The Thing About Learning

Version 2I am by nature a very thoughtful person. People who know me well frequently accuse me of overthinking many things, and I have to admit that they are right–I do overthink often. As someone almost constantly in conscious thought about something, there are many thought that come and go, forgotten as quickly as they arrived, but others get my attention. Why are some noticed and others not? Because the ones that get noticed connect to something else I have been doing or thinking, and so are of particular interest to me at the time. The thoughts that remain are those that pertain to what I am at that moment most interested in, what I am presently doing or wanting to do.

There is an important lesson in all of this to teaching and learning, and it is this: in order for learning to succeed, it must be helpful in acquiring something the learner wants. We educators often concern ourselves with goals and objectives, both for our students and ourselves; and well we should. But goals and objectives that are only imposed on a learner, and around which a learner cannot contextualize with relevance are likely to meet with resistance, and be at best of limited use in bringing about the learning we desire. That is why connecting objectives for creating, performing and responding to music is so important, and why it should be done early in any teaching sequence, before the students become mired in trying to achieve objectives that have little or no meaning to them personally. Let’s look at how connecting works in a standards based music classroom.

First, we begin with an enduring understanding. “Musicians connect their personal interests, experiences, ideas, and knowledge to creating, performing, and responding.” When we present concepts, ideas, knowledge, and repertoire to our students, one of the first things they ask themselves if it all seems quite new and unfamiliar to them is, “what does this have to do with what I’m interested in?” “What in my experience with music does this sound like? What associations to familiar things does this music or idea or concept bring to mind? What is something I am familiar with that compares to this?” If the students comes up empty on each or even most of these questions, he or she is unlikely to have any desire to proceed with your lesson or instructional unit. You are about to abandon them to an intellectual deserted island, and that’s not a place where anyone (probably you included) want to be. So before “teaching to the objective” can begin, context needs to be established. Familiar signposts need to be pointed out, and the teacher must give a method of exploring something new in the context of something familiar.

Doing so will motivate learners and deepen understandings. Remember, understanding is not obtaining the ability to recall knowledge or repeat a task, it is the ability to apply previous learning to new situations. Application is only possible when connections are clear. A second enduring understanding states this clearly. “Understanding connections to varied contexts and daily life enhances musicians’ creating, performing, and responding.” Notice what we are trying to help our students connect; we want them to connect varied contexts, the variable, with daily life, the constant. Each new context must connect back to the same personal life of each individual student. Not all students will make the same connections, and not all connections will be equally strong for all students. In fact, one student’s strongest connection, may only be a hint at how to form a different connection to another student, but in an environment of shared learning, students’ connection to varied contexts become woven together, as one connection bolsters up or clarifies another.

I recently played the main theme from the film Indiana Jones to which 2nd grade students tapped a steady beat.  When the music stopped, one child pointed out that the music sounded like Star Wars. He had never seen Indiana Jones, but he recognized something in that music that sounded like music in a movie he had seen, namely Star Wars.  This was, of course, a brilliant connection, because both film scores were written by the same composer, John Williams. With the confidence of having made that connection, that child was now eager to find out what made the two themes sound similar, and a mini-lesson on melodic structure, specifically of dotted rhythms and large melodic intervals, was possible. Imagine the different result if I had begun by teaching

Aaron-Copland

Aaron Copland

melodic structure using the unfamiliar movie theme. The context would have been all wrong, and the results would have been disappointing. By the way, John Williams’ film scores (familiar from daily life) are an excellent connector to music by Aaron Copland (a varied context) whose use of perfect fifths has been called “The American Sound” in so far as American symphonic music is concerned.

The connections students make will inform the choices they make when they create, perform, and respond to music. Students who grow up listening to jazz will demonstrate this knowledge, interest, and experience in the rhythms, melodies and harmonies that show up in their musical creations, and in the “flavor” of their interpretation of musical works composed by others. It will also influence to what their ear is drawn when they are listening to music. That jazz-oriented students will likely hear the arpeggiated trombones at the end of Dvorak’s Symphony “from the New World” as a boogie-woogie riff, whereas someone not familiar with jazz will just hear the same passage as part of the exciting buildup at the end of that symphony (which is probably all it was intended to be).

I began this article talking about goals and objectives, and then have been discussing contexts and connections ever since. I would like to conclude by returning to goals and objectives, but now within a better context in which to understand them. There are at least two kinds of goals we should use with our students; these are academic goals and character goals. The specifics of each kind will need to wait for another post, but for our purposes here, I will use an academic goal for an example. There is something compelling about the Rondo known as “Fur Elise” by Beethoven. Middle school students seem to almost universally be drawn to it and many of them will work very hard to be able to at least play the first theme on the piano. It seems it has become a sort of rite of passage to learn this theme, and so it is passed on from student to student as they teach it to each other, or come to me to teach to them in small groups. Clearly, this bit of Beethoven is part of their daily lives and as such can be connected with various contexts which may include dedications (Fur Elise means for Elise, indicating that the piece was dedicated to someone named Elise, though exactly who is unclear). Fur Elise could then be part of a unit that included other works, perhaps in varied genres, that were also known to be dedicated to individuals. Such a unit would establish one of the purposes for which music is sometimes written. The student may begin with a straight forward performance objective. “I want to be able to play the first theme from ‘Fur Elise’ by Beethoven.”  Doing so may involve reading music, especially if the music teacher is teaching the student to play the theme. If so, another objective might be, “I want to improve my music reading so that I can play the first 32 measures of ‘Moonlight’ sonata by Beethoven in time for my sister’s birthday in November.” Notice now the objective has a something in which the student will demonstrate growth (improve my music reading,” something the student will be able to do as a result of instruction and which will demonstrate the desired growth (play the first 32 measures of “Moonlight Sonata” and a time in which the objective will be completed (“in time for my sister’s birthday in November”). This instruction will be packed with relevance and connections for this student, and so is an excellent example of writing an objective around connections.

Artful Learning

Version 2In this, the centennial anniversary of Leonard Bernstein’s birth, all sorts of things that this American musical icon did are being brought out into the public consciousness. Of course, most know of Bernstein’s work as a conductor, composer and teacher, what with his numerous recordings, lectures, young peoples concerts and musical compositions. Of all that he accomplished, he once said that he was most proud of those young peoples concerts. He was so devoted to teaching, that he developed what he hoped would become a school reform method called Artful Learning. This is a method I have just begun to look at, but it intrigues me enough to want to share with you, and to begin using at least its principles to benefit my students.

