I am an Italian independent Creative Practitioner, a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA), internationally established in the fields of music and contemporary arts. This means that when it comes to Music teaching, my approach to the subject is both pedagogical and one of artistic creation. My pedagogy and my personal values are strongly rooted in the social justice of equality, inclusivity, and diversity. Therefore, in my teaching practice, I foster an exploration of music landscapes and their social values in our contemporary culture.
Exploring sound landscapes and their social values
My plans tackle the intersection between ethnicity and inclusivity within the music landscapes. Starting from the analysis of the artistic production of artists who have been deaf since their birth, I have started to reflect on the question “who owns the music?”.
“Yet while the western classical canon is dominated by harmony, much contemporary music is distinguished not so much by tunes, but timbre. Different genres vary in their sonic textures as much or more than in their melodic figures – a trend that has accelerated as technology has affected recording, production and performance.”
While teaching as Associate Lecturer in the Master course in Graphic Branding and Identity at London College of Communication (London, UK), firstly I would ask the students to explore their knowledge of sound, music play and their individual relationship to verbal languages. Finally, I would prompt the students with a question: how can we familiarize with the music? Is there a way we can share common meanings through it? These are the provocations I’d like to address in my project, aiming to foster the deconstruction of preconceived ideas about music, to finally wider the audience’s perspectives in relations to the materiality of music and its cultural, yet artistic implications on its social values and role within our culture.
“Learning music helps to develop the left side of the brain (related to language and reasoning), assists with sound recognition, and teaches rhythm and rhyme. Songs can also help children remember information (just think of the Alphabet song!)”
Across societies, music is a cultural product. My methodology is researched-based, I develop my ideas gathering a mixture of quantitative and qualitative data. I begin with the study of books, films, and all available materials on the subject, researching on international libraries. Then, if needed I conduct surveys and interviews. Being a multimedia artist, I visually experiment with video techniques and colours. At the core of my artistic practise as well as my pedagogy, there is a strong interest in human existence.
Reflections on Music teaching and Project based Learning
Although I am not familiar with teaching how to play music instruments, I have experienced the DAW (or sequencer) the step sequencer, and a range of notation software. Though, I believe I won’t explore any of these technologies further, I am happy to be able to share this knowledge with my students and assist them in their music making.
Since the ’70s I have been persuaded that the DJ-producers have an awful lot of sophisticated musical skills. Naming one for all, Mr Brian Eno, who’s ambient exploration into sound and algorythm has largely impacted our contemporary music.
David Price theories on “OPEN” learning are absolutely fascinating and I widely agree with his opinions.
The best example of open learning I found by reviewing the work of one of my peers, was a module teaching how to sing like Myles Kennedy. In a way, when I was a child by learning song’s lyrics I Iearnt the correct pronunciation of the English language. That was indeed an Open Learning experience.
It is stated that “Learning music helps to develop the left side of the brain (related to language and reasoning), assists with sound recognition, and teaches rhythm and rhyme. Songs can also help children remember information (just think of the Alphabet song!)”. Indeed, music is transdisciplinary by definition and can become a conduit for learning different topics.
Two roads diverged into a bush, and I I chose the one less travelled by and that has made all the difference
(Robert Frost, The road not taken, 1916)
The depth yet gentle touch of Frost’s words of wisdom, were mentioned by President John F. Kennedy in his famous speech at Amherst College upon receiving an honorary degree, 26 October 1963. Furthermore, the very same lines could as well be applied to extraordinary musician and social activist Mr Pau Casals, who put into practice throughout his life and artistic work, the philosophical concepts shared both by Frost and President Kennedy.
Indeed, Pau Casals was born in 1876 from a very poor and large family: 11 children of whom only 3 survived, being him one of them. Casals’s passion for music was most probably influenced by his father, who was an organist playing in the local church.
Even though Pau showed an incredible talent and musical ear since his early years, the economic restrictions of his family though, restrain him from approaching the world of music. While contributing to his family wealth by playing the Cello in some cafes of Barcelona, he bumped into the well known pianist and composer, Isaac Albeni, who decided to introduce him to his then friend, Queen Maria Cristina.
