Have we “allowed music to be dumbed down in the classroom?”

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Richard McNicholl’s in his recent speech (at a NAME conference) has asked: “Why do we need to offer so much Heavy Metal in our classrooms when the pop music industry is doing such a thorough job and all-pervasive job?” For him music was being dumbed down.

Usually I ignore such blatant musical snobbery and ignorance. However both Jonathan Savage and Steven Berryman have recently blogged about the speech in positive terms. Indeed Berryman says: “Music is for all and we can do so much to implore pupils to discover a musical world that will not only offer a creative and artistic outlet on a personal level but present them with art that can really change lives.” The implication is that a more classical route would achieve this.

Surely we have moved to the position were musical richness and diversity of popular music is no longer an issue? Quality and inventiveness are found in popular music as well as classical music. Indeed it is well known that heavy metal artist such as Blackmore, Halen, Rhoads and Malmsteen were influenced by many elements of classical music – particularly Baroque composers such as Bach and Vivaldi. (Listen to Eruption by Eddie van Halen on YouTube to get a sense of this!)

In many ways the noise, rebellion and inventiveness of Bach is better captured by heavy metal guitarist than by many of his modern day devotees. It would seem McNicholl’s can only see a way of expanding horizons, encouraging artistic decision making, developing aesthetic judgement and being inventive by teaching classical music. However Heavy metal musicians seem unaware of this division that separate the quality of classical music from modern day pop. In fact if my students were able to emulate the technique, curiosity, creativity and passion of heavy metal musicians I would have an exemplary music department.

I think it is an insult to the millions of people who love popular music to continue pretend that if they were exposed to enough quality (classical) music at an early age that in time they too would learn to appreciate its richness. ( McNichol suggest that we need :”to offer a taste and knowledge of music that our pupils might not normally experience but may enjoy and develop in later life)

Proper art and creativity isn’t to be found by making students study Berio, Varese, Stravinsky, Messiaen, Ligeti, Stockhausen and Britten (McNicholl’s favoured artists) They already exist in young people existing musical practices. There isn’t anything lacking in the symbolic resources that young people choose to use. It’s about time we stopped seeing academic rigour, “true creativity” and life changing art in classical music and realised that young people are already energised, creative people.

However I do share a common ground with McNichols – for music education to remain inclusive, to really reach everyone and offer a chance for all our young people to enjoy the pleasure of music making we need to keep music in the curriculum. Only if music is an entitlement for everyone as a curriculum subject can we ensure that all young people have access to music.

Music education needs to remain in the classroom – whether dumbed down or not.
 

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Oh sorry, I probably should have been more concise.. :)
Have a good holiday all.
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Peejay
A long time ago
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Good debate all, but I am kind of flabbergasted that this dumbing down concept is still an issue.

I dont give a monkeys what kind of music anyone teaches, likes, cares about, hates.
I like what I like and that is the end of it. I teach my KS3 kids to think the same and stick up for what music they like as a matter of personal preference. I teach them to open their ears, not to close them.
If I prefer green to purple, its irrelevant, this is after all a response to an often intangible art-form that we are discussing, why exclude part of it from teaching. If it moves you it moves you.
Basically my personal mission is simple... 1. keep my job. 2. to cut through all the educational crap and leave my kids with a love of music. I will use what ever music I can.

EG. Last week I used Labrinth & Tinie Tempah`s "Earthquake" to demonstrate to my year 8s how to build an effective structure with contrast into a piece of music. They loved it and were excited to get on the computers and start putting this into action in their own compositions. Incidentally i mentioned the fact that there is an acapella section heavily influenced by classical music in the bridge section along with a short trumpet fanfare. It gave me the opportunity to discuss Eminem's use of ostinati and his preference for the harpsichord. My kids 'feel' this music, it moves and excites them, so half the battle is won to get them interested.

In the right environment and with a bit of stillness in the classroom children will listen to and respond to many kinds of music from plainsong to metal. We should be careful not shut any doors, be it Berlioz or the Eastenders theme.

My parents gave me a love of music by having lots of styles played at home (as listeners). My tastes still change as I find new music. Surely it is a state of mind we should be teaching not one style over another. Most children will not be players anyway but they can be listeners and lovers of music.
I personally have given up performing and playing with others for a few years now and class myself as a music lover. I listen day in day out and it has enriched my life exponentially, my love for music is deeper than ever. I try to tempt my pupils to allow this into their lives.