Bernstein often referred to “universality” in reference to music. He believed that the expressiveness and enjoyment of music was universal, but he also understood that teaching was necessary in order to enable people to fully enjoy and fully appreciate the music he so loved to conduct, talk about, and perform on the piano. Out of this belief system came Artful Learning. In a nutshell, the method is to begin with a concept; not a musical concept but a universal one (there’s that word again). For example, let’s take the concept of enculturation–the familiarizing of a population of people with cultural norms–theirs or another. Let’s propose an essential question regarding our concept of enculturation. How does enculturation make life more meaningful? That question will guide our entire instructional unit.

Now that we have a concept and an essential question, we need a masterwork that is relevant to them both and that will serve as the basis for student inquiry. Let’s select “The One And Only Cereal” from A Quiet Place by Leonard Bernstein. The masterwork doesn’t have to be a Bernstein work, nor does it have to be a musical work, but in our example we will use music. The students, with the essential question in mind, listen to the masterwork, and then respond to it. In this masterwork, there are at least three cultures represented–jazz with its prominently African American roots, Western European 19th century art music, with its prominently Anglo and European roots,  and serial music, with its prominently academic roots. Most listeners will not only hear the different cultures represented, but will be confused by some while easily taking in others. This is because listeners will have been enculturated in one or two but not in the others. The students can experience the differences in listening to music that makes sense compared to music that does not make sense due to either being enculturated into that musical culture or not. The students experience the masterwork in a multi sensory way, through not only listening to the music, but moving (or trying to move) to the music,  through drawing, interacting physically with objects, like tossing a scarf gracefully or wringing a towel aggressively, through making facial expressions to any number of other visual, auditory, or kinesthetic responses they or the teacher might propose. All of this is the first phase in the Artful Learning Sequence, and that stage is called Experience.

Throughout the experience stage, the students will collect observations and questions from their experience of the masterwork. These observations and questions will be the basis for the next phase, which is inquire. The essential question focuses the students inquiry. Students research the essential question in light of their experience of the masterwork,  and engage in hands-on learning tasks to test, probe, demonstrate and explain the concept, which you will recall presently is enculturation. Students research the concept not only from a musical standpoint, but also using the interdisciplinary content to investigate the subject matter even more deeply. This is key to the method. It is designed to be interdisciplinary. One of Bernstein’s favorite mantras was that  “the best way to know a thing is in the context of another discipline.” What was it like to arrive in aBernstein_Harvard new country with no experience with that country’s culture, practices, language, or just general way of doing things? Students can then connect being a new immigrant in unfamiliar surroundings with being a new music listener experiencing unfamiliar musical surroundings. It takes time to learn your way around. What are some things a person new to our country would want to know right away to feel more comfortable and at home? What are some things you’d like to know to make you feel more comfortable with serial music, or jazz, or classical music? What musical idiom are you most familiar with and how would you help someone who had never heard your music before come to understand it and enjoy it? You see how the inquiry builds momentum as it goes along?

The third phase is create. Students use their learning and creative ideas to create an original work that manifests their understanding of the concept, which in our example is enculturation. This could be a play, ballet, song, poem, or whatever students and teacher can come up with. Students consider several possible mediums for their project to determine  how best to represent the academic content from their unit of study in an original artistic work. They first construct a rough draft of the work,  then continue to evaluate and revise their it until they determine that it is ready for presentation.

Once the original artistic work is ready for presentation, students are ready for the fourth and final phase, reflect. Students consider the process they have worked through metacognitively, asking themselves how they learned, and cognitively, asking themselves what they learned. They document these reflections with detailed narratives. Students discover connections consider practical applications of their new knowledge. All of this strengthens students as more self-directed as learners.

Much of what I have described here is not new to many music educators. We routinely teach about repertoire, creating cultural and purpose contexts for the musical works we teach, and we often bring ideas and concepts from other disciplines into our music lessons. Social studies (historical context), science (the science of sound), math (ratios of sound durations and beat groups) and Language Arts (dramatic form) all have been integrated into our music teaching for quite some time. What makes this method different is that it places artistic works front and center. It showcases not only the artistic excellence with which they were born, but of the universality of harmony, emotions, collaboration (of sounds in music and of performers in presenting it). It also makes the arts desirable and accessible to teacher other than of the arts; in fact, Artful Learning is intended to be a school-wide practice wherein teachers of all subjects use the arts to teach their discipline in this arts-centered interdisciplinary approach. I will be using this method initially to teach a unit on Latin American Music this coming school year. I will be writing periodically on my progress.

What Is Creativity and How Do Music Educators Develop It?

Version 2When asked to advocate for music education, one of the frequently given pieces of evidence is that music education develops creativity or creative thinking. While this sounds reasonable, at times it can be difficult to find much creative activity in the things that students are asked to do in both general music and music performance classes. In order to know what classroom activities really teach students to be creative, we first need to define what creativity and creative thought is. Merriam-Webster defines creativity as the ability to create, and creating as bringing into existence, or to produce through imaginative skill. In essence, a creative person engaged in musical activity causes new artistic work to be made and work that is set apart from other work in the same genre or style by original, fresh, new elements not known to or utilized by others who have also caused new artistic work to be made.

At the root of creating a musical work then, is the imagining of musical ideas that can be the materials with which music is constituted, and which can be shaped, transformed, and otherwise formed and expanded so that they come together with artistic integrity, forming a work which effectively realizes the creator’s intent. So at the very least, music education which claims to be developing creativity needs to be training students in imagining musical ideas, and in selecting from many generated ideas those that are most preferred, and then organizing them into an original form that is to some degree both unique and personal that sole creator of music.

For those of us who are products of music conservatories wherein our musical prowess was demonstrated almost exclusively through playing or singing scales, arpeggios, etudes and classical solo repertoire all written by others, this territory into which I have just ventured of creating rather than recreating music may well feel intimidating. Nevertheless, I fully believe that we can make no legitimate claim to developing creativity or creative thinkers in music if we are not engaging our students in musical thinking and creating. So let me know offer some suggestions on how we might proceed in doing this. It will, to be sure take some of us out of our comfort zones, but that is fair, because having not asked our students to do this sort of thing much or at all before, we will be asking them to go out of their comfort zone, so why not us too.

