Well that’s interesting

June 28, 2020

So I thought I’d have a look at my blog after what, six years? And I find it’s had quite a few views and downloads over the past 10 years. Carlos Nunez and Felpeyu scores seem pretty popular, and Michael Nyman info and transcriptions. Hundreds of visitors from all over the world. And even the odd follower!

OK that’s cool. Maybe I should blog some more…

The journey to maths

December 22, 2014

Well it’s been a while since I posted here.

Started this blog when I was a music teaching student (doing my MTeach).

Still a music teacher. Just completed 12th year of high school music teaching. Finished the MTeach in 2010, graduated in 2011.

Experienced some downsizing at the end of 2012. Working part time, 0.7 of full time for 2013. Then upgraded slightly to 0.78 (believe it or not) this year. And still employed next year at 0.78.

Looking for longevity as a teacher, as I need to work for the foreseeable future. Retirement not an option. So I thought I’d add another teaching subject!
Maths is in demand everywhere it seems. I did maths at school level 1 HSC in 1975. So need to recover 40 years of not a lot of maths, then upgrade to university degree level, like a major or minor in maths.

So I’m embarking on a Grad Dip Mathematics at Charles Sturt University next year. Looks to be good. Have done some reading so far, and have signed up for their free bridging course.

Some success so far. Vacillate a little. Some days it seems daunting. Other days confident. Quadratics, getting the hang. More pre-calculus to come. Whoa! I did calculus back in the day. Slowly recovering pre-calc so far.

I don’t mean to give up music and arts teaching at all. On the contrary I love it.

Just that there may be limited opportunities in the future so hoping I can broaden my skills base while retaining my strengths and interest in inspiring students.

Anyway thought I’d log the journey here. Watch this space!

Lecture 6 Music 1Y(& this week’s thoughts)

April 16, 2010

In recovery from school, but nearly end of holidays, and don’t seem to have stopped yet! Sleeping lots, but.

Assignments & resources

Seemed to spend most of last week doing uni assignments for 1X and 1Y, and most of this week thinking about or doing the next ones.

Pretty interesting though getting some new transcriptions and arrangements done, and thinking how to wedge it all into a sensible assignment and still meet the deadline. Compromised a bit on quality of my writeups to make the deadlines, but got good resources together both in 1X and 1Y.

Learned how to upload audio and pdfs and stuff to my blog. Bought a wordpress 5GB deal for $20 (maybe US$) for the year. My internet is slow – end-of-month-used-up-bandwidth factor. Seems that timeout issues make it harder to make embedded YouTube video links? Anyway just put the urls in instead. There’s that mouseover preview thing anyway in wordpress.

Thinking of making the blog an ongoing thing and sharing resources I’ve developed over the years. I have lots of transcriptions. Just having time to do it is the challenge. Maybe next holidays.

Uni  tutorials/lectures kind of interesting this week

Thanks James for organising the conference poster session at Apple ITSC 2010 conference freebie (with nice food and drinx too). I went to the blended learning one and discovered some interesting DET racehorses.

They’ve even talk in there about an updated Bloom’s taxonomy (2009) to cope with the digital era. Not sure whether to groan or cheer. Either someone’s trying to fit new wine into old wineskins (=kaboom!), or maybe the world really is changing (to cope with the world changing!).

Thanks too James for the tools and tricks and tips in the lecture part. Plenty of food for thought. Liked Auralia and Musition ideas.

Pretty wild jams Indo-Aust folk style in our 1X tut too. There are some great musos among you all: singers, improvisers, spontaneous organisers: hey you’ll do great in classrooms guys!

Holiday reading

I found a book of Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts (the TV series he did in the 1960s) in a secondhand bookshop. So I bought it for teaching ideas. Pretty imaginative guy. I love reading old-school imaginative people. Keeps you up with history too. The challenge is not to replicate Bernstein but find a parallel approach for today’s culture.

And I found in the same shop Beds are Burning: Midnight Oil semi-authorised biography. Great interviews with the band and good musical and cultural insights into Midnight Oil’s time and their legacy in Australian music culture. So I’ve been reading that too.

It’s got me inspired to do more Midnight Oil in music classes. Haven’t tried much as I thought them a bit oldschool for students now. But tried last year playing the Blackfella/Whitefella doco (found it in a specials bin on DVD) to a senior class, which went down well.