The lucky event changed the life of Casals and his family forever, since the Queen provided them all with financial help, and education, and stability.
While attending his studies in Brussels, Pau demonstrated great dignity and character, even when he lost all his financial fortune, by taking a stand against a disrespectful teacher. Although it seemed a brave gesture, the Queen did not approved, and Pau Casals fell into misery again. Years later, thanks to his stubborness, he reached his success in Paris, where he played among prestigious musicians and composers. Pau Casals funded the “Asociación obrera de conciertos” to provide the poor people with the opportunity to attend concerts and listen to the greatest musicians of the world. Music, in his opinion, was a form of art and as such it had to be accessible to everyone. Casals believed in the value of peace, and in 1939, due to the Spanish dictatorship, he began his exile and his long silence of protest and indignation. After some sporadic appearances in concert in the following years, with the end of the Second World War, Casals’ opposition to the Franco regime intensified to the point of pushing him to suspend his activity as a musician in protest. He exhausted his financial savings by hosting and lending money to refugees. Music became his language of protest, accompanied by the young Marta Montañez, and in 1961 he was invited by President Kennedy to play at the White House, in exchange for 30 minutes of private confrontation.
The two men had so much in common, although their role in life were so different.
Quoting a President Kennedy’s remarks at Amherst College:
“If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him. We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth. And as Mr. MacLeish once remarked of poets, there is nothing worse for our trade than to be in style. In free society art is not a weapon and it does not belong to the spheres of polemic and ideology. Artists are not engineers of the soul. It may be different elsewhere. But democratic society–in it, the highest duty of the writer, the composer, the artist is to remain true to himself and to let the chips fall where they may. In serving his vision of the truth, the artist best serves his nation.”
One of his latest compositions was the United Nations Anthem, commissioned by Secretary U Thant and directed by him for his New York debut in October 1972. On that same occasion he was awarded the UN Peace Medal. He died in Puerto Rico, far from his wife Marta and far from his beloved Catalan land in Spain, and without having seen the end of the Franco dictatorship, which he had so much opposed in life.
In 2011 the duo Alex McLean of Slub and Nick Collins delivered the first “live coding” music festival, that became known by the new coined word “algorave” (from an algorithm and rave). The event was the first of its kind in London, UK, and in a way it was a technological evolution of the Rave subculture, during which people danced to music generated from algorithms. Djs projected their computer screens and used lived coding techniques, so that the audience could dance, while watching the code being manipulated.
What was this exactly, a performing art or an evolution of technological music making?
Alex McLean is the creator of Tidal Cycles, the main program live coders use to make music. Djs report that the focus was on people enjoying dancing and listening to the music, however, it takes a software engineering knowledge to type the code, while the audience isn’t required to understand what is displayed on screen.
Is there something missing here? Are we heading toward a misinterpretation of the language of music itself or, on the contrary, this could be seen as a natural consequence of a more digitalized approach to our daily life, that is slowly shaping the culture of tomorrow?
The English musician, Brian Eno, who is world-wide renewed for his pioneering contribution to music, and self-describes himself as a “non-musician”, in 1970 established a randomized approach to musical practice, which was rather conceptual and involved generating electronic dance music with algorithms. Eno influenced the techno culture of the ‘90s, which evolved and turned into a political protest, when the Government prohibited raves describing them as gatherings where music, (defined as a succession of repetitive beats) is played. The Anti EP, and more precisely the track “flutter”, was, therefore, a protest against the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.
Hence, in the same year, two designers at Microsoft contacted Brian Eno, asking to compose music for the Windows 95 project. Mark Malamud and Erik Gavriluk commissioned Eno the “The Microsoft Sound”, that had to be 3 1⁄4 seconds long, and as they said, in an interview with Joel Selvin in the San Francisco Chronicle: “a piece of music that is inspiring, universal, blah-blah, da-da-da, optimistic, futuristic, sentimental, emotional”.
When comparing the Algorave to a more traditional culture of popular music, many are the elements that seem to be left out from the artistic production. No education of instrument play is required, as well as a previous knowledge of music composition. Still, this conceptual approach to music making embraces contemporary culture.
