for performance. The same can be said of countless other manuscripts within the library.
One could argue that this is not as important. With recordings we have access to performance practice information in ways we can only dream of with music of Haydn and Mozart’s time. This is valuable and may counteract the loss of hand-written edits. Plus, our software is becoming more advanced, and many now offer “versioning” of files that preserve older edits so that we can review our overall process.
Furthermore, as we become more digitally savvy, we might create new outlets for creativity that simply leave the older paradigms behind. How about ebooks with animation or books laid out like video games? Or perhaps we’ll invent something completely new. We just don’t know where our shared creativity will take us.
So I can’t come up with any hard and fast rules, but I think it’s a discussion worth having with ourselves and each other. As much of our information becomes reduced to ones and zeros, we need to question our values when it comes to preservation.
What is worth preserving in a physical form?
Often the comments are as valuable as the articles themselves.
I am now a classically trained singer who has an eye on making my living from singing, and I have been wrestling with these questions (amongst many others) for several years now:
How do I go about getting head shots?
How do I prepare for an audition?
How do I prepare for a role?
What school should I attend?
Should I continue to go to school?
Whose advice can I believe?
How can I pay for this?
What is the nature of the professional singer?
Are competitions useful?
Should I move across the country? Or world?
How will this affect my family?
Why am I doing this?
Choosing to be a professional performer is a major decision and should be taken seriously. One the one hand, you ought to just “try things out” and “let things happen” to see whether you enjoy performing and are good at it. There is nothing wrong with performing for the sheer love of it and having no professional ambitions. On the other hand, decisions must be made if you do have those ambitions.
And this is a good thing.
Decisions and taking responsibility for them are part of maturity. Making choices as an artist is essential. And so, the more clear and deliberate choices that we make as human beings, the clearer we will be in our medium.
The medium that will be most discussed in this blog is singing, voice teaching and the other skills that may be necessary for success at those ventures.
I am currently a graduate student who has a wonderful voice teaching assistantship. At this school, I have had the chance to perform in some very cool shows where I created two roles for new musicals. I have also been the bass soloist for Bach’s St. John Passion. I have had excellent teachers at this school, and I feel that, yes, I could with enough effort and patience go and sing for a living. This Spring I will graduate, and from there my future looks as expansive and incomprehensible as the desert from a mountaintop.
This blog will be a running commentary on questions that I face as a teacher and as a performer. I hope to have interviews, reviews, pedagogy as well as advice on managing one’s career as I learn how to manage my own. I hope that this blog will eventually be a service to others who are facing these questions in their own lives. And though I will improve as a singer and human being with age, I will always try to approach my mediums through the eyes of a beginner who always has more to learn.