Professor Video

From Harvard Magazine:

1109_p34_01 Near the University of Bologna—the world’s oldest, founded in 1088—is a medieval museum displaying carved memorial plaques that honor great professors of the past. “They all show the professor on the podium, with the students below,” says Thomas Forrest Kelly, Knafel professor of music. “Often the students are asleep, playing dice or cards, or fornicating.” Much has changed since the Middle Ages, but one thing that persists is the lecture. The medieval university invented lecturing—the word comes from the Latin verb legere, to read—to cope with the scarcity of books: a lecturer would read the only available copy of a book to the gathering of students. “That was high technology in the thirteenth century,” says Kelly, “but not high technology for the twenty-first century!”

Now sit in one of Kelly’s lectures in his undergraduate course Literature and the Arts B-51, “First Nights: Five Performance Premieres” (see “First Nights,” January-February 2000, page 52). This morning in Sanders Theatre, he is describing the 1913 Paris premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s ballet The Rite of Spring. He does not read from books. Instead, Kelly punches up audio recordings of Stravinsky reflecting on the tumultuous performance, and projects color slides of oil paintings and photographs of the composer, plus photographs of the dancers and conductor Pierre Monteux. Next come pictures of the ballet’s score and the original costumes, plus paintings by Nicholas Roerich, the set designer. There’s another audio track of Stravinsky, this time disparaging the work of the choreographer, Vaslav Nijinsky, and a modern video of the opening dance performed by the Joffrey Ballet. Next, as the Rite’s primal rhythms and fierce dissonances thump and cascade through the loudspeakers, Kelly breaks down the piece into its musical units, walking the class through the score with a flashlight pointer.

More here.