Monday, June 20, 2016

Educational Outreach

I have always tried to have a strong educational component in this blog and this has been for two reasons. It suits my abilities and inclinations as I spent a couple of decades teaching music at conservatory and university. Also, there is a pressing need for it as a lot of school programs have disappeared and classical music's place in the public sphere has also diminished. Classical music, unlike a lot of popular genres, really benefits from some understanding of the history and techniques.

So, since I am often critical of the efforts made in this area, I want to launch a new series of posts devoted to getting ordinary listeners a bit better acquainted with classical music. My inspiration for this came to me last night.

I was browsing around on Amazon and, since at some point I purchased one of those little sharpening tools for the kitchen, up popped an ad for a Japanese sharpening stone. Curious, I had a look at it. You may not know this, I certainly didn't, but the Japanese mastered the art of making knives way back in the 16th century and to this day they make the sharpest knives available. They also have developed a method of sharpening them that seems to be outstanding. They use gritty, porous stone that they first soak in water. I didn't know how this was supposed to work so I made use of the resources of the Internet to research it. After half an hour, reading a few articles on the subject and watching two videos, I now know how it works and I ordered a set of sharpening stones from Amazon. Clever how they do that...

I think we forget how much we learn from the Internet these days!

So, obviously, a very good thing to do would be to do some posts on music, akin to those little articles on sharpening knives the Japanese way. Little introductions to pass on some information and demystify some aspects of classical music. Now, since I have such an erudite readership, why don't you folks weigh in on the best way to do this. First of all, what would be a good title? "What to Listen for in Music" was the title of a successful book half a century ago by Aaron Copland, but probably less good now. "How to Listen to Music"? "How to Listen to Bach"? Or just "Listening to Music"? How about "The Art of Listening to Music"? or just "The Art of Listening"? That might be best. It was also the name of a course I taught at McGill.

In any case, I await your thoughts on the matter! Here is something to listen to for inspiration. This is the Divertimento in F, K 138 by Mozart played by the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields Chamber Ensemble:


JBB said...

Whatever you call it, it will be required reading for my music history students!

Bryan Townsend said...

Higher praise no-one could ask for!

Bryan Townsend said...

JBB, could you tell me what age level your students are? Do they have any background? Do they play instruments? Read music?


JBB said...

I teach a two-year I.B. course to 50 juniors and seniors in a U.S. high school. They all are concurrently enrolled in band, chorus, guitar ensemble, or orchestra. They read fluently in at least one clef before they come to me and the majority also take private lessons. Thank you!