When it comes to generating musical ideas, I first run to jazz. Here I find ample opportunities for myself and my students to generate improvised musical ideas without feeling inhibited by judgment. It starts out simply, using Gordon tonal and rhythm pattern as a basis. First, students echo tonal and rhythm patterns so that they establish familiarity with them. These become the basis for the “riffs” they will improvise at a later stage in the process. For now, it is simply a matter of “repeat after me.” All of the patterns are the same number of beats, and I keep them all in common time. This is important because improvisors need to be comfortable with generating ideas of uniform length so that they fit into harmonic rhythms or “trading” formats. I start this activity with my 4-year-old Pre-kindergarten students, and continue it on through upper elementary.

After students have gained proficiency singing and chanting patterns by rote, the rules of the activity can be changed. Now, I sing those same patterns again, but students must sing a pattern that is different from the one I sang. The students can sing any of the other patterns they have learned (selecting) or can make up one of their own (generating). Students can repeat a pattern they heard another student sing or chant, as long as it is different from the one I sang or chanted.

For the 4-year-olds, that is as far as I go, but with the older students, I next introduce them to “trading fours” as jazz musicians do. This involves improvising a four-measure melody in common time, and then waiting for a partner to improvise a different four-measure melody that is a logical continuance of the first one. Students can do this art-of-teachingactivity with singing voices, or with pitched (for melody) or non-pitched (for rhythm only) musical instruments. By this stage, the older students are really enjoying this, because they are creating something their own, and they are playing their own creation on instruments, which is something they naturally enjoy. It is great hearing my music room full of student’s original musical ideas flying back and forth. Students are “thinking in music” much like a world language student thinks in the language he or she is learning. Most importantly, students are actively engaged in being creative.

Co posing or improvising original work is not the only creative musical activity. Arranging the musical work of others also brings into play a good deal of creativity. It is worthwhile asking questions like, “If Beyonce had written this music instead of Ravel, what do you think it would have sounded like?” or, “this music was written for a piano solo, but all we know how to play are xylophones. How could we re-arrange the left and right hand parts so that we could play it on xylophones?” This develops a different kind of creativity; not the kind that brings something into existence that wasn’t there before, but the kind that takes something that already exists, and introducing new approaches, perspectives and ideas into it. This is the kind of creative thinking that employers value, and, knowing that musicians do these things, why they will seek out musicians to fill non-musical positions.

When students are engaged in creative activities, they are doing something that requires them to imagine. They must form some kind of image in their minds of something that does not yet exist, but which they have within their ability to bring into existence.  Rote learning fills the memory with the raw materials that will be utilized in the act of creating, but it is not in itself a creative task; therefore, copying a director’s interpretation, or improvising only pentatonic melodies is of limited creative value because a requirement to bring into existence or to imagine a new form is not needed to copy. I have found truly creative classroom activities to be artistically rewarding, even while they are also challenging. The lifelong enjoyment of music is so much more than pure consumerism. It needs to engage the imagination in creative activity, and this is what we must train our music students up to do.

Toccata Blocks: A Tool To Help Teach Rhythm

Version 2No matter what method you use to teach music, be it Kodaly, Orff, or any other, when it comes to music reading there are certain aspects of our music notational system that are counter-intuitive and confusing to students who are just beginning. One of those difficulties is often the irrelevance of how the notes are spaced on the page. Students naturally assume that notes that are closer together go faster, and notes that are spaced further apart go slower. They will even carry this into the same note value. For example, they will think that quarter notes spaced closely together go faster than quarter notes spaced further apart. The concept of how the note head, stem, and/or beam are drawn can become overlooked, leading the student to make frequent rhythmic errors.

It is always good pedagogy to start from where students are and work from there to where you want them to arrive. Rather than dismiss using spacial perception as wrong, why not take advantage of children’s intuitive ability to perceive spacing in teaching them to read note durations accurately? Catherine Schane-Lydon has invented Toccata Blocks that do just that.

toccata blocks

The basic set includes blocks with time signatures and notes on blocks that fit onto a provided easel. The easel is exactly the width of the blocks for a time signature and the correct number of beats of notes. A whole note block is the width of four quarter note blocks or four paired eighth note blocks. Single eighth note blocks are half the width of quarter note blocks and so forth. There are easels for simple and compound time signatures. Once an easel and time signature are chosen, the child builds a measure of rhythm by placing blocks on the easel. If the easel is less than filled, the child knows more notes are needed. If the easel is over filled, with a block hanging over the end, the child knows there are too many beats. This design makes building rhythms self-correcting because the child knows when he or she has done it right because the blocks will exactly fit across the easel.

I gave a set to students in middle school, and students in 2nd grade. An 8th grader said, “it [toccata blocks] helped me learn how the notes go together.” A 2nd grader remarked, “making rhythms is fun with these blocks. I got it wrong at first, but now it fits.”

I also used my set of Toccata Blocks to do a full class demonstration. I began a rhythm and then called on student to finish the measure. After each addition of a block, I asked the class if the measure was finished. “Do the blocks fit perfectly?” The children would look and respond, then give me suggestions on what block I should put in next. If the next block hung over the end, they were quick to reject that choice and make another of a shorter note duration. Almost every student I gave these blocks to to use immediately understood how they worked, and were able to correctly create a measure of rhythms.

Of course, I want students to write rhythms on conventional music paper, so it was important for me to make sure they took note of what notes they were using, and didn’t just fill up the easel randomly. So I had them tell me with each block they added how many beats that block added, how many beats they had, and how many more they needed. It was helpful to them to learn the note durations, and it delighted our school math coach!

Once they wrote original rhythms on paper, they could go back to the Toccata Blocks to check their work. They would exactly place what they had written on the easel, and see if it properly filled the easel or not. If not, they could not make corrections with the Toccata Blocks, they had to make corrections on their paper, and then return to the Toccata Blocks to again check their work.

With the length of the blocks proportional to the duration of the note, it is also possible to use the blocks as prompts for creative movement. The whole note block is long, and so a long, extended movement is called for. The quarter note blocks are short, so they call for smaller movements. Turning this into a movement game, children draw blocks like playing cards, then begin walking around the room. If a whole note is drawn, one giant step that takes four beats is taken. If a quarter note is drawn, then four smaller steps that traverse the same distance as the child who took the giant step is taken. Using them in this way helps students deepen their understanding of why the blocks are different lengths, and how the various note durations relate to each other.