Just to counter the one track view of music & music education (life long learning) Here is a (very simplified) time line of my love for music:
3 years = anything lively. 8 years = Louis Armstrong, Paul Robeson, Beethoven, Bach The Sweet & Slade. 13 = Heavy Rock, Beatles, Floyd. 16 = punk. 17 = Rock Blues. 19 = Blues, 20 = Chicago Blues. 21 =Electronic/House. 22 = bebop. 23 = dub Reggae, more Jazz. 25 = Funk & Soul, new Orleans R&B Erik Satie. More electronic dance, Goldberg variations, Mozart etc etc. 30s = Rootsy Folk Irish 35 = more Bach, M. Nyman Instrumental baroque. Henry Purcell & electronica, Jungle & drum & Bass. 40 = Henry Purcell & vocal baroque. 45 = More baroque & early music.
49 = Dubstep, Bassline, Monteverdi & Lully, Tinie Tempah it goes on....
I am sure many of you have an equally eclectic musical development,
All of these ran/run concurrently, the only style i dont like anymore is (funnily enough) Heavy rock/metal.
And, Oh yes although I spent 20 years as a professional musician I am crap at reading music.

My point is... could anyone tell me exactly how my musical education mapped out? could anyone teach this pathway?
Obviously no. I think we should simply encourage a broad minded approach to music while facilitating access to specialist learning or instrumental skills for those who particularly want to do so.
An instrument for every pupil. dont make me laugh.... You cannot force it. A love of music is a flower that should be allowed to grow freely in what ever soil the seed lands in.

Dumbed down.... ha ha!
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Peejay
A long time ago
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In reply to Steve(n)'s post, I've no idea whether classroom music has been dumbed down or not. What I am aware of, over the last 30 years is that everybody concerned with public services has lost their balls. You (because I'm not part of it) have let heads, educationalists, politicians, not forgetting the ones I despise the most, religious leaders run you a merry dance. Since Thatcher sent Scargill packing in the eighties, every public servant has tipped his hat to the man, taken their ten pieces of silver and lost all moral fibre.

I briefly flirted with the idea of doing something in public education back in 2006-7, but experienced incompetence across the board. Vested interests rule all the institutions. No-one cares anymore whether they're doing the best job they possibly can, because in order to do that you've got to shake the system up. When I spoke up at a meeting of educationalists, basically saying what they were touting was a load of tosh, guess what? Not one person had the balls to stand up and agree. And nowhere can you find this deferential attitude, more than in a set of classical musicians (ok, maybe a gaggle of general practitioners). It's something I've always hated about classical music, its adoption by the upper classes of music of worth. It's a bit like the fallacy concerning the Victorian aristocrats being moral and virtuous. Most of them were so high on opium and shagging whatever moved, no wonder the decline of the greatest empire man has ever known, happened on their watch. It's also like golf if you've ever played it. What a great game. Maybe one of a few sports where you're pitting your wits against the elements. And then there's the tossers usually called Malcolm or Derek, a throwback to the seventies with their Pringle jumpers and equally archaic views on society and modern life, tipping their hats to the Captain and knowing their place.

It's not classical music I hate, it's usually the people involved with classical music that I hate. Why? Because often, it's the only form of active music-making they've ever experienced. It also usually means, they've got two left feet when it's comes to dancing. They have no groove because the innate groove we all have as youngsters has been assimilated out of them. So yes, the best examples of classical music are important, just as the riff out of 'A Whole Lotta Love' is. When taught well, they can be just as satisfying for the student. As any good teacher knows, it's not the content that's important, it's the principles, the fundamentals, whatever you want to call them.

I could go on with this post, but it's all hot air. No-one gives a shit. The politicians we elected (or didn't ) don't give a shit. They send their kids to good public schools (how about that term for a good old bit of Doublespeak). You don't give a shit because you keep towing the line instead of telling the Head where he can shove his Edexcels. And collectively, we don't give a shit, because if we did we wouldn't participate in this stupid adversarial system that is the education system. We'd tell our kids to boycot all exams. We'd tell the Heads that we don't want our kids testing and we'd make a stand.
But to do that, we'd have to accept the premise that 'do well in your exams, end up with £40,000 of debt for your piece of paper, get a good job' is a load of tosh. And I don't see a whole load of classical musicians and music teachers joining the ranks of the Occupy movement anytime soon, do you?

