05/18/14

Byrne Quote #2

Phonographs

 (Photo credit: trp0)

p. 290 (Ch. 9 – Amateurs): In his book Capturing Sound: How Technology Has Changed Music, Mark Katz explains that prior to 1900, the aim of music education “was to teach students how to make make music.” The advent of the record player and recorded music in the early 20th century changed all that.

p. 291 In the modern age, though, people have come to feel that art and music are the product of individual effort rather than something that emerges from a community. … We often think that we can, and even must, rely on blessed individuals to lead us to some new place, to grace us with their insight and creation – and naturally that person is never us.

…The rise of commercially made recordings accelerated a huge shift in attitudes. Their promulgation meant that the more cosmopolitan music of folks who lived in the big cities (the music of professionals), and even the professional musicians in far-off countries could now be heard everywhere. Amateurs and local music makers music have been somewhere intimidated.

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05/17/14

Byrne’s Book – How Music Works – Quote #1

English: David Byrne playing at Austin City Li...

English: David Byrne playing at Austin City Limits 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been reading a fascinating book by Talking Heads star David Byrne: How Music Works. 358 thoughtfully written and researched pages, plus Acknowledgements, Footnotes, Suggested Readings, and Discography. Byrne has done his homework and writes engagingly about the creation of music, both his own and about many styles and genres, including pop and classical. I like the book so much that I have made it a required text for my fall course for non majors, Creativity in Music (i.e. where music comes from: improvisation and composition). I want to share in successive quotes some of Byrne’s thoughts on the subject. Here’s the first one, from Chapter Nine, Amateurs!
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01/29/14

Quote: Why is creativity not at the center of music curriculum?

creativity

(Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

Creativity, which is nothing more or less than imagining something and then executing it, has been virtually removed from all but the most innovative curricula. This raises two questions: If the continuing presence of music is the cause of continuing to learn music; if the cause of music is human creativity, why is creativity not at the center of the music curriculum? Why is the act of thinking up music left just to a select few specialists, while re-presenting it, or over-verbalizing about it, is the province of so many?

–Harold Best, Music Curricula in the Future

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01/24/14

Improv Course Begins, Spring 2014

Percussion mallets held with Matched Grip

Percussion mallets held with Matched Grip (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been giving a semester course in non jazz/classical improv for past dozen years. My first improv book, Improvisation Games for Classical Musicians was published by GIA in 2008 (354 p.); it was based on my experiences in the first five years of the course. Since then, GIA has published 4 more. I have amassed more games in an unpublished Vol. 2 of the big book; I hope to convince the publisher some day to publish all those as well.

In the meantime, the course goes on. This week was the start of school. The course is Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10:30 to 11:45. I prefer this set-up – two longer sessions – than 50 min. 3X a week. 50 minutes is just not long enough – you just get going and it’s time to stop.

I do the course a bit different every year. I want to try new things, so a third to a fourth of the course is different every year. The first day of the course (last Tuesday) is just me talking – telling them all about this kind of improvisation and what we will be doing during the semester. After that, most of every hour is spent improvising.

I’m trying something new: sticks. I always start with about two weeks of Rhythm Only, to work up some percussion/rhythm chops and combat the pitch-centricity that tradiationally-trained players bring with them. We start by building up some basic rhythm skills through body percussion – tap, rap, slap your lap. This time I had everyone bring drumsticks. I thought that we should develop some basic sticking skills (along with hand drum skills) to add an extra dimension to our percussion work.

Following is a brief description of what we did in class today:

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03/31/13

The Hands Tell a Story: Gestural Improvisation

Hands Of Desperation

(Photo credit: chris@APL)

English: Two hands are opened palms up in an i...

ASL short for "I love you"

Clenched human fist

English: Counting Hand 3

We tried something new in improv class last week (well, it’s really always new, all the time): improvising without music.

“How do you do that?” you ask, and rightfully so. “And why?”

We started off like this. Two players sat in chairs and faced each other. The instructions were to create a piece using only their hands.

Why: because many of the things that we are try to achieve improvising with our instruments can be done using hand gestures. Let’s see how many we can come up with (let me know what I missed):

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03/22/13

Sages from the Ages on Music

Plato. Luni marble, copy of the portrait made ...

Plato

[repost from horninsights.com]

Music has been around a long time. Most folks just play it and/or listen to it and enjoy it.  But some folks think about it, talk about it. This has been going on for a long time. Sometimes it’s interesting to look back and see what the sages from the ages thought about music and the role of music in human society way back then (of course, their music sounded much different from our music. You wonder what they would have thought of, say, Beethoven 9, or 4’33″ or Patsy Cline or Sgt Pepper or Orange Blossom Special or the Vienna Vegetable Orchestra….

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