This handy little chart defines the task of a music teacher quite well. I would like to comment on the major points.
MUSIC IS A SCIENCE: We live in an age that has seen giant strides because of scientific discovery. That sense of scientific discovery is also a very handy tool in teaching music to students. For example, the piano is an instrument that takes full advantage of the “overtone series”. This scientific idea is a part of our natural world. I demonstrate how a fundamental low bass tone “sensitizes” other notes above that fundamental tone. These tones are “sensitized“ WITHOUT EVEN PLAYING THOSE TONES. The notes they sensitize are the notes of the major chord from this fundamental tone. This little exercise puts the student in direct touch with natural world itself. Students discover, through this little scientific experiment, that music is part of nature itself. It opens their world to see what they are doing in their music is touching on the the pulse of nature and in fact, the whole universe. Music is a cosmic activity!
MUSIC IS MATHEMATICS: There are so many ways in which music is mathematical. The natural pulse in music divides most commonly in twos and threes. It is my starting point for teaching the mathematics of music. From the very beginning I emphasize the feeling of the strong beat in a musical pulse. After the strong beat is easily discerned we can move on, in a rather scientific manner, to our discussion of the weak beats that are found in music. This directly leads to meter in music and duple meter (such as 2/4) and triple meter (such as 3/4). The nice thing about music being mathematical is that the teacher can present the musical material in a very logical systematic and “scientific” manner, relating back to our first point. Most students are fascinated by the logical and mathematical ways in which music can be understood.
MUSIC IS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE: I personally think that it would be better to say simply that MUSIC IS A LANGUAGE. I think mathematics can be also said to be a language, too. It can express things that words cannot. Music is no different as it expresses things words cannot. Music can even express things that even math cannot. Again, MUSIC AS LANGUAGE can be approached from a myriad of different ways. The language of “major” and “minor” opens up many possibilities. As the poster alludes, music comes from many cultures. Just as each language has its unique sound, the music from each culture has its unique sound. An Irish Jig sounds different from an Italian Tarantella, even though they often share the same meter. A Polish Mazurka sounds very different from a Viennese Waltz, even though they share a common triple meter. Music puts a student on a journey that traverses the world. Music is a language we can share and learn from others even though we may not understand a word of their native language.
MUSIC IS PHYSICAL EDUCATION: Learning a musical instrument takes intense physical training. I will often draw a student’s attention to new born children. When we observe them we notice, as they lie on their back, they are full of activity, especially the kicking of their legs. This constant kicking of their legs strengthens them for the eventual task of learning to crawl. When they learn to crawl on all fours their arms become stronger. In time they can use the strength of their arms to become upright; yet their legs are not yet strong enough to walk. But in time they can make their first step. then two. Then comes the magic day when they can walk. But they are not done. Eventually they run, skip and even jump.
When students show me their first creations at the piano I always give them the praise they deserve. But when we begin working on proper technique I say their finger movement reminds me of the kicking of that newborn child. They have to go through many steps of training to eventually get to the place where they can run. This is a journey that takes time, and just like that newborn they keep on moving forward until they could eventually run, if they go through all the steps of the process, they will eventually run too.
MOST OF ALL MUSIC IS ART: Even though music is a very scientific and mathematical venture, even though its a journey that is as exciting as learning how to run; the reason for learning a musical instrument is because of the challenge it brings to the imagination. The challenge of learning to become artistic. One of the best ways I found to get across the concept of art, artistry or becoming artistic is through stories and poems.
I give the student two examples.
I almost fell asleep one night
While reading some books.
But an old bird woke me up
By pecking on my door.
It was winter.
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“‘Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door
Only this, and nothing more.”
Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Both examples describe the same incident. The first is very plain. You may even think “so what“! The second example stimulates your imagination and brings you into the story. You can see it, you can almost hear the tapping of the raven, you begin to imagine the furnishings of the room, you experience your feelings of a dark winter’s night when you’re all alone. This stimulation of the imagination is what makes this poem — art. When we play a good piece of music we should be inspired to imbue the notes with meaning and tell the story or express the feelings that the notes bring to your imagination. Art is the communication of imagination to imagination.
The most joyful aspect of teaching music is giving students the tools and means to communicate imagination to imagination through the media of music. This can be said no better than in this poem by Franz von Schober. It was beautifully set to music as an art song by Franz Schubert.
by Franz von Schober
Oh lovely Art, in how many grey hours,
When life’s fierce orbit ensnared me,
Have you kindled my heart to warm love,
Carried me away into a better world!
How often has a sigh escaping from your harp,
A sweet, sacred chord of yours
Opened up for me the heaven of better times,
Oh lovely Art, for that I thank you!
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