Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Starting point?

So what is the problem? That is just to big a question at this point, so let me ramble on and try to break it down.

Lucy Green, researcher at the University of London, gave a lecture and basically talked about the ways in which 'popular musicians' learn and how this way of learning could and should be brought into the formal classroom. If your not familiar with Dr. Green's work, let me sum up as best i can. Her book "How Popular Musicians Learn" highlights people who didn't have formal (e.g., classroom/conservatory) education. These 'popular' (e.g., those mostly playing pop/rock and roll music) learned by immersing themselves in the culture, through active listening, and by doing. She carefully points out some similar traits each of these musicians had and feels that this type of learning should not be simply left to the world of the informal (e.g., the garage). She highlighted the Musical Futures program which lets kids pick their own instruments, pick the songs they want to learn (regardless of difficulty, style, etc.), and lets them work it out and perform. The teacher is there to provide guidance. At first, they are mere observers, but as they progress, the teacher becomes more involved, helping to solve problems and helping the learners make sense of what they are doing.

So whats wrong with this? To me, nothing. I think it's brilliant. Every point she made about each of her case studies reflected how i learned music. So there, i've mentioned my bias. But i was sort of taken back by some of the questions regarding how this type of learning and pedagogy would never work over in here in America. Why not? She has explicitly stated that this should not take the place of traditional music teaching, but merely a precursor (for some children) into a more 'formal' realm.

Today in one of my music ed courses, we debriefed about the talk. The class is made up of entirely classically trained musicians earning either their masters or Ph.D. in music educaiton. Except of course, for me. I'm only minoring in music ed, was not classically trained, and more concerned with learning rather than teaching. And there it was. The comments started flying about how there would be no need for music teachers in a program like Dr. Green's. There is this fear that if all kids do is play rock 'n roll, than any 'Joe Shmo' off the street can teach them that? Excuse me? That's missing the point totally. I'm sorry that through your conservatory training you were never introduced to Jean-Luc Ponty or Frank Zappa, or that Black Sabbath or Deep Purple isn't 'musical' enough for you. It's possible, just slightly, that kids don't care about Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, etc. when they first start out. That's not to say they won't find out about these people. That's how i got into Varese', Glass, Stravinsky, Bartok, Barber...by reading interviews of people in 'popular' music and what inspired them. Had you told me to listen to these people in order to play music, i would've given up before I even started.

There is also this notion that was floated out there that this isn't a good way to teach music? Again, i ask, why not? Dr. Green is one of the few music ed researchers that actually explicitly talks about a theory of learning and how this theory is informing the pedagogy (there are others, don't get me wrong, but i'm trying to keep this in context here). But the mindset, as i heard it, is still very 'information processing' based and that direct instruction is the only way to learn. I would beg to differ. If you have kids, think about how you teach them words. You don't teach them the sound of every letter and then put them all together for them so they can say the word (a direct instruction type approach). You give them the whole word and let them try to make sense of it and when they run into trouble, you assist when needed.

I tried to stress the point today that regardless your teaching pedagogy, you MUST HAVE A THEORY OF LEARNING! How do you feel people learn? The overwhelming ideas i heard today was that 'when i teach, you learn' or 'what i tell you, you do...if you get it right, you learned, if you get it wrong, you fail'. That kind of scares me.

The reason I chose minoring in music ed was because i wanted to be able to bridge the gaps between Learning Sciences and Music Ed...get them on the same page. Hopefully take what has been researched in Learning Sciences and inform those in Music Education.

I think i have a starting point.
/end rant

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Lucy Green is comming..

Yes, i'm super giddy about this. Lucy Green, author of How Popular Musicians Learn: A Way Ahead for Music Education will be speaking at the IU School of Music in February (i believe the 22nd, but i'm not for certain about that yet.)

So why does this concern you, my fellow LS cohorts? Well, Dr. Green is one of the few researchers that takes a sociocultural stand and feels music is best learned through 'communities of practice' (e.g., getting in bands, playing cover songs, watching and imitating others). She talks quite extensively about in this book, which, by the way, was written in 2002.

It baffles me that here in the states, we have yet to catch on to this or view it as a viable alternative to drill and kill practices in music classrooms. Granted i took guitar lessons as a young lad, but i learned by playing in bands.

I will post more about this later, but if you get time, check out the Musical Futures program that Dr. Green has started. Looks cool, doesn't it?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Bauerlein makes me want to break things...