Pace.
Leave a Comment for
altruistica
A long time ago
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And Altruistica you've added an equally lengthy post! The basic skills you identify are all fine, but what happens next? I don't think anyone intended this thread to be an outlet for didactic posts but to consider whether the content in lessons has been dumbed down. By what you write, content is superfluous so it would seem to answer the question positively, that classroom music has indeed been dumbed down.
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SBerryman
A long time ago
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God, I've just read through all the posts here....erudite, maybe......helpful.....possibly, concise.....not on your life.

I think as all things concerned with education these days, you're all in danger of over-complicating something which is very simple.

If you study music you should be able to:

1. Read music and play it on an instrument. I was going to add a caveat for the singers, 'Read music and play (sing) it on your instrument. I don't think this needs adding, because I've yet to meet a singer who's studied music in one form or another, that can't play an instrument to some degree. I'm not saying either, that everyone should be proficient at reading to Grade 8 level, BUT every musician should be able to work out at their own level what notated music sounds like. There will be occasions when this skill is necessary.

2. Play and join in with musicians without any music. The skills needed here are fundamentals concering aural skills, harmonic structures, genre specifics, instrumentation and arranging skills. These skills are often a precursor to developing improvisational skills and compositional skills.

3. Learn something off-by-heart. True performance only comes when you are free from the technical constraints of playing your instrument. You have to know your content backwards (well not literally) and to be able to see its construction from any point within the composition. This is where playing music from notation often hinders the developing musician from mastering skills 2 & 3.

For me, it's that simple. If this sounds too prescriptive, it's not meant to be. In fact by concentrating on the skills we (well I) want kids to acquire and develop, I couldn't care less if they get off on 'Prelude in C' by Bach or Katy Perry. I know showing them 'The Four Chord Song' video on YouTube would be a really insightful lesson as to how similar lots of songs are, and conversely how different they all are.

Questions you might ask yourselves, irrespective if you agree with my point or not are:

1. Can all my students do the above?
2. If not, what can I put in place to help them achieve this?

As a composer, performer and teacher, without the skillset above, I wouldn't be able to fulfill one or more of these occupations and it's for that reason alone why I value them so highly. You may argue, that not all your music students are going to go on and become aworking musician, but surely you could use this argument on any of the other subjects. I say, arm them with the fundamentals and you can do no more.

Al
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altruistica
A long time ago
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I start from the position of viewing education as helping to make us less ignorant and that a music education needs to be justified by more than its own interest in music and musics, its own concern to release musical creativity and so on. One general purpose of education might be to develop understanding and appreciation of what is strange, unknown, alienating. Music education can contribute to this purpose which I believe is humanising. Richard McNichol's Petrushka Project is interesting. Meeting with the puppet Petrushka is challenging whether Petroushka is interpreted as the outsider, the rejected or whatever. Presumably there is something of human significance in Heavy Metal, something to challenge, something to make us think, reflect. Whether we teach music with Stravinsky, Heavy Metal or whatever we select, we need to do so with some kind of ethical (as well as musical) criteria. I mean by this, some kind of reasoning that relates to why is this music worth engaging in? Who made it/makes it, and why? We have to make choices and if, as in my view, an education should be humanising and nurturing of imaginative empathy for other human beings, then some music/ways of living music may be more worthwhile than others and justify study/engaging with. Certainly Petrushka would make a strong claim to a place.
There is another way of looking at all this too while still connecting to the purpose of education. Christopher Small, who sadly died recently, taught that to think of music as an object, which we are doing if we speak of this genre and that genre of music, is mistaken when what is important is the act of musiking. This is what we do together when we make music and celebrate our humaness. What is important here is the quality of relationships that we engender when we get together to make music.

And so we could go on. The important thing is that we try to work out educational purpose, something wider than music in itself. The current enthusiasm for 'every child a musical instrument' is in danger of becoming a music educational fetish and a distraction from something much more important.

John Finney
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John Finney
A long time ago
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Thanks for your comment, Steven, and glad you have a similar view. My starting point is that music is exciting anyway. Bogged down in admin and assessment we can easily forget that music is truly one of the wonders of the world.

