Thursday, September 6, 2012

Internalizing is Learning

"You make the child cry; that's how you know he is learning."  That is how a colleague described a well-established and quite popular music teaching tradition. 

If perception rather than blind obedience is the key, however, the response, complex though it may be, is not tears.  Ironically, when perception is central to music learning, the teacher must also be learning to pay attention in order to figure out what the child hears.  From this mutual effort emerges a notion of music as a medium in constant creation, and of every piece of music as an event newly experienced every time it is played.

Such teaching requires effort for which we are little prepared in our own training, in which the sensation of mastery is cultivated rather than the sense of open-minded curiosity.

I was stunned to realize earlier this season that neither I nor several of my colleagues had ever read Bach's preface to the Inventions written for his 13-year-old son.  Bach indicates that the purpose of these pieces is to learn to play in a singing manner.  Hmmm.