Also now planning to read Neil Murray on the Warumpis and Rob Hirst’s insider’s view of Midnight Oil touring the US before they broke up. More keeping up with history, and filling some gaps.

Holiday internetting (or procrastinetting)

Went poking around some links from the #uwsmteach twitter page; e.g. @katiew pointed to music tech guy who pointed to the timegrinder YouTube channel which is really interesting with lots of Howard Goodall music docos, and more. Goodall’s highly recommended for class use btw.

If you’ve also got a case of thinks-too-much

If you’re interested in 21C pedagogy, or if you’re looking for way better models than the old-school ones, check out Kieran Egan, Canadian professor from Simon Fraser Uni in BC, who I’ve been reading. He heads up an innovative imaginative education program and teacher preparation program and whatnot.

Kind of like Vygotsky on steroids, plus he believes in starting with the learning material and letting the lesson emerge imaginatively from the material:

  • Let the objectives emerge organically from the interaction of the material and the teacher and learners. YES!
  • Don’t start with the learner’s background knowledge and experience but start with what the learner can imagine. Start outside his/her experience. YES!
  • Start always with material that you’re excited and fired up about. Else how can you have an interesting lesson? YES!

Why do you think teachers always go for dragons, Antarctica, pirates & pyramids? What ‘cos they relate to the students’ background knolwedge? No, ‘cos they’re extreme and outside of experience – but fully accessible to the imagination…

I’ve occasionally had students blown away by extreme stuff I tried in class: e.g.

Although for every one who gets blown away there’s always someone completely underwhelmed! Lots of people have had their wonder circuits fried by the time they stagger into high school. (The arts should aim to provide healing for this problem.)

I love Egan et al’s work ‘cos finally I find a theory that agrees with the way I’ve always intuitively taught. There’s hope for a way out of outcomes-based education!

Gotta keep encouraging wow, mind stretching, and recovery of wonder in your classes: it’s the only way.

If you have an hour, listen to this – Egan talking – while you wash up or something.

Vivid festival news

Have you heard? Not only are Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson co-curating the Vivid Festival coming up in Sydney, but My Brightest Diamond (check out her audio at this link) is playing (aka Shara Worden, who sang the Queen in the Decemberists’ Hazards of Love recently).

Andrew Tredinnick

Lecture 5 Music 1Y (&c)

April 5, 2010

Missed the first half Roland drum lab demo this week, as we took our Year 11 and 12 music students to see the Encore concert in at the Opera House. Only got back at 6-ish.

But I heard all about it from the other students, and then watched James’s summary version. I love the way James demonstrated his under 10 mins putting together of the video, literally thrown together as he taught it with preset soundtrack and unscripted voiceover.

This stuff is great encouragement, because the risk of technology is having hours and hours of footage which takes hours and hours and hours to edit just right. But who has the time? So I’m loving the inspiration to be quick and dirty with technology. I’m hoping to do the same with online resource development. And with blogs and stuff I’m resisting the temptation to edit and re-edit, just trying to put it down as it comes and maybe fixing a few typos, and that’s it.

Challenge-based learning

I’m intrigued by Apple’s attempts to get on the learning-in-the-21C bandwagon. Interesting model they’ve created. Must look into it more. I’m pretty intrigued by all alternative pedagogies, as the outcomes-based stuff seems to me to be so stifling. I think all learning frameworks should maximise the opportunity for students to autonomously learn and get inspired by their whole world. Any kind of framework should never be a restriction: resistance may be futile but I’m resisting!

On another matter I like the way we can use the capitalists’ gear whilst subverting their money-making aspirations to our own educational ones. So they get to shift a bit of product but their agenda doesn’t have to drive ours, which after all is to teach all the world’s music as best we can.

In this regard I also like James’s description of the process at his school where students are encouraged not only to use technology but to use pen and paper should they feel more comfortable. Also that composing with pencil score paper is great as it privileges your imagination over some preset sound world that your music software may be locked into.

Arriving at the end of term

I’ve arrived at the end of my own school term totally wrung out, having worked on some great music, in the last week or three, including for the school’s Easter chapel, where we did a great version of Lenny Kravitz’s Empty Hands, suggested by our dance teacher who choreographed to it. Great success, and it fitted the theme of the chapel which included some more conventional Easter song elements.