Once you accept that and can find creative ways to keep it at the fore of your thinking - across a hopefully long and successful music teaching career - my post is really unremarkable! It's more a way of following up on the opportunities that a practical engagement in music presents to teachers and learners, most of whom are already fired up by music.
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bill@yamaha
A long time ago
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Bill@Yamaha - what a wonderful post! I'm glad I'm not alone in my approach to music teaching!
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SBerryman
A long time ago
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I've always believed that my job as a music educator is to:
1. Help all young people develop and extend their performing skills. Without progression as performers, curriculum music will remain a subject that is only 'about music' - something studied without real practical understanding.
2. Take young people's starting musical preferences and help them explore beyond them. Approaches which focus only their current musical preferences are ultimately doing them a disservice. The Amazon - if you like this then you might like that - approach is very useful here. On the subject of heavy metal, the 3rd-less chords might take you on an exploration of medieval music, organum and the like. Exploring the tonality - aeolian and other modes - might lead to folk and jazz, for example.
3. Share my own excitement about specific pieces if music, composers, bands, etc, but never share my personal musical dislikes. My goal has been to help people understand music, by performing, composing and improvising it, so they can appreciate it intellectually, not just emotionally. Providing the sharpest tools for musical critical thinking in this way helps young people become independently thinking musicians.
4. Take my students in a guided tour of music which may be new to them. How else can they make informed choices about the music they want to engage with?
5. Make all encounters with music as musical as possible. That's why progressive performing skills are fundamental to me. That's why I encourage young people to ask why the music they like makes them feel a certain way and, with this knowledge, how do they want their audience to respond when they perform, improvise or compose. Once they've decided that, how will thy achieve it?

The fact that there my be too much of any genre in some music classrooms is more about a lack of balance and a narrowness of imagination and experience. After all you can take almost any music and tease out common approaches - harmony, structure, rhythm, purpose, etc - which can then provide a 'time portal' that can lead from pop music to Bach, from Beethoven to Fats Waller, from Rihanna to Michael Nieman. Wouldn't it be fun to choose say Heavy Metal as the starting point for musical discovery, then to make links with both similar and seemingly unrelated genres? Some very exciting musical discoveries would then become possible and are arguably more likely to fire up young imaginations and help them develop both their thinking and their skills in music.
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bill@yamaha
A long time ago
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Hi Steve,
I’m not so sure we need to fear that broad might mean “primarily non-classical genres.” Classical music is one relatively small development in the history of music. (I’m thinking around the world and not Western Classical music) A broad appreciation of music might well be one be centred on pop rather than one centred around classical music. This isn’t anything to worry about. It’s a matter of perspective.

We have to be able to situate classical music as just one possible way to create and make music. It isn’t universal. It is a very particular aesthetic that has intimate connection with a particular social group. We need to come to terms with the fact that most young people do not continue to go to classical concerts and that the people who do are overwhelming middle class.
It is a class issue and a race and gender issue to list a whole host of 20th century classical white middle class male composers as if they are somehow unmediated embodiments of value and creativity. It becomes more so if you then bother to consider classroom music being dumbed down because it doesn’t contain enough middle class white male composers from the 20th century.

It matters because so many of the young people I teach love popular music. Not because they are stupid, unable to access difficult and challenging material. What they do musically is astonishing- on any level- it just happens to be within a vernacular idiom.

I think there is too much emphasis on considering music as a series of things to be revered and preserved. The importance of music doesn’t reside in the text – the notes – it is the act making music that is important. If you bring love and real passion to your music making I don’t think it matters whether you have what we consider to be a broad appreciation of music. What matters is that I have the skills and knowledge to make music with my friends and the people I love. If it means I play music primarily form a vernacular then why not?

Is music teaching really like teaching English Literature? Is it not closer to English Language which by and large most people learn through doing and speaking within their local dialect? I didn’t learn to speak through studying the classics of Literature.
Who is to say what is unthinkable in studying English Literature? Certainly if I believe Terry Eagleton (for example the book Literary Theory) the study of Literature is a much more contested and controversial issue than you suggest.

“What is the purpose of education?”
What a great question! It isn’t in my view to preserve a tradition and a heritage.
“It is at least worth asking if the way we have constructed so called “mainstream” traditions might not have to do with chauvinist politics as with art..... That we have identified little of value in some of these traditions is often as not because we know little about them. ” (Introduction to Music Studies (pge 20 2009, CUP))

Do I really have a duty to preserve a tradition and heritage? What if I don’t find anything of value in this heritage? What if I can’t see anything of me in this tradition? Is it not my duty to question this tradition? Whose tradition is this?
“It is not the purpose of music teachers to sit back and revel in the musical worlds they inhabit at home all the time.”
Since when does teaching popular music mean this?

