Friday, December 7, 2012

Whose Ear Do We Aim to Please?

First of all, the question is idiotic.  We cannot possibly succeed in satisfying someone else's ear.  Don't even try.

Yet this is the basis of all master-oriented pedagogy.  We are led to believe that the previous generation of greats had it from the horse's mouth and that we, poor dears (especially us non-Europeans), couldn't possibly measure up, so hold your tongue and imitate, imitate, imitate.  (Tom Lehrer had a great song about this false learning model vis a vis mathematics; his punchline was "plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize.")

I recently heard a student dutifully trying to imitate an authoritarian teacher.  Not only was the playing unattractive, it bore no resemblance to the student's natural musicality, which is genuine and charming.  The student complained of memory trouble.  Small wonder.

Why does anyone buy into a system that demands such a putdown of the self?  Is it because of a foreign accent?