Had a great Passover gig at a friend’s church where they did a Jewish style with unleavened bread etc on Easter Thursday. And my daughter and I did some klezmer tunes: great experience doing a family duo!

Thinking back too over the uni term and school term I’ve had some fantastic learning opportunities and synergies between the MTeach learning, my own learning and my teaching at school, and the musical groups I’ve been involved with at school.

Andrew Tredinnick

Lecture 4 Music 1Y (& tangents)

April 5, 2010

The lecture segment this week relating to special needs really got me thinking.

On one spectrum or another

James was kind enough to share multiple perspectives on ADHD: Ken Robinson’s doubt version; and James’s own wake-up to it through his own direct family experience. These together with the Asperger’s/autism spectrum experiences  that he has come across, and which are common in school in my experience.

In my own school there are a half a dozen or so students K-12 ‘diagnosed’ as being on the autism/Asperger’s spectrum (i.e. they have a label), with about another half dozen who I’ve come across who I’d reckon are on the spectrum somewhere (but who haven’t yet been given the label). So that’s about how many you’d expect for the population of the school.

All the people I’ve come across are fairly high functioning though, so they often display great insight into things you’re discussing, or they readily connect with musical work you’re doing and follow through on it etc. I have one ensemble of fairly young students which seems to have one or two ‘spectrum’ people in it: but they have great musical memories.

Sometimes too I reckon the ADHD diagnosed people are actually ASD, but have found a role for themselves in the school thorough ADHD.

Anyway enough of diagnoses: I think from the music teaching point of view that it’s good to recognise and reward and exploit for learning and ensemble purposes the quirkiness and skills of the weird people. Sometimes too the weirdness of the diagnosed people works against their finding friends. So if they have skills in musical or performance/drama groups that’s great for them, including for helping develop their friendships. Sometimes they are just plain hard work for the teacher, as their obsessions can get the better of group process. But on the other hand sometimes a focused and inspired student is just what you need to get an ensemble or class happening.

So I reckon you should find ways to work with your quirky students (with or without diagnostic labels), and include them just as readily as you would your polite, attractive, friendly, verbal, socially skilled students.

Sometimes too the quirky or odd students form friendships with other quirky students, so everyone’s happy.

Music and other arts classes or groups are great places for bullying to be naturally countermanded too, as people get engaged in the task at hand.

The PLN turns out to be a non-violent learning organisation

I’m realising that the users of blogs and Twitter aren’t usually people with too much time on their hands. Rather they are the lifelong learners who we keep trying to say are the leaders in the new 21C world, and to whom we are inspiring our own students to become. The Personal Learning Network (PLN) of course says this rather succinctly. So must keep blogging and reading. However, I don’t need much encouragement to keep learning: I actually probably need to stop every now and again!

Anyway, enough for week 4.

Andrew Tredinnick

Lecture 3 Music 1Y (& this week’s happenings)

March 21, 2010

Well another wild week.

Learning management systems and student research

Inspiration from James at the start to get some stuff going in my school’s LMS, which is based on Scholaris. Kinda clunky and oldschool compared to the new blogging tools, but in the middle of the week I set up an online classroom for my year 10s who now have laptops. Had them live researching and in-class blogging on minimalist and other work of Michael Nyman, as follow up to some playing and listening we’d done.

This task showed up vast gulfs between research-savvy students who can browse large amounts of material quickly and get pithy results. Some students who just want to cut and paste large swathes without processing. Others who post links with no comment. Others who ‘can’t find anything’ while they are on rich web sites, as they can’t really skim read.

It seems to me if you have poor skills with books, you also have poor online research skills. But I worry that no-one much even uses books anymore. Unis have extended their loan periods ridiculously, presumably as no one’s borrowing books any more.

So we can end up in ‘the context of no context’. How do we get students some context? – to me that’s one of the big questions of the 21C. Infinite sea of knowledge, but there are no handles until you know some stuff. It really boils down to teaching everything as history, as Neil Postman taught, in a world that often seems to only value now, and only knows about now.