Can we not approach popular music and classical music with the same rigour and attention to detail? Since when is teaching popular music an easy pedagogical choice? In fact is this not once again creating some kind of divide between classical and pop. Classical music is difficult stuff to teach and teaching pop is an easy choice?
I’m not convinced either that we can separate content choice from pedagogy. In fact surely a more reflective pedagogy would be more likely to increase rigour than say emulating university approaches to music.
I doubt that universities are necessarily great centres of inclusion. As quite a few books have outlined musicology is rather conservative in its approach to theory and a more critical approach to its subject matter.

If learning is at its most powerful when it is learner- centred, structured and well designed, profoundly personalised, inclusive and social (OECD) then shouldn’t I try and consider what implications this has for the way I teach?
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Musicteacher
A long time ago
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I still fear 'broad' means post 1960s, and primarily non-classical genres. It's great to see real breadth covered in A-level and in some GCSE syllabi, even if the repertoire is not always inspiring. Not sure what has happened with regards to the progression between school and university study but I think the gap is widening; good music departments at university level offer a wide historical and cultural span to their teaching and I think we should endeavour to offer something similar. "Introduction to Music Studies" (2009, CUP) is a great book for getting a sense of music study at university level today. I think fostering links with the bigger picture of music study beyond the school context would help endure rigour is retained in the music classroom.
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SBerryman
A long time ago
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It seems to me that Musicteacher and Steven are singing from very similar hymn sheets. Both want to see a broad and balanced curriculum underpinned by secure pedagogy.

But I think we were right to structure a Curriculum for Music which did not specify what that content should be. Teachers should make those decisions for themselves - based on what they think is most appropriate in their circumstances. A broad curriculum in which the interests and enthusiasms of the teachers and students play a significant part, which is sympathetic to the cultural context - and which does stretch students and encourages them to explore new directions, during and beyond their time in schools.
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David Ashworth
A long time ago
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Frustratingly the computer crashed and lost my rather (lengthy) reposte to the last comment to this post. I think Richard McNicholl's statement about Heavy Metal is not to devalue or it, but to say we should be offering more than what pupils already get outside of the classroom; there is no attempt here to belittle a musical style and certainly no class issues. It would be unthinkable in English Literature to only study texts from 1950s onwards, so why should this be the case in music? The danger is if teachers only select music that their pupils 'like' then what is the purpose of music education? We have a duty to preserve a tradition and heritage - otherwise we are futhering dislocating our music classrooms from the musical world of today. Music is not just X Factor - there are vibrant concert halls, opera companies and new music venues too. There does indeed need to respect for pupil musical preferences but it is not the purpose of a teacher to sit back and watch pupils revel in the musical worlds they inhabit at home all the time. Teaching needs to involve some teaching and this is where content is valuable.

Complexity is irrelevant; I think it is a shame that new music is still considered complex. Complex is something we can't understand - so once we understand it, it can lose this heading of 'complex'. Good teaching makes the complex understandable. Music does need to be intellectually challenging! School isn't about coming in and having a good time; education should be about intellectual stimulation and rigour. We inspire this in pupils by modelling it ourselves and through our teaching. Selecting content from classical, popular, jazz, non-western is a priority for me - I want to get rid of any sense of stylistic heirarchy right from year 4. Music education should indeed involve actually making music - but this should come from content choices that stimulate and broaden experience. The problem with so much 'teaching' is that content is dropped in favour of pedagogical approach.
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SBerryman
A long time ago
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Just to say a thankyou to David, SBerryman and Rupert Kirby for their thoughtful replies to my post.

I agree with David that McNichol’s statement about Heavy Metal music needs challenging. After all millions of people love this music – there needs to be recognition that being a heavy metal (or any other non-classical) musician is a valid and musical rewarding pathway for young people. It isn’t second best to the a life of a classical musician.

There is a world of difference between articulating the benefit of wide range of musical experiences and belittling a style of music. What does it mean for a white middle class man to criticise a music enjoyed by mainly working class white males? What issues of power and privilege are at stake here? I do think we need to be careful as a profession to have respect for and consideration for the musical cultures our students inhabit - which may represent quite different values from our own.

