Music is Hard 13: Education

This week:
As musicians, what role do we play in educating non-musicians about what we do? What is the goal of doing so? Why is it important? How can we do it better?

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  • Some people (kids and adults) can’t feel/hear rhythms as well as you think they should. It’s one of the most difficult things to teach. I don’t think it’s just how much music education they have had. Some kids really just have less awareness of rhythm.

    For Dave M’s student who can’t hear/feel the difference between meters I wonder if listening to his own heart beat might be a place to start.

    Great show! :)

  • I’m about 15 months late to the party, but I’ve listened to all of the previous podcasts and was intrigued to hear both your definitions of music. As a teacher of secondary school students (high school) in Ireland, I generally start with the question of “What is music?”, and yes I get every answer you said such as melody, rhythm, harmony, instruments, voices, describes something, is emotional, etc. But then I use some listening examples from Bach, Allegri, Gregorian chant, Schoenberg, Cage, ethnic music, Deadmau5, Eminem, etc. and “we” come up with the definition of music as organised sound – this leads then into a discussion about what sound is (melody, rhythm, harmony) and then how it is organised i.e. notation/technology/performance. I’ve never had anyone who has totally disagreed and I think as a teacher there is a real value because they do have a definition (no matter how limiting it is), and then they have an awareness of why we talk about music constituent parts, and why we learn to notate it. By the way its possible that the student has amusia, it’s very rare but certainly not unheard of, especially if you’re using really basic examples and they cannot hear the beat!

    • Sorry it’s taken me a couple of weeks to respond to your comment. It got a little lost in the holiday shuffle. Thanks for listening to the show! I agree that a definition of music can be very useful for teaching, but I’m always hesitant to oversimplify things. Since we recorded this show, I’ve come around to Cage’s “organized sound” definition, but I am careful to always include the caveat that the listener could be the one doing the organizing.

      Thanks for the tip about amusia. I’ve never heard of it before. That student has long since passed my 16-week course, but I’ll definitely read up on that condition in case I encounter a similar student in the future. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.