Anyway, must persevere and figure out ways to use the school’s LMS system on the fly, with my two classes who now have laptops.

I loved James’s emphasis on quick and easy solutions. Just dive in and do it, which is another way to address Nick’s concerns about the time-consuming nature of technology.

Enjoyed the Atherton singing item. I guess that was from the Mahogany Ship school choir thing he did some time ago. Only heard about it, but didn’t ever hear any of the music: turns out it’s in the Ward library. Must check out sometime.

All the tips to follow up tools and ideas were good too. Video recording how to’s on the desktop scares me a bit. But I liked the demo: just do it!

Self absorption or self-development on Twitter

Then Twitter: well I must say in a week I’ve gone from total sceptic to ‘hmm maybe there’s something in this’. My latest speculation is that maybe Twitter is a return to reflection.

What? People surfing the Internet, like on the surface and that, having thoughts, like going deep and stuff? Surely not! My net gen kids go: ‘Twitter? LOL’. But I have a twenty-something colleague who uses it all the time.

Hmm seems it’s taken off not just among the celeb twitterati (what am I doing now?), but among people who are learning (what’s going down new in my field now?). Has lifelong learning reached the Internet already?

Anyway I went from sending it up to making the odd tweet or two, and went searching for some twits (sorry) who had something to say on education, and even found some, and even figured out how to make those short url thingys. So there’s hope for us ‘underwhelmed’ yet! (Just need more time.)

Sibelius and long-term learning

Sibelius stuff I enjoyed, even though I’ve been using Sibelius for years.  I did like the shortcuts and insights from the development side. And I’m still on version 3. Guess I should upgrade for all the new built in fancy-pants stuff.

And I realised something about my learning style: I love seeing other people teach because you get their perspective on things, even if it’s about something you’re already familiar with. Learning is all about new perspectives. If you think you know it you lock yourself out from another view of the world. You know, bored-student syndrome.

As I get older, I get more interested in what anyone has to say about anything, and I don’t really get too put off by bad lecture style. Some of the best learning I’ve had is from terrible lecturers (present company not included here of course!). You just have to be willing to grapple with their view of things, if you can find it.

Music performance as community in action

Had some great outbreaks of learning at school this week too. I finished the week thinking that performance is about building community.

Had a concert Friday night with HSC students: student-organised ensembles and solos with all the music teachers invited by students to play in various pieces. We had ex-students invited in by current students in some ensembles too.

It’s amazing how well students play and perform when they have a concert, and autonomy to prepare. They get organised and ask people to form bands and accompany them etc.

Huge range of stuff played by 15 students: from Irving Berlin to Florence and the Machine; Scott Joplin to Bobby Shew; Beth Ditto to JS Bach to Beethoven; Red Hot Chili Peppers to I Killed the Prom Queen; and Steve Martin’s banjo to Paco Pena’s flamenco.

We’ve all but given up on doing the in-room-performance-in-front-of-two-examiners-with-no-audience for performance assessments, ‘cos they’re often fairly lame. A concert on the other hand is real world. And it doesn’t take much more to organise. Students really rise to the occasion. And friends and family get to hear them etc.

Earlier in the week we’d done a version of Coldplay’s Viva la Vida for a school assembly with a (Year 7 to 11) mixed ensemble  and chorus and skilled lead singer. Went really well. Reinforces to me the idea that we should always aim to wow audiences in a performance. And the preparation ends up building community. In this case the initial impetus for doing the piece came from students. Teachers could then be resources and help make it happen, over a groundswell of student enthusiasm.

So keep on finding ways to build community, people.

Must get some static pages happening. Maybe next time.

Andrew Tredinnick

Lecture 2: Music 1Y (& musical stuff this week)

March 13, 2010

This week has been something of a roller coaster for me, and today I’m absolutely wrung out. As a full-time school music teacher doing my MTeach after 7 years or so of classroom teaching, somehow fitting it in part-time (UWS gave me advanced standing for half the course), the normal whirlwind/roller coaster of a music teacher is compounded by a couple of nights at uni. But the learning and complementarities are amazing. So I thought I’d reflect on a week’s learning in our musical 21st century, in 21st century style (i.e. in a blog). As well as real life links, there’s crossover of the MTeach Tues 1x and Mon 1y classes too.