Consider two quotes
“for me, accessible is the opposite of challenge and I want all pupils to be challenged so real learning can take place” SBerryman
“of course, we want a broad and balanced curriculum but we may need to accept that many young people students will only develop a love and understanding of classical music as they mature.” David Ashworth

I think what I’m not so sure about is this narrative of musical development and maturity being something that is necessarily about looking for greater musical complexity. Can we not find challenge in contemporary popular music? I think there are a few questions here:

1. Musical complexity (it’s challenge) is to some extent in the eye of the beholder. You may see a great deal of profundity in Elliott Carter where as I revel in the richness of James Brown. For me these two artists offer different versions of musical challenge. Many classical musicians may be able to articulate a level of complexity in Carter’s music but may struggle with James Brown. However can we not really say that James Brown music hasn’t a complexity and challenge of its own?

2. Maybe as I grow older I like my music to be simpler or just different or the same or familiar or whatever. Is it the case that my own musical development is one from simplicity to complexity? Does it matter if I never progress to appreciating serialism? Does music have to be intellectually challenging? Maybe it’s just fun, enjoyable, pleasurable, sexy?

3. What is real learning in music? ( Or in any subject for that matter) – Is it really contingent only on a challenging content chosen by the teacher? Or is student engagement and ability to create some of the context for lessons a part of real learning? What does musical progression really look like – what are the conditions for real learning? Can’t real learning occur with any music?

4. I feel the idea that students necessarily need to move on from their love of popular music onto something else is one that needs questioning.

Consider:
“I strongly believe it’s about opening doors that might otherwise be left unexplored. The modern and popular music culture is very effective in evangelising its current output, and this can provide a starting point to a broader understanding ....”

Here we go again! Pop music is a starting point on the road to some greater riches! But hold on -who holds the keys to these doors? Which doors are left locked? What happens if my students want to open different doors? This amazing story of music developing over the last thousand years may have many different voices and histories – stories and histories it might be important for my students to explore. There are many people’s histories and stories marginalised in the official (Western classical music’s) story.

“There is over 400 years of music to investigate and discover and to concentrate on a recent fragment of this devalues the significance of music throughout history.” SBerryman

Doesn’t this in some ways devalue music? Isn’t music significance a part of the fact that we have been making music as far as we been human? The whole history of the development of human beings across the world is involved in wide and varied music making histories – the development of classical music being one very small one.

How do we encourage a love of music making for all our students? Doesn’t this mean a focus on the relationships we have to music and a focus on our pedagogy? Isn’t the use of informal music practices an important part of this?


Doesn’t classical music’s importance and its associated aesthetics need decentring?

Don’t we need to focus on the process of making music more than the things we created in the past? In doing this don’t we need to understand what it is about this relationship our student’s value?

I agree with David that it is the pedagogical approaches to the teaching of music that really needs to be engaged with and debated. And like David I find the work of David Price and Learning Futures really useful. Indeed the whole musical futures project has been a real challenge to me and my teaching style.

How do we best make sure that all our young children continue to make music and feel encouraged to do so once they leave school? It has often been reported that many young people find their classroom music experiences irrelevant and unhelpful. How do we make sure that young people are excited and energised by their school experience? It might be that classical music has only a small role to play.
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Musicteacher
A long time ago
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David Price makes fantastic guidance on pedagogy and I thing it is a potentially successful model for class music lessons. For me, content will be at the top of my list of priorities in planning; of course my impact can only be within my own school but I am convinced that the appreciation of classical music need not be resigned to maturity. I thrive on drawing content from a broad range of sources - and particularly enjoy sharing with classes recent music such as by Imogen Heap when discussing song writing for example. I just wonder whether content choices are making the experience better for the pupils, or are they making life easier for the teachers. For me, accessible is the opposite of challenge and I want all pupils to be challenged so real learning can take place. Thanks David for the kind words on the Spectrum article.
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SBerryman
A long time ago
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Like many others, I was sorry to miss Richard McNicholl’s speech at the NAME Conference, so I am grateful that it has now been made available on the internet. It makes for a stimulating and thought provoking read. The points he makes regarding Music Manifesto, Wider Opportunities and Sing Up are particularly pertinent and I found myself nodding in agreement with many of the points he makes.



