How Does Music Work?

We have all encountered teachers who began some music course or other by asking "What Is Music?" Leonard Bernstein, paraphrasing this often posed question, I suppose, asked "What Does Music Mean?" Many answers have been proposed to the former question, and Bernstein's answer to the latter, after an interesting lecture, was that music doesn't mean … Continue reading How Does Music Work?

Why Arts Education is More Important Than Ever

Have you ever stopped to consider the difference between sending or receiving a handwritten letter and an e-mail or text? I hadn't until the other day, when I joined a discussion on whether cursive should be taught in schools, or just allowed to be forgotten and fall into obsolescence. Some argued that the latter had … Continue reading Why Arts Education is More Important Than Ever

Responding To Music: Subjective or Objective?

The National Core Arts Standards include three anchor standards for responding that lay out the ways a person can respond to music. When our students respond to music in our classrooms or on their own in other settings, they are probably doing so in one of the ways described in these anchor standards. They are … Continue reading Responding To Music: Subjective or Objective?

Teaching Musical Phrases

From 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 … Continue reading Teaching Musical Phrases

Perceiving Expression in Music

The 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 … Continue reading Perceiving Expression in Music

Are We Misleading Students In How We Teach Them To Appreciate Music?

Music appreciation as I experienced it as a student was largely a matter of learning how a musical work was put together, and then listening for landmarks along the way. First theme, second theme, development section, modulation to the dominant, recapitulation back to the tonic, and so on. It usually takes a great deal of … Continue reading Are We Misleading Students In How We Teach Them To Appreciate Music?

What Does Music Mean–Revisiting Bernstein’s Lecture

In 1958, Leonard Bernstein gave a Young Peoples Concert entitled “What Does Music Mean?” In it, he said that music doesn’t mean anything in the ways language does, but instead means what it is. Today, I will take up the matter of musical meaning, restricting myself to developing Bernstein’s points, and avoiding deeper aesthetic and … Continue reading What Does Music Mean–Revisiting Bernstein’s Lecture