Our whole music culture has grown out of our folk traditions. We can trace our whole understanding of melody, phrase, and musical expression through song. We are so limited now by thinking that you can only make the sounds that you can write. And that’s backwards, because you can make hundreds of sounds and the writing is like froth on the top of the wave. You can only write the least important part.
– Alice Parker
The training of musicians has become largely concerned with how to interpret a score according to the conventions of the time, and classically trained musicians, by and large, become not only incapable of improvisation, but actually frightened of even attempting it.
–Rod Paton, Lifemusic: Connecting People to Time
The old saying (can’t think of the author – sounds like Oscar Wilde, though) was: there are two tragedies in life. One is not getting what you want. The other is getting it. Or that old stand-by: Careful what you wish for (you might get it).
David Brooks, columnist for the NYT, recently wrote an intriguing column entitled: The Creative Monopoly. He leads with a story about Peter Thiel, a bright grad of Stanford and Stanford law, who didn’t get what he wanted: a Supreme Court clerkship. But instead of becoming, say, an ambulance chaser who moans nightly to bartenders about thwarted dreams, he harnessed that ambition and tried something else. He founded a little company called – you might have heard of it – Paypal. In his spare time he was an early investor in another little company you might have heard of: Facebook. And on and on. Currently in his spare time he teaches CS183: Startup - a class in the computer science department at Stanford (Blake Masters has posted an essay version of his class notes - read them here – they’re excellent). No surprise there.
My best recommendation to music teachers of the next century is to improvise, improvise, improvise! Get rid of notation. Learn from music learning theory to teach children to make music without the aid of notation or music theory. Follow religiously the process the way we learn language.
– Edwin Gordon
Although this blog focuses on classical improve, we are also passionately interested in creativity in general and creativity in arts education (or any education, for that matter). We are very interested in spreading the word that what the World (and schools) Needs Now is a very healthy shot of a “whole brain” approach to education. Small minds in governing bodies (chockablock with lawyers and business folks) are interested in cheap (i.e. no-cost), instant fixes in education (notably All Children Left Behind – “Is Our Children Learning”?) rather than long-range and effective curriculum planning. There. I said it (again). I feel better. Sort of, for a little while. Anyway, we try to keep our ears open for trends and sentiments in this direction. We would like to share some recent clippings and videos from all kinds of online sources from all over the globe. Read on.
Imagine that you were not allowed to speak unless you were quoting Socrates, Cicero, Aristotle, Winston Churchill, Lincoln, etc., not even “Please pass the salt” unless you were quoting. Imagine that you were an English major but were not allowed to write any of your own thoughts, no essays, not even an email; you could only copy down quotes from Twain, Dickens, Faulkner, Joyce, Cervantes, Goethe, etc . Imagine that you went to art school but were never trained or encouraged to do anything but reproduce famous paintings, never, never paint or sculpt anything that you thought up, ever. Just copy Picasso, Renoir, Degas, Ingres, Leonardo. Imagine if you went to music school and never played anything but the notes of some distant (and likely deceased) composer, never received encouragement or training to make your own music…
Oh, wait. That is, in fact, how it is in music school. No creating. Just recreating. Nothing wrong with re-creating – unless it’s the only show in town. Any garage band worth its salt composes its own songs. Why is it that your averate terminal-degreed music student can’t write a convincing piece for their own instrument? Isn’t something missing?