Some of the things I’ve taught or got involved in this week:

Teaching Snow Patrol’s ‘Chasing Cars’

Monday taught Snow Patrol’s ‘Chasing Cars’ to a small Y11 Music 1 class, and also used it as an aural transcription and structural analysis preparation for Y12 Music 1 half yearly aural (written listening paper) exam. Looking at how melody makes harmony, and how the texture builds, and how the small-scale and large scale structure of the piece works. The Snow Patrol piece was suggested by my compatriots Adam and Dan from the MTeach class as a good I V IV song: we were doing a presentation on how to create a chord progression for a Year 8 class on Tues night. So I thought I’d try it out live on a couple of classes to see what emerged.

That raises the point that I’ve often found that if you have an idea for a class (a song or a piece of music to teach): just go for it. The material that you bring to the class has its own logic which unfolds as you work with and interact with the students. Doing a transcription with the class as you go is a great learning experience for all. You have the benefit of everyone’s ears, and you learn to trust your own experience. It’s often amazing the depth to which you can go, as you unpack together musical elements that make up the piece, and the discoveries you can make too. Many of the musicians in the class get inspired by the real-world-ness of it all. There are always the sceptics or the less engaged, but sometimes even they get dragged into the inspiration too. Preparation of course is good and highly recommended and necessary too, but I find that you mostly don’t have time to prepare everything as fully as you want.

So that three-chord song (but remember that Schenker taught us that all tonal music only has two chords anyway, so I’m not disparaging at all about simple structures) ended up feeding into ideas for how to teach it to the MTeach class on Tues, which ended up being a bit improvisational as we had discussed what to do, but hadn’t really worked together before. Anyway seemed to go alright on the night.


Spent a bit of time looking through everyone’s blogs. Well about 20. Looks like the rest of the class (aren’t there nearly 40 people?) hadn’t done theirs yet. Will look later. Haven’t commented on anyone’s yet. Thought I’d read next week’s lot before that.

Thinking about musical concepts/elements

A few reflections on musical concepts, triggered partly by student comments on James’s first lecture where he introduced the terminology. When I introduce musical concepts to students I always like to expand the conversation, especially with senior students. I tell them NSW Board of Studies divide up ‘musical concepts’ one way: texture, structure, timbre, pitch, duration, dynamics and expressive techniques. While the ‘rest of the world’ tend to call them ‘musical elements’ or ‘musical parameters’: melody, harmony, rhythm, timbre, structure; and dynamics/expressive stuff tends to get looked at as part of performance practice. So that way already we’ve expanded the field.

And the way musicians use texture is really interesting, as it overlaps with timbre. Andy Summers, guitarist from the Police, is widely described as a texturalist: an early explorer of chorus and flanging devices, which add layers to your sound: timbres become textures through micro pitch shifting and delays, in emulation of what happens in choirs and orchestras. And check out Pat Metheny’s sound in this way too. Or Adrian Belew’s. Or shakuhachi players.

So the boundaries are blurred. But I tell students that it’s important to use the words as accurately as you can, despite the complexity, but to always remember that the aim is communication.

Then this week I got to thinking that one of the issues with using and applying musical concepts or elements terminology is that we are dealing here with multiple modes. When we talk about sound events we are always using metaphors and abstractions, attempting to represent time-based sound events graphically (i.e. in writing or diagrams) or in speech. Multimodal is of course all in vogue, as it becomes more obvious as we all think through our wide exposure to visual media. I almost always now use visual examples of music in the classroom, of every sort of music, whether it’s Bartok or Beethoven or Beth Ditto or Bjork or Benny Goodman. Way better engagement from students. Way more to ‘get’. The vague and distant is brought close through visual concert or other filmed media.

Orchestral horn player gets inspired by Antony & the Johnsons

I talked this week with a horn player (French horn that is) who is a  peripatetic teacher at our school who’d had a gig in the orchestra playing with Antony and the Johnsons recently (late Jan /early Feb 2010) at the Opera house. She’d had her socks blown off by the experience, as had others in the orchestra apparently. They first thought it was just some pop gig with some band they’d never heard of. Only to realise that this guy’s an amazing songwriter and singer. Orchestra were apparently all messaging one another for days after the experience. They were stoked too to have four rehearsals. Unheard of: it’s usually just sight read and go home. The charts were by Nico Muhly who you might have heard of through his Bjork and Phillip Glass connections. Anyway I was interested to get an insight from a musician who was genuinely moved by the experience.

