Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Friday March 02 2007

Incoming email from Mike:

As a daily reader of your blog, I am constantly delighted by all of the new things I learn from your postings on music, composers and the like.  I was wondering, would you happen to have a recommendation on a general or specific approach to teaching an understanding of classical music?  My wife and I homeschool my son and I am looking for a way to instill not only music appreciation but also an understanding of musical structures, styles, etc.  While my son is progressing well in his piano lessons and loves classical music (listens to it frequently, and every night on headphones when going to bed), I don’t feel like we’re helping him to understand the music as much - although he clearly enjoys it.  In any case, if you have the time, I would love your thoughts on the matter.

I have two things to say about this.

First, by the sound of it, it ain’t bust and don’t try to fix it.  He enjoys it!  Great!  What’s the problem?

Second, does he want to “understand” this music, as opposed to just enjoy it?  What would that mean?  It would presumably mean that he fancied the idea of becoming some kind of musical creator.  If he fancies composing or creating music, then encourage him in that also.  He will learn a thousand times more about “structure” in music by building it than he ever will by merely pondering it in the work of others.

I would add that if he has any plans to be a classical musician himself (if), then now that the great recording job is done, creating new music and recording it as part of the creative process is now where classical music needs to be at.  In other words, classical music is becoming more like regular music, which is of course exactly what it was before electronics started yanking music all over the place, classical in one direction (recording the back catalog) and pop music in a quite different direction (recording new stuff).  Now, the core classical music skill is not singing, or playing any particular instrument, but recording and editing, and then distributing it on the internet.  Those are the things that almost all aspiring musicians should now be learning about and doing.  At the very least, all young musicians should have friends who are into such things.

But that is probably getting way ahead.  Mostly I just think, wow, if my biggest worry as a parent is that he likes classical music but maybe doesn’t understand it quite as much as he might, then I really don’t have a problem!  A problem is something like if he tries to stab you, or if he vomits every evening after dinner, or hasn’t said anything for a week, or bangs his head on his bedroom wall for hours on end.

Mike goes on to say nice things about the idea of cranking up my education blog again (see previous posting).  Thanks.

By the way, talking of classical music, I did a posting yesterday on Samizdata about this amazing video of the amazing Grigory Sokolov playing the amazing last movement of Prokofiev’s Seventh Piano Sonata.  I have loved this piece ever since buying an LP of Ashkenazy playing it.