But, like Musicteacher, my eyebrows did raise on a couple of occasions. His statement “Why do we need to offer so much Heavy Metal in our classrooms when the pop music industry is doing such a thorough job and all-pervasive job”? does need challenging:



  • Is there that much Heavy Metal being played in classrooms? I think not. Teachers are working across a much broader spectrum of rock/pop styles.

  • the industry may be making a good job of distributing the music, but we need teachers to help students understand what’s going on musically.

  • musicteacher’s points regarding a rationale for exploring Heavy Metal are well made. When my own son was in his mid-teens, he listened to very little other than HM – but because it engaged his attention, he was keen to explore further. Now he is in his early 20’s it has directly led to a love for the music of Bach/Vivaldi/Stravinsky/John Adams and many others as his CD collection testifies. My daughter listened exclusively to Oasis when she was 14. She now regularly attends concerts on the South Bank, the Proms and a wide range of dance events including classical ballet.

  • the point is that we should concentrate on making music interesting and engaging for students and instil in them the desire to explore further when they move on. Of course, we want a broad and balanced curriculum but we may need to accept that many young students will only develop a love and understanding of classical music as they mature. As David Price has pointed out, there is an age thing here. Many of us develop a love for pursuits such as golf and gardening as we grow older.......things we would definitely avoid as teenagers!


  • So I think we should perhaps take some of the focus away from the content of a music curriculum and think more about the pedagogy. Again, from David Price at http://davidpriceblog.posterous.com/12-key-learnings-from-the-learning-futures-pr



    Let's think think more about such things as:


  • Getting students immersed in purposeful projects leading to engaged learning and building relationships

  • Authentic learning experiences benefit from real world connections


  • Great projects can be teacher-led, student-led or product-led – but are driven by passion and real world connections


  • When McNicholl expresses shock at the Musical Futures teacher’s reaction to the class rejection of her idea for a lesson on classical music, he needs to be aware that this teacher is working within a pedagogical framework that allows students to have a voice in their own learning. The teacher may want to go away and rethink how best to nurture an acceptance of a broad and balanced curriculum that does include classical music within the spectrum.



    The use of the word ‘spectrum’ reminds me that I want to refer back to Steven Berryman. Steven makes his points well and I’m pleased to see that he goes beyond merely advocating a place for classical music in the curriculum. His excellent teaching resources on using the Spectrum piano pieces in the classroom show that he is prepared to look for engaging, worthwhile solutions to this challenge. And it is a challenge worth addressing. Students stand to gain so much from Classical music being explored in classrooms – providing we present it in the right way....


    Steven’s article on composition teaching can be downloaded here http://db.tt/RMPSshEs and http://db.tt/IcmQFeI6

    Leave a Comment for
    David Ashworth
    A long time ago
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    Some people must underestimate the capacity for young people to access the classics. Everything can be 'accessible' with good teaching, after all that is the job of the teacher to make the 'difficult' achievable. I was shocked when giving a careers talk to undergraduates and postgraduates at a university music department how few, if any, considered classroom teaching of real worth. We must get to teach our own passions within music more than science teachers get to dictate the content of their lessons, for example.
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    SBerryman
    A long time ago
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    I strongly believe it's about opening doors that might otherwise be left unexplored. The modern and popular music culture is very effective in evangelising it's current output, and this can provide a starting point to a broader understanding, but to open doors into the Baroque, the Classical, the Romantic, the Renaissance, the modern, to show examples of what can be found there and how music has developed in the relatively short space of a millenium is certainly a priority for me. I never cease to be amazed at the comments I get from some of the most street cred year 8 pupils after looking at the Variations on the Trout Quintet. We perhaps underestimate their capacity to access the classics.
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    Rupert Kirby
    A long time ago
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    Music does belong as a compulsory part of the curriculum; I think there should be less opposition of musical styles and more a sense of a rich and diverse history that should be explores in a balanced way. Seeing a curriculum map recently where only (non-classical and only western) music post 1960 was covered seemed a real shame; there is over 400 years of music to investigate and discover and to concentrate on a recent fragment of this devalues the significance of music throughout history. If we can strive for balance and breadth we can instil the kind of rigour other subjects can demonstrate and truly justify the inclusion of music in the national curriculum.
    Leave a Comment for
    SBerryman
    A long time ago