“Must be able to carry a tune”


In the process of putting together the Virginia Glee Club Wiki, containing the history of that illustrious 171-year-old assemblage, I’ve made my way through just about every official archive of Glee Club history. But there are gaps to be filled, so I’ve resorted to eBay. I’ve picked up yearbooks, magazines, and other ephemera trying to find information on missing years. And in the process, I’ve gotten hooked on the convenience and the thrill of it all. I’ve also grown a little blasé about it, paradoxically enough–one too many speculative purchases of Virginiana has ended in a cold trail, historically speaking.

So I wasn’t expecting much when I won an auction for the September 1935 edition of the University of Virginia Magazine (winning bid: $1.50). To my surprise, though, I hit pay dirt. This was the “new student” issue of the magazine, and it featured essays from each of the leaders of the (non-fraternity) student groups introducing to prospective students such Virginia institutions as Corks & Curls, the UVA Band, the Jefferson Society …. and the Glee Club.

I’ve posted the top half of the article above, including a pretty fair pen-and-ink caricature of the Club’s raconteur director from the 1930s, Harry Rogers Pratt. The rest of the article and a transcription have been posted to the wiki on the biography page of its author, Glee Club president Rial Rose. The article is pretty modest about the group’s requirements and ambitions:

There are just two things that are absolutely required of a man who wishes to join the University of Virginia Glee Club. He must be enrolled at the University, and he must be able to carry a tune.

But Rose does a spectacular job of defining the college glee club of the 1930s and painting a picture of what’s involved:

Now, a College Glee Club, in these days, is a very ambitious organization. It attempts to combine the best of all these various kinds of music. The religious and folk music of the negroes and Cossacks appear on the same programs with the popular and “pretty” music of the “Pennsylvanians,” and with the strong, soul-stirring music of the great composers. In 1934-35, for instance, the University Glee Club sang music of America, England, Germany, Russia, Finland, the Netherlands, and the Latin Church, while a quartet sang negro songs, on a typically arranged program. And, not content with merely singing the music, we attempted to perform it nearly as possible in the various styles of the peoples it represented.

For me, this is what’s so fascinating about the history of this group. Save for one or two phrases, this could be a description of the Glee Club I sang in, or the one that is under the direction of Frank Albinder today. But then in the middle, there’s that reminder that the Glee Club, like the University, was a creature of its times: “negro songs.”  At least this incarnation of the Glee Club wasn’t performing them in blackface.

Ten year lookback: the Trustworthy Computing memo

On the Veracode blog (where I now post from time to time), we had a retrospective on the Microsoft Trustworthy Computing memo, which had its ten year anniversary on the 15th. The retrospective spanned two posts and I’m quoted in the second:

On January 15, 2002, I was in business school and had just accepted a job offer from Microsoft. At the time it was a very different company–hip deep in the fallout from the antitrust suit and the consent decree; having just launched Windows XP; figuring out where it was going on the web (remember Passport)? And the taking of a deep breath that the Trustworthy Computing memo signaled was the biggest sign that things were different at Microsoft.

And yet not. It’s important to remember that a big part of the context of TWC was the launch of .NET and the services around it (remember Passport)? Microsoft was positioning Passport (fka Hailstorm) as the solution for the Privacy component of their Availability, Security, Privacy triad, so TWC was at least partly a positioning memo for that new technology. And it’s pretty clear that they hadn’t thought through all the implications of the stance they were taking: witness BillG’s declaration that “Visual Studio .NET is the first multi-language tool that is optimized for the creation of secure code”. While .NET may have eliminated or mitigated the security issues related to memory management that Microsoft was drowning in at the time, it didn’t do anything fundamentally different with respect to web vulnerabilities like cross-site scripting or SQL injection.

But there was one thing about the TWC memo that was different and new and that did signal a significant shift at Microsoft: Gates’ assertion that “when we face a choice between adding features and resolving security issues, we need to choose security.” As an emerging product manager, that was an important principle for me to absorb–security needs to be considered as a requirement alongside user facing features and needs to be prioritized accordingly. It’s a lesson that the rest of the industry is still learning.

To which I’ll add: it’s interesting what I blogged about this at the time and what I didn’t. As an independent developer I was very suspicious of Hailstorm (later Passport.NET) but hadn’t thought that much about its security implications.