“Do you think that media-rich technology is the answer for music education, whether in a curricular sense or in self-directed, informal learning? Or do you think that technology is developing so fast that we should be more conservative in our uptake of it – and even then, what technology do you think is worth investing in, if any?
In 2017 an article published on the British journal “The Guardian” titles: ‘We could build something revolutionary’: how tech set underground music free.
A provocative reflection may then consider the cultural role played by Institutes such as theAfghanistan National Institute of Music in Kabul,as opposed to Computers Companies. Furthermore, the very same performances of both Afghanistan National Institute of Music and the Algorave Festival may be considered as two forms of social action, using the language of music to pursue freedom.
As Director of A.N.I.M., Ahmad Sarmas, says in his interview with Sydney University Dr. James Humberstone: “without cultural diversity, we shouldn’t say that all right, we’re building a civil society. What kind of civil society are we building if an Afghan child or an Afghan will be deprived of learning Western classical music or playing jazz or not being allowed to learn its own musical culture. Or not being allowed or unable to get engaged in cultural dialogue to any means that can be understandable to the wider community.”
What are the opportunities and perils of artist devoting their work intentionally to a humanitarian cause, for instance, or to addressing political oppression in the context of the wider education?
Hence, Francis Xavier, founder member of the Motorik record label, when interviewed by Dr Humberstone, said he didn’t get influenced by a guitar first, instead he was intrigued by the engineering side of the musical composition, being a reader of UK Magazine Music Technology. Francis was also influenced by “synthetic drums and synthetic machines, and just the creation of noises to make a pop song” underling how there is an EQ component, when learning music, and that the language must resonates with oneself, in order to be engaging and attract the student’s interest. He also pointed out how the role of a Dj is often misinterpreted, leading to the wrong assumption that the person qualifies only in changing songs for the audience.
And then again, as Lecturer of Sydney Conservatorium of Music and Western Sydney University andmusic educator Dr. Wendy Brooks quiet rightly pinpointed in her PhD study, there is a wrong age associated with the initial use of technologies, that is internationally agreed. So, how can we “free” music of whatever genre, if we are constrained by a wise use of media technology? Moreover, how may traditional studies for composition equally coexist with a conceptual improvisation within academic institutes?
In Francis Xavier’s opinion, “to disregard electronic music, to do that would be quite a sin, because it’s so, you could use a technology to be more immediate, and you want people to just grab hold of it straight away, and have interest. And I think that’s where music should head, I mean, I think teachers should be more open to the current use of technology to teach people in music.”
As long as music is performed and conduits the transmission of social values, I guess both “languages” can be presented as 2 faces, that complete each-other by tracing a solid fil-rouge between cultural heritage and innovation. And perhaps the notion that, the act of imagining a different reality is the precursor of positive social change.
Around 1930, the Great Depression period, a federal program for artists and the safeguarding of the arts was established in America. Contrary to the idea that the art sector was only playful and entertainment, jobs were created under the national direction of the Curator and art expert Holger Cahill and the presidency of Roosevelt, financially supporting writers, musicians, visual artists , directors etc. Funded by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the Federal Art Project, since 1933, was the first of 5 “New Deal” projects, which financed art workers for 11 years. The Milwaukee Handicraft Project, a major project, was started in 1935 and became famous for employing over 5000 unemployed people, many of whom were disabled, discriminated against due to old age or poor school education. In total it is estimated that the Federal Art Project has created over 200,000 jobs, subsidizing renowned artists such as Diego Rivera and Mark Rothko, as well as some of the most important public works of art today.
At times of Covid19 spread, I am experiencing a sad reality concerning the way the artistic sector is disregarded in Italy. Indeed, politicians opted for economic strategies, that do not support the Arts, nor take under consideration the worth, and impact on the Italian society and culture, of Museums, Galleries, Art Fairs, but mainly Musicians and their Industry. Being Music a conduit for personal development and social growth enhancing the collaboration within a communityas well as providing an experience of deep equality, I disagree with the current political position of my Country of origin, and I feel pretty speechless.
