A skeptical manifesto

I am not a music teacher, rather an impostor student of music myself, so my “manifesto” is being written in rather a speculative mode.

I am quite enthusiastic about many ideas presented in the course. Especially the one concerning opportunity to reach with new modes in education not only new, previously hard-to-reach or unreachable cohorts of pupils/students (it has been obvious), but also new tiers of potential teachers, tutors etc. who for some reasons could not or would not participate in “normal” pedagogical practices. I am however much more skeptical about prospects of complete turning inside out established practices in teaching music.

What is so interesting in musical pedagogy for me, who never was a musician and who has long ceded to be a pedagogue? First of all, it is the unique co-ordination of the three kinds of skill required from a musician, either professional or dilettante: (1) motor skills needed to control one’s voice or instrument, (2) perceptive skills needed to hear sounds which one and one’s partners produce, and (3) interpretative skills needed to read/write symbolic instructions, in the form of traditional notation or other. Perhaps choreography and some sports (like rhythmic gymnastics) approach music as a subject leaning/teaching in this respect but not quite reach it, for the practice using symbolic notations by dancers and athletes is much younger and scarcer than by musicians, and there is less theory behind.

To my mind, it is exactly the unity of mastering hand/throat, ear, and mind coupled with the need of team co-operation that makes music education so distinguished in the entire sphere of learning. Perhaps it is not so bad in idea to have a closer look and and considerate attitude to the almost-a-thousand-years-old Western tradition of music education.

True, traditional music education decompose music into several more abstract aspects, like vocal and instrumental practice, history, and theory, and—further on—breaks down the theoretical aspect into harmony, melody, rhythm, and texture. True, an inferior institution or teacher may kill the subject itself with such a dissection. But good pedagogues have always manages to compose things back, inspiring their pupils to verify their hand with ear, their ear by mind, and their mind by hand.

I envisage recent (and forthcoming) technologies mostly as a tool to shortcut most tedious drilling parts of music education, to eliminate or alleviate some purely technical obstacles (like bringing lecture material to wider and remote audiences), to empower students with additional opportunity of, say, simulating bigger orchestras and other ensembles, and to widen fields for experimenting with sound.

However, I am quite sure that no technological development allows to exclude any part of the established music education from the curriculum, as far as we are expecting to have our children well-educated (at least) in an informed perceiving of music and active amateur musicking of any kind.

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