Students worked well in small groups finding blocks to add to a group composed rhythm. I have learning centers set up in my classroom, and the Toccata Blocks make a good basis for such a center. With my older students, students who have composed a rhythm on the Toccata Blocks can then take it to students working on the keyboard to add pitches to the rhythm, making a short, one-measure melody. This rhythm then can become the basis for extending a melody.

The blocks are made of durable hard plastic. I anticipate that they will stand up well to classroom use. There is also a CD included with rhythms for students to build with the Toccata Blocks, taking dictation from the CD. The basic set includes quarter and eighth note durations in simple and compound time signatures. Supplemental sets add sixteenth notes to the basic set. Each block has a note on one side and the equivalent rest on the reverse side, so students can learn both notes and rests together. Toccata blocks are suitable for students in second grade and older, though one must be aware that many of the blocks could be a choking hazard for children prone to put such things in their mouth. I have had encouraging success with Toccata Blocks. They are certainly worth looking into. For more information, go to toccatablocks.com.

 

Conversational Solfege and the National Core Arts Standards

Version 2Conversational solfege is a curriculum for teaching music literacy developed by Dr. John Feierabend. It is a literature based curriculum that is grounded in Music Learning Theory and the Kodaly philosophy for music education. It is not a method that one uses to the exclusion of all others, but rather an effective way of teaching tuneful singers to read, write, and create music.

Given that Conversational Solfege (CS) was developed during a time when music educators were using the original NAfME (MENC) content standards and before the introduction of the National Core Arts Standards (NCAS), it is natural to ask if CS is conformed to the NCAS. Here, I will discuss the performing and creating artistic processes included in the NCAS, and how well CS articulates the NCAS for each of those processes.

Music teachers should begin Conversational Solfege only when students are able to sing in tune by themselves. For most children, this occurs at at or close to 7 years of age, second grade in school; so we must begin by limiting our discussion to the NCAS for second grade and above. For performance, according to the NCAS, second graders when analyzing music will “demonstrate knowledge of music concepts (such as tonality and meter) in music from a variety of cultures selected for performance.” They will also “read and perform rhythmic and melodic patterns using iconic or standard notation” when “analyzing selected music.” The term “demonstrate” is to “show musical understanding through observable behavior such as moving, chanting, singing, or playing instruments.”  When interpreting, second graders will “demonstrate understanding of expressive qualities (such as dynamics  and tempo) and how creators use them to convey expressive intent.” Expressive intent is “the emotions, thoughts, and ideas that a performer or composer seeks to convey by manipulating the elements of music>” Finally, after repeating repertoire during the coarse of instruction and rehearsal, the second student grade student will “perform music for a specific purpose with expression and technical accuracy.”

It is interesting that the only mention of reading music notation in the NCAS is for the purpose of analyzing. Nowhere in the standards is reading music included in ochetanconnection with actually performing or rehearsing music. This would seem to be a major omission in the standards, and would position Conversational Solfege to go beyond the standards in developing literacy as part of musicianship. At the same time, because CS is essentially an application of the Kodaly philosophy for music education, singing remains the primary means by which students learn to read and compose music. Being able to sing tunefully, beatfully, and artfully, which is the goal of Dr. Fierabend’s First Steps in Music, the preparatory curriculum for CS,  is necessary in order to be able to demonstrate understanding as it is defined in the NCAS. So in that sense, we could say that CS makes assessment of performing under the NCAS possible.

The other piece to music literacy in addition to reading is writing. For this, we must consider the NCAS for creating. Here we find many parts of CS, and of First Steps in Music. To begin, we find in the NCAS that second grade students shall “Improvise rhythmic and melodic patterns and musical ideas for a specific purpose.” In CS, “students begin developing improvisation skills which will enable them to later compose. Creating aurally “develops the ability to think and bring musical meaning to original musical thoughts.  Students create original rhythm or tonal patterns or melodies using rhythm or tonal syllables.” Take particular note of this next statement.  “Reading notation should not be introduced until students have achieved success at this.” This is often expressed in the phrase “sound before sight” yet it is so often violated in the common ways in which music is taught.

Later in the NCAS for creating, we find that a second grade student will “convey expressive intent for a specific purpose by presenting a final version of personal musical ideas to peers or informal audience.” Here we come to the area of interpreting music; what Feierabend refers to as “artful” singing. Dr. Feierabend wrote that “one of the mysteries of notation is that the subtleties of expression cannot adequately be represented in notation.  It is the inherent expressiveness, however, that is the art part of music. What appears in notation is merely the skeleton of the music.  The interpreter of the notation must breath life into the skeleton.  This expressive sensitivity development must be assimilated from good musical models and from quality literature that embodies expressiveness.”  So just as reading and writing must be preceded with aural experiences with musical ideas, so to the ability to interpret music expressively must be preceded with models of good musical expression found in performances by great musicians. In responding to such performances, students learn what musical expression is, and what can be expressed with music. They then assimilate those experiences with hearing the models into musical expressiveness of their own. Once again, CS provides the means for teaching students how to accomplish what is called for in the NCAS.

This impacts responding as well. The NCAS includes a standard concerning interpretation. Second grade students will “demonstrate knowledge of music concepts and how they support creators’/performers’ expressive intent.” We have seen that demonstrating understanding is done through moving, chanting, singing, or playing a musical instrument. This is in fact how we would present models of artful musical performance. By responding to expressive music with movement, or by imitating artfully performed musical phrases or ideas, students acquire the knowledge of music concepts, and how those concepts are manipulated by performers and composers, to create an interpretation that is expressive. Just as music can be read and heard through inner hearing, music can also be interpreted through inner hearing using notated music. Dr. Thomas Duffy, Director of Bands at Yale University, stated that, and I paraphrase, when sight reading, everything must be included, not just pitches and rhythms. All expressive markings must be included. The musically literate person can silently read a musical score with all the expressiveness that is notated and with the additional expressive nuances that are suggested by the musical context but which are not explicitly notated or able to be notated by the composer.

For the artistic process of connecting, we find in the NCAS that second grade students will “demonstrate understanding of relationships between music and the other arts, other disciplines, varied contexts, and daily life.” The literate students, trained in Conversational Solfege, is able to experience and understand music in written form as the conveyance in that form of ideas preserved in music for their benefit, in the same way that a poem, novel, play, short story, or piece of non-fiction is a written record of ideas preserved in language. Music literacy and therefore Conversational Solfege makes possible connecting music with language arts. Music literacy also builds connections to visual art, as concepts common to both are interpreted from examples of both. And of course, the very interpretation of music brings into play dance, storytelling, and drama; interpretations that often are only possible from written music, and that require musically literate interpreters. Taking all of this into account, it becomes clear that Conversational Solfege is both the development and at the very core of the National Core Arts Standards.

