Tuesday, August 5, 2014

creative cheating, musical fingernails, and matters both related and unrelated

To cheat, or not to cheat: that is the question.

My friend came and redid my finger and toenails the way I wanted them done. We went with a black base and white notation this time.  

Another friend, who is a voice major, came over while we were doing my nails. She told us of a student in her program who's not the sharpest Crayola even in the eight-pack, but is turning cheating into an art form. She always has musical notation on her fingernails, so it doesn't catch any professor's attention when she comes in on test days with notation all over her fingernails. if the exam features melodic minor scales, she puts the one that is most difficult on her nails, then uses it as a base to figure out the rest.  If the test is on modes, she puts the one or two most difficult modes on her nails.

My friend is too kind. At first, the girl was having the notes painted on so that they would be visible in context to others, and was continually having to turn her hands so that her nails were facing her. After class, she suggested to the girl that the person doing her nails should do the notes upside down so that she could visualize the content without drawing attention to herself by continually turning her hands so that she could stare at her nails. I would have left her to wallow in her ignorance -- creative ignorance, but ignorance just the same.

My mom took a Polynesian music course where attendance wasn't a factor in grading, and it was a mid-sized auditorium-style class, so the professor had no clue who was there and who wasn't on a regular basis. My mom's main purpose for taking the course,  in addition to the fact that she needed the credit for her music major, was to learn to play the ukulele, but her ukulele  broke  at the end of the first week of class. The bridge and saddle came unglued. The school bookstore from which she bought it refused to replace it, and she couldn't afford another. My mom attended maybe one session out of each six
The tests for the class consisted  almost exclusively of two things: placing chord names in the blanks where they were provided above the words of songs, and diagramming ukulele chords on lines provided to simulate strings. Students were expected to have their ukuleles at all classes,including at test sessions.  They were allowed and even encouraged  to use their ukuleles for help in remembering the chords to the Polynesian songs.

My mom's once-every-two-weeks attendance was sufficient for her to learn a couple of the songs, and if she knew what they sounded like, she knew what chords belonged where. You can's learn every song by attending one session out of six, though. (The written course materials provided only words to songs, and no music notation.That's where it became creative.  Showing up once every two weeks was often enough that my mom knew which of the other students knew the content of the course. She'd sit near -- but not too near --  one of them. They'd usually play through the songs in the order they were on the test, and even if they didn't, she could discern it and adjust. Basically, my mom took dictation of every chord that was played, wrote it  all in the little spaces, and aced those portions of the tests.

The chord diagramming was a breeze for her. they used the C6 form of tuning (there are apparently more ways than one to tune a ukulele). This is the "my dog has fleas"  formation. with high g, C, E, and A being the pitches to which one would tune the strings.  Those are the notes that sound, if tuned properly, when no strings are pressed down. The pitch is raised by one half-tone with each fret, starting from the end near the knobs. If you wanted a d chord, you just figure out how many frets need to be moved over so that all the tones of the D chord are represented and every string produces a tone in the d chord. it's not exactly rocket science if you have any music fundamental in your background.  

My parents have argued extensively over whether or not what my mom did constituted cheating. My dad says she certainly wasn't doing her own work. My mom said that she NEVER looked at anyone else's paper, and never brought in cheat sheets, whether on her fingernails or in  any other form. My aunt, who is also a music major, said she had to work hard to get to the point that she could recognize chords son easily. I  say it's a moot point because it was all the fault of the bookstore manager who wouldn't replace her defective ukulele.

Incidentally, the first year they were married, when they had maybe enough money to eat ramen noodles on a good night,  for her birthday my dad gave my mom a ukulele that someone he knew didn't want any longer. She now knows how to play the ukulele.

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