I don't even know where to begin with this. There so much to cover and yet i feel my blood pressure rising just thinking about some of Bauerlein's comments. I especially like the one comparing a figure who stands up and challenges youth, like Jaime Escalante (portrayed by Edward James Olmos in the movie Stand and Deliver), to fictional characters like the principle in Ferris Beuler's Day Off. Huh? Tell me how that is even a comparison?

Overall, from what i can tell, his argument is that the youth of today (not the band) can't pick out Iraq or Israel on a map, their knowledge of history and civics, and they spend way too much time watching TV? Is that it? I know, I know...i'm sure there is more to it, but as i was reading the article, I couldn't help but thinking 'people don't know this stuff because it's not meaningful to them'. Where have i heard that before?

But I'd like to focus on a small portion of his argument that deals with the arts. So, apparently 1 in 10 have attended a jazz concert. I buy that. Whens the last time you went to a jazz concert? It's been at least 5 years for me, and i really don't consider Bela Fleck and the Flecktones to be purely jazz. Jazz shows are stuffy in my opinion, while i love to listen to it, i find myself trying to figure out what the musicians are doing rather than just listening and enjoying. I think Frank Zappa said it best when he said "Jazz isn't dead, it just smells funny". That's about the best way i can describe a jazz show.

But, when is the last time you went to a rock and roll show at a local club, bar, or all ages venue? Now, let me just say, i'm very biased when it comes to this. I've been attending DIY shows and playing in bands since 1991. But how is this any different than attending a jazz concert? Are the musicians no good? I'd beg to differ. I realize that they are two different genres, but to consider one form of music to be superior than another is ludicrous. But to me, here is the biggest difference between a DIY show or a jazz show: DIY shows are, more than not, put together by kids for kids. They are all ages. They get kids involved in everything from 'zine making, bands, promotion, photography, and political and social activism (e.g. vegatarianism/veganism, civil rights, anti-drinking and drug campaigns, etc). It all grows from this larger community of people--a community of practice. I can say this: Had i not been exposed to this community, i can't even imagine where my life would be at this point. It's a pretty good bet that i would not be attending a graduate program and getting a Ph.D.

So, Mr. Bauerlein...maybe you should ask: What's the last concert or DIY show you attended? I bet you get a better ratio than 1 in 10.

Classical music is no better. 1 in 12. But come on now, how many times can you hear Beethoven and Mozart? How about some modern composers works? Now, i know my argument doesn't hold much water here in Bloomington, but, i'm doubting the stats Mr. Bauerlein presents are from areas that have one of the, if not the, top rated music schools in the world. My argument is the same as the jazz one.

Ballet? No? How about going to a dance club? Or watch "So You Think You Can Dance". Does that count? How is it different?

1 in 4 go to a museum. I'd say thats pretty good actually. Do you know how expensive it is to go to a museum?

1 in 40 play a classical musical instrument? Why does it have to be a classical instrument? Because the guitar has evolved into the electric realm automatically discredits it's importance? I would disagree. Restate the question and take out the 'classical' wording.

So the numbers in attendance of performing arts have dropped. How about the number of those performing, writing, directing, and/or animating their creations and putting them on Youtube?

Mr. Bauerlein, your arguments are soft and hint at cultural superiority on your part.

Monday, November 23, 2009

What is Art? Or, how Dewey makes my head hurt.

Jean Delville is the greatest artist ever


"Watermelons in Easter Hay" (by Frank Zappa) is one of the most thoughtful expressions on guitar ever played...go listen. I'll wait.


"The Godfather" and "The Godfather II" are cinematic masterpieces.


I could keep going, but you get the picture. Now, had you really discussed it, i'm sure you may argue one way or the other that I'm full of it. But is it art? What is art? With regards to the first 2 I mentioned, we'll never know, they're both dead. Although, Zappa has been quoted many times that he writes music for his own enjoyment and that he likes to hear the 'absurdity' of his ideas and that if someone enjoys it, so be it. So thats art?

So how do we come to enjoy the arts (i say the arts, cause you know me, i have to include music)? It all starts with a new way to teach; develope a new language that incorporates visual, digital, anthropological arts (thank your Freedman and Sturh). While it seems obvious, we don't really know what is being learned when we engage in arts activities (thank you Hetland et. al.). The answer? Constructionism! (Kylie is going to be so proud of me).

A simple, yet ingenious 3 tiered approach:
2-Personal connection to work,
3-Value of projects to larger community

Monday, November 9, 2009

It's all fluency, flexibility, and mud.

