Monday, August 5, 2013

Reflections on First Losses

I started piano lessons at seven with a teacher whom I adored, not because she was attractive or appealing (she had a voice like a toad, probably from having sung too much without vocal training--she was also a choir director) but because she was a superb musician.  Her hands were supple, free, and every sound she made on the piano or the organ was glorious.

To study with someone of such quality promised entry into heaven.

At the time, however, children were taught by the book, unfortunately written by John Thompson.  The prevailing approach was -- and still is, for the most part -- to tell children how music works rather than to affirm that music works.  What is the difference?

How it works meant teaching musical logic as applied to phrases, to climaxes, to resolutions.  (This how pretty much described how music theory was taught at my college.)

Surely it would make more sense to encourage the child to notice the many instances when the phrase does not conform to expectations--in other words, to notice that there is no simple code that all music obeys.

Then we would have not loss but endless delight in a spirit of discovery.