Maxine Greene defines the concept of regard as essential to the success of civil society: “A citizen is somebody who has regard for the integrity of other people and out of that regard, out of that feeling of kinship, a community or civil society may take shape. It’s never finished….[It] depends upon a regard for other people’s significance and potentiality.”Being culture a “fluid reality always in construction and evolution”, I wonder, have Italian politicians consider the impact of their present choices on the future?
Hence, I can totally rely on what President Kennedy’s speech in 1963: “If sometimes our great artists have been the most critical of our society, it is because their sensitivity and their concern for justice”. I therefore, believe that by refusing to help the artists, creating a state of poverty within that sector, Politicians avoids confronting with “unwanted” forms of criticism, a tactic that in a way reminds once again of Maxime Greene’s considerations, when she says in a keynote talk at the conference Imaging Art and Social Change: “The trouble with fundamentalism or all these things, they feel they have the answer which is so frightening. It’s like what tyranny is like, people burst in. It’s not just the idea of the Nazis. It’s the idea of any kind of authority that takes you over, prevents you from thinking for yourself.”
While all over the World people are marching against racism and social injustice, fighting the continuing disparities of opportunity, Nations need to be supported most than ever by those artists that can foster social imagination, informed by values of tolerance and a skill for engaging with difference.
When commenting on Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, M. Greene suggested that he was opening the way to imagination, providing the people with inspiration and a view.
As JFK said: “If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him”
Music can be a conduit for personal development and social growth enhancing the collaboration within a communityas well as providing an experience of deep equality. While learning music people can engage totally in the learning journey, simultaneously encountering active listening and total presence. This applies also when teaching the subject. In order for the experience to be fulfilling, it is crucial to engage the students’ attention for the whole length of the session. A balanced misture between enhanced technology into teaching and a more classic delivery, seems to me the most successful method. As ultimately, a teacher aims to create that kind of “flow” within which students can passionately enjoy their journey through education.
For example, at Liveschool, the world’s first music training center that uses exclusively, Ableton Live, the methodology in use foster the creation of news skills while providing student-centered learning experiences, that are designed around the student’s interests and expectations. The simple idea of beginning the lesson working on a song suggested by the student in that very moment, seems to me pretty extraordinary. At the same time, considering to embed in the course curriculum technologies that allow students to learn music from the perspective of a electronic musician and a DJ, it’s as simple as pretty revolutionary nowadays. A true breath of contemporaneity!
In conclusion, I totally agree with the Australian music educator and composer, Richard Gill, OAM, when he says that ultimately education is about getting to opportunity to expand the horizons of your knowledge, learning things one didn’t even know they existed, and developing skills.
A brief reflection on the integration of technologies in teaching & learning experiences.
Although the 21st century is largely shaped by the massive use of technologies in people’s daily life, the debate around their steady integration within the school curriculum continues to provoke countless considerations.
It’s my personal opinion, that the ramifications of new and developing technologies may assist the student’s experience through learning, providing an enjoyable continuum with their everyday life, yet working as an educational tool allowing more inclusive teaching deliveries, that people of all ages can easily engage with as well as enhancing, or even transforming, student learning. (ref. video:“Northern Beaches Christian School”)
The question is not whether academic institutes should or should not integrate technologies in their curricula, transforming a approaches to teaching/learning context, rather “when” it is appropriate to make use of new and developing technologies, and when it t is important to stick to a more “classic” model of pedagogy. (ref. video:“Music Class at Northern Beaches Christian School”)
The extent to which technology may be utilized can vary on a continuum from slight enhancement to complete transformation of the learning experience. (Music Learning Today: Digital pedagogy for creating, performing, and responding to music – Bauer, 2014)
Bauer presents in his book Music Learning Today: Digital Pedagogy for Creating, Performing, and Responding to Music a theoretical yet practical approach mainly designed for educators to utilizing technology in music learning, with the scope of broadening technological understanding to take advantage of its affordances to assist students in developing their skills.
Music educators need to be proficient and knowledgeable concerning technological changes and advancements and be prepared to use all appropriate tools in advancing music study while recognizing the importance of people coming together to make and share music. (Madsen, 2000, pp. 219-220)
The philosophical and theoretical rationales are grounded in best practice literature, that trace a coherent connection among music knowledge and skill outcomes, the research on human cognition and music learning, best practices in music pedagogy, and technology.
