Posts Tagged ‘pedagogy’

Photo CC by Takuya Goro on Flickr

The challenges of learning composition in academia

I’ve always said that I learned despite my education and not because of it, and after my master’s degree I decided to put my money where my mouth was and not pursue a PhD—much to my relief, the commissions and composing continued anyway. A few months ago I read a great article in Slate by William Pannapacker that really struck home for me. The basic premise was not that new: universities are making themselves irrelevant in the humanities, arts, and sciences. What was refreshing, however, was that this wasn’t an anti-intellectual rant, it was just an honest examination of what higher education as an institution is trying to do and how it thinks it should fit into society. So what if your goal is to be the best composer possible and to have your music heard by other people who are interested in similar types of music? Should you get a degree in composition? (more…)

Photo CC by Nina Matthews on Flickr

Recently I discovered the amazingly addictive new website Quora, where people ask questions on certain themes. After a basic setup, I was instantly directed to a very intriguing question for me: Why do people study music theory? I argued that music theory helped performers make more informed interpretations. I also argued that composers were generally hindered by music theory, because it’s a retrospective discipline and composing is inherently forward-looking. Lots of people disagreed with me of course… Still, I’m going to advance the idea that if we want to create better composers (though I’m not sure we really do—the competition is already pretty fierce), we need to reduce the emphasis on music theory, increase the emphasis on general analysis skills and critical thinking, and make music history the cornerstone of musical education. (more…)