Making Lessons Interesting and Important

Version 2Any classroom will run more smoothly and be a place of effective learning when the lessons taught are both interesting and important to students. Lessons that are interesting to students are about things that students can use, want to use, and to which they can make connections with their personal lives, their other classes, their families, and/or their culture. While music often has a higher interest level for many students than other subjects, not all music is of equal interest. At times, one student or another will spontaneously break out into song. While this could be a good thing, when it comes at my mid-sentence to the class, it interrupts what I am doing. When asked to stop, the student typically will respond, “but it’s music, and this is music class.” This little vignette illustrates interest. The student is interested in the music he or she is singing, not necessarily the music that I am teaching at that moment. On the other hand, if I plan a response to listening, or creating, and base it on rap music, (I teach in an urban school district, and rap is by far the genre of choice among my students) their interest is high, and they are much more engaged and productive.

Music that interests students is also likely the most familiar to them. Many of my students can play the intricate hip-hop rhythms, sometimes better than I can, and they never tire of playing along with their favorite artist recordings or in some cases writing their own lyrics or free-styling. I am using rap as an example. Genres of interest will vary with different students, different school districts, and different cultures. The point is that this music of interest is something the students have largely taught themselves to be fluent in, and they are ready to make music together with their classmates in music class. This opens up many possibilities for authentic musical experiences in my classroom. With students already proficient and familiar with music making in a genre, I am free to have them create and perform in various forms, with various expressive intents, and with a variety of instruments including technology. Their interests form the basis for teaching and learning musical concepts, using the skills they already have. Of course, I can also improve their technique, showing them, for example, how to hold drumsticks, how to take their beatboxing or body percussion onto a drum kit, and how to add instrumental backgrounds such as synth pads, to their created musical works.

From their current musical interests, I also have the opportunity to develop new interests, not by forcing other kinds of music on them like convincing them to like it was some kind of crusade, but by making connections between what already interests them and other styles of music. For example, here are two tracks that combine elements of jazz and hip-hop, giving me the opportunity to teach both, or to bridge from hip-hop to jazz, always retaining just enough hip-hop to keep my students’ attention.

 

That’s music that interests students. Now what about music that is important to students? Interest and importance are certainly related, but they are not the same. Things that are interesting are connected to one’s personal life, and the lives of others directly involved in a person’s life. Interesting things include what self, friends, family, and those with which we come in frequent or daily contact. Important things go beyond our immediate sphere of influence (and of being influenced). Important things affect people on a larger or even universal scale. Patriotic songs, or recordings to raise money for the needy such as the “We Are The World” projects are examples of important things. These songs are only important to students if the universal context, purpose, or intent is also important to students. For example, Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul and Mary fame once wrote as one, “With Your Face To The Wind” to honor a young woman fighting cancer. To me, this was an important song because of its purpose, and I found the passionate live recording of the trio’s performance moving. I shared the recording with some students who were apt to be outspoken on many issues, and was surprised to find they attached very little importance to this young woman’s struggle or the encouragement the musicians were trying to offer. Her battle was not their cause, so they didn’t see the song as important.

I think music teachers run into this problem often when teaching classical music. We consider the so called masterworks of the great composers important from a historical and cultural perspective. These are great works of music and should be known by all Westerners just as surely as should Shakespeare or any other author one would care to name. But these creators of artistic works aren’t important to many students. They have grown up in an environment where everything including artistic works are much more disposable than a Beethoven symphony or a Bach fugue. Classic rock is old enough for them, and then only if the message of those old songs connects with their contemporary experience. The answer to the unimportance of classical music to young people is not to water it down, package it with sexy marketing of artists, or jam it into a rock or hip-hop beat (remember Walter Murphy’s “A Fifth of Beethoven?”). If classical music is going to be important to anyone, it will have to connect with the very spirit and reality of existence that young people have today. My students almost invariably like Beethoven music because they marvel at how anyone could write something like that and not be able to hear. Beethoven’s symphony becomes not so much about “great music” as it is about a person with a physical handicap overcoming his disability to accomplish something great. That’s important to kids. I know there will be some who will disparage that last point, arguing that I am basing the importance or even meaning of music on something extramusical. But no one would care one wit that Beethoven was deaf if he had written mediocre or bad music. It is the greatness of the music itself that makes his achievement as a deaf composer remarkable and interesting. So it is about the music, and also about the composer.

Music as we teach it is not an object that comes through earbuds to individual people. It is an art form that is created by a person for other people, with an expressive intent, a purpose, and within a context. Every musical work, be it a symphony or a rap song is intended to reach a community of people, to bring among other things a message or expression or affirmation. The more we can help students connect with those messages, expressions and affirmations within their own contexts, the more important, and interesting, music will be for them.

 

Teaching Musical Phrases

Version 2From a perceptual perspective, phrase may be the most important musical element that a music educator teaches. While pitch and rhythm are perhaps the most foundational, and while there can be no phrases without pitch and rhythm, people perceive and understand music aurally in groups of sounds, not from individual notes. Even in instances where a single note is sustained, it is the expectation set up by the delay of another note that gives that single note its meaning and expressiveness. Leonard Bernstein, in his Young People’s Concert titled “What Does Music Mean?” said, “all music is a combination of sounds… put together according to a plan. [The composer’s ] plan is to put the sounds together with rhythms and different instruments or voices or whatever in such a way that what finally comes out is exciting, or fun, or touching, or interesting, or all of those together.” Music is a combination of sounds, not a series of individual, unrelated sounds. To illustrate this, compare the opening measure of Liszt’s B minor piano sonata to the opening measure of Beethoven’s 5th symphony. Liszt’s sonata begins with a single note–the tonic B, followed by silence. It’s a haunting beginning, because we expect a motif or at least one or two notes to immediately follow and give us a start at a melody. But no, all we get is one note, silence, and then the same one note again followed by more silence. While it would be difficult to argue that these two Bs are not music, because they do, after all, begin a piano sonata which is unquestionably music, left with only a single note, we, the listener, are at a loss as to what to do with those two isolated tones. They as yet have no musical meaning, because they have no musical context; no other notes with which we can perceive relationships.