Brown extends the inquiry to the role played by mobile technologies, social networks, rich media environments, and other technological advances. In his book, Music Technology and Education: Amplifying Musicality, he discusses the social interaction practices, using the internet and other educational technologies.
In conclusion, I agree with Dewey’s philosophical reflections, subject matter never can be got into the child from without. Learning is active, it involves the reaching out of the mind. It involves organic assimilation starting from within. Literally, we must take our stand with the child and our departure from him. Moreover, I see (ref. video:“Kamaroi Rudolf Steiner’s School”) in the Rudolf Steiner’s theory and the Waldorf approach a sustainable pedagogy, that consider the individual as a whole, balancing the implications deriving from the massive contemporary use of technologies.
As Dewey states in his discussion of Art as Experience, “When an art product once attains classic status, it somehow becomes isolated from the human conditions under which it was brought into being and from the human consequences it engenders in actual life-experience.”
It seems that Dewey’s reflection would consider the “erosion” of time in regards to any art product as an agent that corrodes the subject, taking away any emotions, even the memory of it. If this is the case, I would argue that these conditions do not apply, when taking, for instance, about music. During my childhood, I was unable to speak English, although I nurtured a strong passion for the British band Pink Floyd. I spent hours listening to their songs, pervaded by the emotions triggered off by the sounds. Later on, in my twenties, I learnt the English language and by doing that I also gained the chance to understand the Pink Floyd’s lyrics. Funnily enough, I soon discovered how the words were needless somehow, as the music succeeded in sharing their meanings, to the point in which they became a sort of confirmation of the emotions I felt back then.
Dewey’s pointed out that the the aesthetic experience is the interaction of the human being with the environment, a relationship between participants. I would therefore consider the act of listening to the Pink Floyd’s music as a perfect example of aesthetic experience in which more than one person interacts, creating a unity that is essential for the consumption of intellectual, emotional, and somehow “physical” event.
Nowadays those songs are considered “classics” of the ‘70s, but no one would ever imagine describing them as “isolated from the human conditions under which – they – were brought into being”. On the contrary, the very human experience that suggested their composition has achieved a form of “universal status”, as many people can emotionally rely to their contents and feelings. Therefore, I would conclude that perhaps an art form becoming a classic, might look like a mosquito trapped in amber, in terms that it is indeed isolated from the creator’s feelings, but that is only a consequence of a “magnifying lens” that brings those emotions into a higher status of aesthetic and “universal life-experience”.
Waldorf education, also known as Steiner education, is based on the educational philosophy of Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Anthroposophy. Its pedagogy strives to develop pupils’ intellectual, artistic, and practical skills in an integrated and holistic manner. The Waldorf method of teaching is a unique educational strategy which aims to create well-rounded students through a broad curriculum, including academics, art and music education, physical education, and emotional and social education. There are no grades given in a Waldorf elementary school. The aim of Waldorf schooling is to educate the whole child, “head, heart and hands”. The curriculum is as broad as time will allow, and balances academics subjects with artistic and practical activities. The Steiner Education Approach developed a spiritual movement that he called anthroposophy, which is based on the idea that a child’s moral, spiritual and creative sides need as much attention as their intellect. As far as education goes, he strongly believed in the idea of developing the whole person.
At Kamaroi school, The arts are integrated into all learning in the Steiner philosophy and learning is fundamentally student-centered and experiential. One is reminded of the philosopher John Dewey’s thinking, also from the first half of the 20th century. As early as 1902, Dewey wrote, subject matter never can be got into the child from without. Learning is active, it involves the reaching out of the mind. It involves organic assimilation starting from within. Literally, we must take our stand with the child and our departure from him.
Kamaroi uses music in every lesson and has a totally different approach toward the use of technology.
The curriculum itself is a flexible set of pedagogical guidelines, founded on Steiner’s principles that take account of the whole child. It gives equal attention to the physical, emotional, intellectual, cultural and spiritual needs of each pupil and is designed to work in harmony with the different phases of the child’s development. The core subjects of the curriculum are taught in thematic blocks and all lessons include a balance of artistic, practical and intellectual content. Whole class, mixed ability teaching is the norm.