Gesture and embodiment

Intrigued this week too that Anne Power in her 1x class mentioned gesture and embodiment in several ways: I’ve been intrigued by these ideas particularly over the last year or so and constantly look for opportunities to integrate embodiment and gesture explicitly into music teaching. There’s a whole interdisciplinary field out there of embodied cognition and specifically embodied musical cognition, combining musicians, music technologists, robotics people, you name it. If you’re interested, go check out Alexander Refsum Jensenius’s PhD thesis for starters. It’s pretty accessible.

Viva la Vida lives

We’re reviving Coldplay’s Viva la Vida for an assembly performance next week. We did this last year based around a string group and a seriously good female pop/rock singer we have in the current Year 11. I created some string parts last year from adapting the commercial piano/guitar sheet music transcription, with lots of listening too. Great success when we did it. We want to be better this time. Added some voices from our choir, some wind players. Struggling with smaller string group and lunchtime only rehearsals. And some newer people. And we lost a few players who’d left school from last yr. The Monday rehearsal was OK-ish. The Friday one had some spectacular moments. So we’re on track to blow them away next week. Tip: always aim to blow people away with a school performance. There is a lame-its-only-a-school-band expectation in all of us. Fight the stereotype. Students can do professional level work under the right conditions, even people with limited experience.

Old guy learns punk guitar energy

Then on Wed I was playing guitar for a student who’s performing at a concert next week for Year 12 electives. I’m learning guitar for ‘Standing in the Way of Control’ by the Gossip. Rehearsals went well. Today getting some inspiration from The Gossip themselves. Energy with one guitar, one drummer, one voice in a mega stadium festival. Wow!

We run all our elective performances at school as concerts now, as the students really rise to the occasion and you frequently get professional levels of rehearsal and performance happening. We encourage students to not only work with each other and teachers but ex students, professionals too, where they or we have the contacts.

Florence teaches us to go cosmic

Later in the week rehearsing with another student who’s singing Florence and the Machine’s ‘Cosmic Love’ at that same concert. I’m attempting to substitute a guitaristic acoustic guitar part for the harp part on the original. Hmm. But the band and vocalists are sounding great.

Bebop is back

In between I was being a jazz electric bass player for another student rehearsing for the same concert. Trumpet player doing bebop, Bobby Shew’s ‘Red Snapper’. Kind of stretching for me, but I can fake it/rise to it. Must practice more this week.

Mozart keeps on through Nyman

In between all that I had quite a successful large group prac class where we learned in an hour and a half or so with a whole mixed bag year 10 class to play Michael Nyman’s ‘In Re Don Giovanni’. Minimalist adaptation of the opening of the ‘Catalogue aria’ from Mozart’s Don Giovanni.

Laurie Anderson is coming to town

The same class discovered for me that Laurie Anderson is coming to town, to the 2010 version of the Luminous Festival, now called the Sydney VividFestival. This class is much amused by my attempts to inspire them with the classic ‘O Superman’. Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha of course is part of the laugh. And we played Anderson’s ‘Born Never Asked’ in class too. But what I loved is that the people who thought ‘O Superman’ was a joke, actually then discovered that Laurie Anderson played in the festival associated with the 2010 Winter Olympics, that she’s married to Lou Reed and they work together, and that she’s in town soon. And they’re both curating the festival. Hey, maybe this isn’t just the ravings of a crazed music teacher! Hey maybe I can learn something here! An outbreak of learning. Well viral learning maybe.

Learning breaks out in school despite our best efforts

Earlier in the week, I had a real outbreak of learning in a Year 8 class I’d set an open ended task of composing in self-chosen small groups using guitar, recorder,  optional voices, optional piano other instruments. One group created an amazing song, drawing on all the skills in their group, including encouraging one another, learning from one another, cueing one another, writing words: it was an absolute joy to watch. They begged to play their piece for the whole class, which they did on Friday. And the class was astounded too. I’m continually amazed at what students can achieve if given their way, in self chosen groups.

Making a band out of five piano players?