The opening of Beethoven’s 5th symphony, on the other hand, is packed with musical meaning and is probably the most recognizable symphonic motif ever composed. Here we are given 4 notes. This is not enough to make a phrase, but it is enough to elicit a response from us. We can remember those four notes, and recognize them if we hear them again, and most importantly, we can recognize them in the many transformations of that motif that Beethoven will present to us throughout his symphony. On the other hand, we don’t take notice every time Liszt uses a “b” in his sonata. We do, however, recognize the opening use of the b’s when they return, because by then there is a rhythm and a pulse attached to them, making them a motif of 2 notes instead of an occurrence of 1 note twice.

Comparison to language can be helpful. A single letter, like a single note, rarely has any meaning. Even the letter “a” by itself, though a word, has no meaning, because we don’t know what the object is. It could be a day, or a note, or a symphony, or a stomach ache. If all we have is “a” there really isn’t any understanding of what is being talked or written about. But once that letter “a” is combined with other letters, either as part of a word or followed by a subject, then and only then does the letter “a” have linguistic meaning. But even if we get to the word “ready” which contains an a, or the phrase “a stomach ache,” we still don’t have all the understanding we need, but we do have a phrase. A phrase is a part of a sentence, and it gives us some of the entire thought, but needs another phrase go along with it to complete the thought. After Beethoven gave us those first four notes, he gave us the same motif transposed down the interval of a second. Though this still isn’t a phrase, it does give us more information, though it remains delightfully ambiguous.  It’s more of a teaser. We don’t know yet if we are in C minor or Eb major, but we have come to a pause and wait for more. Over the next four measures,  get a phrase and with it the certainty that we are in C minor.

 

I teach my students that there is a progression from motif, to phrase, to theme. A phrase must have more than a single musical idea, and must be a uniform length throughout the work or movement, excepting for the occasional elision. At first blush, it appears that Beethoven is writing 2-measure phrases, with each dotted quarter note being the end of a phrase. But after the first 2 measures, the next phrase continues on for 4 measures before there is such a pause, making the length of that phrase unmistakably 4 measures. The symmetry with which classical composers wrote, even an innovative ones like Beethoven,  demands that a one phrase be balanced by a second phrase of the same length. This balanced phrase structure is part of a hierarchy, with phrases nested into themes, nested into theme groups, nested into sections, nested into an entire movement. So an essential characteristic of musical phrases is that within a single work, they are consistently the same length.

This is equally true of popular music, though on a smaller scale. You can walk your students through most any song, beginning with the first note, going forward until a motif is identified, often through rhythmic parallelism, and then expanding outward to a phrase which is easily found at the first comma in the lyrics, and then continuing forward for the same number of measures to the end of subsequent phrases, which will coincide with either a comma, semi colon,  or a period in the lyrics. Stringing several phrases that all end with unresolved dissonance or just avoid the tonic chord has become a popular technique that builds tension, often leading up to a climactic release at the chorus. Katy Perry’s “Chained to the Rhythm is a good example of this. I like to use the lyrics to reinforce my point, but to initially present the song by just playing the melody on the piano to show them the purely musical phrase structure. Once they realize that, the lyrics support the musical analysis.  I also use the text to point out the difference between the end of a phrase, which typically ends on the subdominant or dominant chord, and the end of a “sentence” of music, which typically ends on the tonic chord. This affords the opportunity to bring tonality and cadences into the teaching of phrases. The phrase boundary a listener perceives is marked by cadences, as well as a rhythmic organization that supplies either a pause (rest) or a relatively long duration which momentarily suspends the rhythmic motion.

There is also the expressive aspect of phrases. Music is expressive and interesting in large part because it has patterns of tension and relaxation. One phrase will build tension, while another will bring real ease and relaxation. These patterns  are made both within phrases and among phrases. For example, the well-known “Morning Mood” melody found in Peer Gynt by Edvard Grieg builds tension within the first phrase, but builds greater tension from the beginning of the first phrase to the end of the second phrase. When these inter-phrase and intra-phrase buildups and releases of tension are tracked by the listener, the music becomes expressive in the way composers intended. The structure of musical phrases makes possible the perception of musical expression, and so the expressive properties of musical phrases must be taught along with the structural ones.  Listen to the music I have discussed here and notice both the structures and expressions of each phrase.

Perceiving Expression in Music

Version 2The authors of the National Core Arts Standards placed a high premium on expressive intent. It is included in Creating; plan and make, and present, Performing; interpret, Responding; interpret, and in the overriding artistic process on connecting. As I have written elsewhere, expressive intent is problematic in that the listener rarely knows for sure what a composer or performer intended to express. Determining expressive intent becomes largely a generalization based on how people generally perceive and respond to given musical conventions.  The truth is, researchers over the years haven’t even agreed on how or in some cases even if music expresses anything. This is interesting, because it is useless to be concerned with what a musician intended to express if music cannot be used to express anything.

I am going to assume that music can express some things, namely emotions. Juslin discussed three methods of “coding” that people use to perceive emotions in music. These are iconic, intrinsic, and associative. Iconic coding is the most universal of the three. It is based on universal uses of the human voice to express the basic human emotions of happiness, sadness, anger, and fear. The idea I extrapolate is that music reproduces in a stylized way the inflections and patterns of the human voice when these emotions are being expressed. According to this perspective. happy music is bouncy and jocular resembling giggling or laughing, sad music is weepy and sigh-like, angry music is loud, focused and forceful, and fear is dark, uncertain and cautiously quiet. Because all humans cry sadness, laugh happiness, burst out anger, and withdraw in fear, music that cries out, laughs out loud, rages or withdraws into tense quietness is understood by all people, regardless of context, as expressing those emotions. As long as the emotion is common to all people, and the vocal expression of that emotion is common to all people, then emotional expression will be iconically coded by human listeners.

Intrinsic coding has universal aspects to it, but is at least in part culturally specific. From this perspective, structural elements are used to express emotions. For example, harmonic movement away from the tonic creates tension, and movement toward the tonic creates relaxation. Emotions are perceived through the lens of the extent to which tension is present in the music at a given moment and over a given time span. Anger and fear are expressed when tension i s present to a greater extent,  happiness is express ed when tension is minimally present, and sadness is expressed when a moderate amount of tension is present. Because these parameters are generalized, mixing in some iconic coding with intrinsic coding helps clarify with more precision what emotion is perceived. Indeed, it is rare that any of the three types of coding is used to the absolute exclusion of the others. Listeners can and do mix coding systems to arrive at a perception of expressed emotion in music to which they listen.