I can't believe i haven't blogged in so long. I have a post waiting to be posted on my progress with Impromptu, but as life happens, i got the flu. Now, i'm not saying it's H1N1, but the flu nonetheless. Needless to say, i was out of commission for some time. But now, i'm back (oh joy!).

Regarding the readings for this week, i was happy to see the notion of fluency mentioned. In an earlier post I argued:

It seems that literacy has been talked about like it's some sort linear thing that has a start and end point. It's not, it's evolving. And what happens if you are an expert in an area? Is literacy over? You're totally literate with nowhere to go? I don't think so. But now we're getting into creativity/innovation, aren't we? That's a whole other discussion.

Now, before i start going all "Nelson" on traditional literacy (e.g. HA-HA), let me re-trace my steps on why see it this way. I'll do this by constructing my concept map.

First, i read the diSessa paper in which I sum up as this (just click on the picture):

I stepped back and looked at this and thought...kinda circular. Next i read Reas article and got, yet another view of literacy and that was saying people gaining skills to develop software and tools that help them communicate their ideas. Huh? I wasn't sure what to make of that, but put it on the map (you'll see the full map later.

Next, i read the Resnick piece. Can you say mud? Such a great metaphor for how technology should be...like mud. This is expanded on in the Smith paper that says technology should be made for flexibility and fluency. Ahhh...ok, now i'm getting it. So, the diSessa map i made is starting to come together. That is, in order for this to happen, we need flexibility...MUD!

So what does this do for literacy? I guess that depends on who you ask. I still say that literacy is a term that is too concrete. With the technological changes literacy needs to be evolving, which is why i like the term fluency. Think about all the projects you've worked on in class...you're 'literacy', at least mine, was flexible and expanding due to the construction of a meaningful artifact. Hmmm...interesting.

Then comes creativity...such a fun topic that i know little about, but i know it when i see it. Instead of trying to explain my thought process, i'll just show it. It's hard to read...so just click on it.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Part 2.5 or "Am I literate?"

So the project below you heard in Pt.2 (if you haven't, take a few minutes to do so) is me. One day i just got a new MIDI keyboard controller that had just a minute 2 octave range. So i decided to plug it in and noodle away. Now, what you didn't hear was the full 16+ minute of me just constructing the piece. So, out of 16+ minutes, you only hear 4. So technology strikes again.

But lets be honest, do you really think that even in those 4 minutes that i meant to hit all those notes? As much as i would like to say that i did, i didn't. So, luckily, i went in and could move notes where i wanted (pitch) and extend or shorten them (duration) depending on my likeness. Strike another one up for technology.

I finally added some compression to even out the sound over the entire piece as well as some reverb to add some depth. Again...technology. Gotta love it.

So? Lets think about 20 years ago (wow, i'm dating myself). But had i done this on conventional tape, what you may hear would be choppy, more wrong notes than right one's, and actually, you wouldn't have heard anything, cause i wouldn't have been able to post on the internet (yay technology!)

Am I literate?
That depends. Literate in what? Religious text...well, 12 years of catholic school...guess that makes me literate. Wow, am i glad that's NOT the way it is. So, what else is there? I can write and read and for the most part I understand what I write and read. Literate? Not really.

I always equated literacy as some sort of synonym for expertise or competency in an area. I still think thats the case. The area (whatever it is--blogging, music, reading, etc.) has some norms associated wit
h it. We develope in a literacy by how you (or I) make sense, create, and critique/reflect in the area.

It seems that literacy has been talked about like it's some sort linear thing that has a start and end point. It's not, it's evolving. And what happens if you are an expert in an area? Is literacy over? You're totally literate with nowhere to go? I don't think so. But now we're getting into creativity/innovation, aren't we? That's a whole other discussion.

In conclusion, my head hurts (bordering on a migrain), my son has a fever (c'mon H1N1), and that Kress article may just be the reason for my headache. But literacy is not linear, nor is it just related to reading and writing. To me, being literate is being aware of the different Discourses (notice the big "D") in which you operate. I know that does
n't really explain it, but maybe my concept map will?

A note on the concept map I made
In case anyone is interested, there is software out there in which you can make a concept map pretty easily. I've been messing with it since yesterday and i'm really starting to like it. It really does bring to light some things that you may overlook. The software is from Smart and you can get it here. You can try it out for 30 days before buying it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Whats "new" in music new media Pt 2.

Listen (and watch if you want). Maybe, if you're lucky, I'll explain the 'new' media aspects.