A modern reinterpretation of Steiner pedagogy really fitting into the 21st Century, focus in that the skills of the 21st Century are all about empathy, inventiveness, connection, storytelling. These are the skills that can’t be automated or outsourced easily. So, for children going into this unknown future, to possess those skills enable flexibility in options, and really the ability to contribute in a meaningful way to the future society.
Steiner education has proved itself adaptable. More than 80 years after the first Steiner school was started in central Europe, this education continues to inspire people from all walks of life and in all parts of the world. Steiner schools have a reputation for producing well-rounded and balanced human beings who are able to cope with the demands of a fast-changing and uncertain world. Steiner graduates are highly sought-after in further education and work place for their unjaded interest in the world and their resourcefulness.
The Benefits of Waldorf Education
Children enjoy an unhurried childhood. …
Learning is hands-on and age-appropriate. …
In-depth study enriches learning experiences. …
Students learn how to take an active role in their own education. …
Waldorf schools produce well-rounded individuals.
Rudolf Steiner (1861 – 1925) was an innovative academic born in Austria whose ideas founded the basis of Anthroposophy. He applied his ideas to education as well as agriculture, medicine, architecture and social reform. There are relevant analogies between the pedagogical approach of Friedrich Froebel, Maria Montessori, and Rudolf Steiner. These continue to influence the way in which contemporary pedagogy is shaped.
While both Montessori and Waldorf schools believe children need a connection to the environment, they are different in that Montessori focuses on real-life experiences and Waldorf emphasizes the child’s imagination and fantasy. Waldorf schools were founded by Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian scientist and philosopher. But the two philosophies interpret it in quite different ways: the Montessori classroom emphasizes reality, to free a child from his fantasies. The Steiner classroom enhances the child’s world of fantasy and imagination to stimulate the child’s play.
Principals of Steiner education…
Works for all children irrespective of academic ability, class, ethnicity or religion;
Takes account of the needs of the whole child – academic, physical, emotional and spiritual;
Is based on an understanding of the relevance of the different phases of child development;
Develops a love of learning and an enthusiasm for school;
Sees artistic activity and the development of the imagination as integral to learning;
Is tried and tested and is part of state funded, mainstream provision in most European countries;
Is respected worldwide for its ability to produce very able young people who have a strong sense of self and diverse capacities that enable them to become socially and economically responsible citizens.
Currently, the V&A plans to transform the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green in London into a world leading museum of design and creativity for children, families and young people.
Among the resources on Rudolf Steiner’s theory and the Waldorf method, I found particularly interesting the article dealing with the present implications of the Covid19 spread, written by Martyn Rawson. The article clearly shows how Steiner’s education can still be relevant in the 21th Century.
Beginning with an analysis of the meaning of learning, that the writer describes as a process in which both the physical body and the spiritual one are engaged in the process of establishing relationship to self, others, and the world, Rawson considers the implication of a learning journey from the Waldorf perspective. Major points underline the emotional aspects of the student’s wellbeing when attending and participating in a lesson, those also involve a fruitful collaboration among the group of peers. At times of Covid19 the daily routine is forced to be adapted to online tuitions, where empathy and a sense of unity can be strongly affected. Therefore, the Waldorf method suggests a rhythmic approach, that involves a multitude of online activities between student and teacher, as well as between the classroom of alumni. Physical exercise is recommended together with artistic activities such as singing, reciting a poem, and so on. The timetable follows a daily schedule. Teachers should structure the lesson in a flexible way, giving the student a chance to align with the learning offer, following both an authentic interest in the subject, and a good level of physical energy. Clear information on marking criteria, guidelines, a list of useful and not expensive materials, should be provided.
Rawson concludes: “Obviously online learning and homeschooling are missing key elements such as learning from someone – the teachers, learning through being in a learning group, rich direct experience and being attuned to learning. Nevertheless, it will support the learning under these special conditions if teachers remember the basic principles of Waldorf learning.”