The most culture specific coding method of the three is associative coding. Simply put, this is the tethering of an emotional experience to a musical device. Here music is perceived as happy or sad or angry or fearful because the listener connects what is heard with an experience that aroused the same emotion. Although the music initiates the perception of an expressed emotion, that perception is dependent on an extra-musical association to hit home.

These are ways a listener perceives emotional expression in a musical work, but is what

Emotions Formula

Events + Thoughts = Feelings

the listener perceives what the composer intended to express?  To whom did the composer expect to convey his or her expressive intent? These are important questions. With intrinsic coding, the structural norms with which a composer creates music may not be the same with which a listener is familiar. With associative coding, the emotional experience to which a listener connects a heard musical device is likely unknown to the composer of the music to which the listener is making that connection. When we are considering a composer’s expressive intent, what matters are the icons, structures, and associations he or she uses to create the music, and the degree to which those are shared with the listener. Composers of one culture to whose music people of another culture are listening will share fewer associations and common practice structures than when the composer and audience are of the same culture, or when the listeners have been well versed in the composer’s culture. Therein lies the importance of music education to developing listeners who can apprehend a composer’s expressive intent.

Any listener will be able to apprehend an expressive intent perceivable through iconic coding, because the means of expression is, as we have seen, known to all as part of the common human condition. The more culture-specific musical devices a composer uses, the more education is needed to familiarize listeners with the structures and associations the composer is relying on to  convey the expressive intent. For intrinsic coding, the issue isn’t so much that students know what sonata form or rondo or theme and variations is, though that is useful knowledge, but rather that they understand how composers use musical structure within these forms to convey musical meaning. Structures of tonal music are meter, phrasing, and patterns of harmonic tension and relaxation. Of the three, meter is the most universal, and is not limited to Western tonal music, but all three are crucial to tonal music. A familiarity with all three is necessary to gather in expressive intent using intrinsic coding. Structures are built up into forms, but forms are not as important to expressive intent as structures. Forms can be compared to a filing cabinet where files are placed so that they can be found and accessed as needed. Structures can be compared to the files themselves, which contain the needed information. A single body of information may be contained among several folders just as a sonata movement is comprised of theme groups, themes, phrases and motives, each comparable to nested folders. When one understands the contents of each folder, of each phrase, theme, theme group, etc., and the  relationships between them, then a person understands the intended meaning of all the files, of all the music combined.

In the case of associative coding, listeners need to learn associations that were well known to the original audience of a musical work but that might be lost on today’s listeners. For example, Mussorgsky’s “Bydlo” is meant to depict the slow lumbering progress of an ox-drawn cart. The sight of such a cart would have been well known by Mussorgsky’s audience, but most children in the United States have never seen one, so the expressive intent they perceive through associative coding would be connected to an entirely different image, and perhaps a different emotion as a result. One must also be cautious not to mistake titles for a composer’s expressive intent. For example, Mendelssohn’s famous “Spinning Song” was given that title by the publisher and was unknown by Mendelssohn when he composed the piece. All of this comes down to context. The context in which a composer creates and an audience listens must be brought into harmony if expressive intent is to be successfully conveyed.

What Are Music Teachers Really Trying To Accomplish?

Ask a Language Arts teacher what they are trying to achieve with their students, and that teacher will probably mention growth in literacy. He or she wants students to read and write effectively, with understanding and comprehension. Students are likely being asked questions like, “what is the author trying to say?” “How does the author feel about this topic, and what evidence do you find to support your answer?” These are good questions. Students who can answer them are bound to be engaged in critical thinking, and are likely to be showing growth very soon.

The Core Arts Standards were written with this kind of instruction in mind. They use the same approach to education and the same language as the original common core standards for language arts and for math. Because of this, it is good to understand how music students are, or ought to be, answering the same questions, and how music teachers ought to be after the same kinds of growth in literacy, only with music, not language. What does the language arts teacher accept as evidence of literacy? What does a child need to be able to do to demonstrate literacy? He or she needs to be able to look at words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, sections and entire essays or other works, and to not only recognize strings of letters as words, and strings of words as phrases, and strings of phrases as sentences, not only be able to speak with correct pronunciation all of those, but also to understand the meaning of each as it is revealed by context–the relationships between words, phrases and sentences that create meaning that is absent in the individual words and phrases out of context. Just begin able to read aloud or spell words does not indicate literacy. There must be understanding and comprehension.

Yet when it comes to music, music teachers all too often accept much less as literacy. A child who can look at a note on a musical staff and respond by pressing the correct key on a piano or other instrument is given credit for being able to read music. But that not on a staff is more than just a keystroke, and even when the note has been sounded, it by itself has no meaning, any more than a single letter has meaning apart from the word of which it is a part. When a child sees a word, if they can read, they associate the word with a person, action, object or concept. That is what a literate person does. When a child sees a musical note, if they can read, they associate the note with a sound that has a definite pitch and a definite duration. A sequence of several of these notes, that is to say several of these defined sounds, forms a musical idea. Musical ideas are combined into themes, and themes are combined into theme groups, sections, movements, and entire works. A musically literate person not only can audiate or know through inner hearing the individual pitches from notation, but also can understand how those notes are arranged into groups, and metrical patterns, perceiving them as the ideas, phrases, themes and so on that they are, with all of the relationships between notes that make them so. This goes far beyond matching a note with an instrument key.

How does this literacy come about? One thing that is for certain is that it does not come about through rote learning alone. Rote learning is an important first step, but when musical training does not go beyond rote learning, the associations between what is heard and what is seen in notation is never made, precluding development of true musical literacy. Perhaps the clearest explanation of how musical literacy is developed are the steps Feierabend gives in his Conversational Solfege. Essentially, these steps consist of rote learning songs with the voice on neutral syllables, then these same songs with tonal and rhythm syllables, “decoding” songs by hearing them sung by the teacher on neutral syllables and then repeating them with tonal or rhythm syllables, and then being able to do the same thing with unfamiliar songs. The final step is to create original musical ideas (composing and improvising) using labels (syllables).  The same procedure is used for reading and writing. Notice the transition from songs learned from rote, then applying labels to the notes of those songs so that the sounds are associated with the labels (syllables), and then using the labels (syllables) to assimilate new learning.

When notes are associated with instrument keys instead of syllables, the child has no way of knowing what the music sounds like apart from the instrument. A child in this situation cannot compose or improvise in a creative sense, because they have no materials to work with. To compensate for this, teachers who have failed to teach literacy often rely on music theory to teach improvisation. They will tell the students how to improvise over chord changes, and the student will “improvise” by playing from one chord tone to the next while counting beats or measures in order to know when to transition to the next chord. This is a highly unmusical way to create music, if indeed it is creating at all. Although a child trained in this manner can play on an instrument, the activity has avoided literacy training, and often built a dependence on the teacher to fill in the gaps in the child’s training. This in turn leads to the disturbing discovery that the child cannot play much of anything when the teacher is no longer there, resulting in a large attrition rate for school musicians after graduating.

Traditional music teaching methods developed by Orff, Kodaly and Dalcroze highly value true music literacy, and have been proven to be effective in developing musical literacy. Orff and Dalcroze also give priority to exploration and improvisation with movement and instrumental music. The use of barred instruments in particular is a well known aspect of Orff’s approach. The playing of those instruments is tied to movement and rhythmic activity on body percussion, and with improvisation over ostinati. Other methods that make use of technology as a means to quickly get students playing an instrument, especially a keyboard, can leave the child underprepared in these important aspects of a comprehensive music education.

The Fallacy of Compound Meters

2011 Symposium2

One of the most baffling concepts in music is the idea that some meters are compound while others are simple. Something that is compound is made up of two or more parts each of which is itself a complete entity. In language, a word like lifetime is a compound word because it is a single word with a meaning but made up of two words, life and time, that each have a separate meaning.There are also compound sentences, which are sentences made up of two or more clauses, each of which has a distinct meaning, connected by a conjunction such as and or but. For example, the sentence “apple trees bear fruit, but maple trees do not bear fruit” is a compound sentence.

In music, six-eight meter is considered compound, whereas two-four meter is considered simple or not compound. If this is so, then we would expect to find two or more distinct patterns of strong and week beats joined together in six-eight but not in two-four. The problem is, this simply isn’t the case. Either meter could be considered simple or compound, depending on how one defines the elements that are or are not present. In six-eight meter, there are both eighth note beats and dotted half note beats occurring simultaneously; two dotted quarter note beats per measure, and three eighth note beats per dotted quarter. With these two elements joined together, this could qualify six-eight time as being compound. But in two-four meter, there are eighth note beats and quarter note beats occurring simultaneously; two quarter note beats per measure, and two eighth note beats per quarter note–so why isn’t that considered compound? In music, rhythmic and grouping structure can be perceived at any note value level. There are eighth note, quarter note, half note, and even whole note beats perceived by both performers and listeners, and theses beats are always present simultaneously, even in so-called “simple” meters.

The standard explanation for compound meter really has nothing at all to do with the concept of compound. That explanation is that when a beat is divided into three equal parts, the meter is compound, and when it is divided into two equal parts, then it is simple. While this agrees with the designations of six-eight as compound and two-four as simple, there is nothing there that is truly compound. With this definition, there are not recite-16rpklktwo or more elements joined together. Whatever six-eight time is, three divisions of each beat cannot qualify it as compound. It would be more palatable if the word complex were used instead of compound. Researchers, including Temperley and Lerdahl have found that people prefer duple meter to triple meter, so it may be that in some way a beat divided into three equal parts is more complex to our human minds, but that does not make it compound.

If all of this is so, then why is six-eight meter called compound? What are the two elements joined together to warrant that designation? Many students and even some teachers miss this because they are devoted to the idea that the bottom number in a meter signature indicates the kind of beat that gets one beat; however this is not always true, and is the key to understanding what compound meter really is. In all of the compound meters, the bottom number in the meter signature is never the number of beats in each measure. The bottom number indicates one type of note, but performers and listeners alike treat another kind of note as the pulse or ictus as it is often called. In six-eight time, the bottom number indicates an eighth note, but the kind of note getting one note is a dotted quarter note. Here we finally have our two elements: the note value shown in the bottom number of the meter signature, and the note value that is actually the beat. In meters that are not compound, the bottom number in the meter signature is always the same as the kind of note that gets one beat. Because the bottom number indication and the ictus are the same, there are not two elements joined together, but one shared by both the meter signature and the ictus.

With this problem solved, we now move on to the other area of confusion concerning meter designations. What determines if a meter is duple or triple? Traditionally, the number of beats in a measure was the determining factor. Two beats per measure are considered duple meter, and three beats per measure are considered triple. Some add to this quadruple meter, which is four beats per measure, while others hold that four beats per measure is to the listener indistinguishable from two beats per measure, and so is also considered duple. Then there are others, most notably Gordon, who have argued that the number of beats in each measure has nothing to do with determining a meter to be duple or triple, but rather it is the number of divisions within each beat. By this reasoning, six-eight time is not compound duple, but usual triple, while two-four meter remains duple, though because the quarter note beats are divided into two eighth notes, not because there are two beats in each measure.

In the end, it all comes down to grouping. Meter, by definition, is a pattern of strong and weak beats. The key to perceiving any meter is into what groups do our minds organize the music we have just heard? Do we hear patterns in which a strong beat occurs every three beats or every four beats? If number of beats per measure is the deciding factor, then we must be hearing only the first beat of each measure as a strong beat, and all other beats within the measure as weak. Because this is not always the case, it must be admitted that number of beats per measure is not always an indicator of meter. Although Richard Strauss’ Til Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks is written in six-eight time, which should be compound duple meter, anyone is hard pressed hear those opening bars in groups of two beats while overlooking the rapidly moving groups of threes played by the horn. Nor do most hear the Andante Cantabile in the Fifth Symphony of Tchaikovsky and perceive duple or quadruple meter. That glorious music can only be heard in metrical groups of three.

We now understand the meaning of the terms compound and simple in regard to musical meter, and we have also seen that these designations can be misleading or inaccurate, particularly in cases where the meter is designated as compound. Relying on the number of beat divisions instead of the number of beats in a measure is more accurate. There are times when the two will agree, and those times will invariably be when the perceived ictus is found to equal one measure, as with a waltz or very quick march. But this is not always the case, and so cannot be a reliable method. Because of this, the terms compound and simple do not add much to most people’s understanding of music they hear, and more often unnecessarily confuses them. Because they are often used terms, it is necessary to understand them, but also to understand their limitations. Always let your performing and listening be guided by what you audiate, and remember that the notation is the composer’s best effort to pass on to others what he or she audiated when creating the music. Theory is inferred from practice and not the other way around.