And in the middle of the week forming an ensemble with our Year 5 & 6 students: five piano players, drums and acoustic guitar: figuring out possible repertoire and adaptations started with ‘Bags Groove’ (Milt Jackson) and ‘C Jam blues’ (Ellington). Thinking of adapting some Jamey Aebersold stuff ‘Watermelon Man’ (Herbie Hancock), or maybe getting some Afro or S American folk tunes going with some marimbas and stuff. Or maybe try some simpler jazz charts from the filing cabinet. Great musicians. Bit of a new challenge for me.

Folk music goes on

Then there’s another folk oriented group I’m rehearsing with, a few members missing due to Y12 exams. A fiddle group with rhythm section. Trying some repertoire derived from Bellowhead (‘Sloe Gin’), Steeleye Span (‘Mooncoin Jig’) and the String Sisters (‘Luseblus’).

Some interstate visitors

In the middle of the week had emails from Australia’s multicultural music pioneer Linsey Pollak who’s in town in the middle of the July holidays – wishing we could run a concert for students, which we probably can’t – and the Melbourne Scottish Fiddlers: we’re working on that in the September holidays: workshops for strings.

Linking music learning to life

So what’s all this music-teacher-plays-punk-rock-jazz-minimalism-electrpop-folk-guitar-bass-fiddle-mandolin-viola-conductor-recorder-all-in-the-one-week (and who’s head nearly explodes with the confusion & conglomeration of it all) got to do with MTeach classes? Well everything really. I find that everything I come across in my musical life (including MTeach lectures) becomes part of my teaching, either directly (e.g. use of pieces of music I discover; adapting someone’s conceptual ideas) or indirectly (your experience of art changes the way you experience life and the world). And all my teaching affects my musical development. And everything I’ve ever done in music finds some kind of link somewhere to something in school.

And it is so inspiring to work with enthusiastic students. Sometimes they’re overtly enthusiastic, sometimes quietly so. Sometimes you get direct feedback. Sometimes you find out years later that someone got switched on by something they experienced in your class. Sometimes you’re not quite sure what people think. Sometimes people are hostile too: I have had quite negative reactions from good student musicians who find my open-to-all-music approach totally different from their AMEB experience or whatever. But thankfully they’re the minority, and some eventually recover anyway. And I am working on strategies in true teacher style to engage the disengaged, including the disengaged who think they’re above it all; and to find more ways to encourage students to self-differentiate their learning.

And students are amazing sources of new networked knowledge: they discover things and pass them to you. Likewise you discover things and pass it to them. Kind of like real life really!

Prince and Purple Rain is back

It was good to have a Prince song brought to our attention by James in the lecture. ‘When Doves Cry’ is of course familiar in a general sort of a way, but I think I know more about Prince second-hand than directly. Another artist to catch up on. I went through a catch-up on Dylan phase last year: listening to albums, watching films. Feeling like I need to do that with Prince. The problem (or joy, depending how you look at it) is that there is so much music and art in human history, you never can really keep up. I guess that’s one advantage of human community: you can keep up by keeping in touch.

Bluegrass keeps on

With bluegrass (one of the versions of ‘When Doves Cry’) I worry that it’s just seen as humorous. But bluegrass musos are very aware of their redneck image and often mercilessly or subtly send themselves up. And while we’re raving about country, the Nashville musos are some of the most amazing virtuosos on the planet: Jerry Douglas, Alison Krauss et al. Check out another version of When Doves Cry, on the Live Music Archive of Internet Audio Archives, by Greensky Bluegrass band: it comes off kind of like one of the existentialist-meditative tracks from the legendary Seldom Scene.

What is the Live Music Archive?

The Live Music Archive is an incredible resource of music recorded by live tapers and published by permission of the bands themselves. Largely jam-band oriented stuff, but you’ll be amazed at the range: GYBE, Rusted Root, John Butler, G-Love, The Waybacks, The Grateful Dead. Thousands of bands.  Tens of thousands of concerts in full-fidelity audio (44.1 Khz uncompressed) if you have enough hard disk space and bandwidth: but they’re mostly in mp3 as well. All free.

Communal fandom is everywhere

James mentioned Pavement, going to gig etc, anticipation, awesome experience etc. So I thought I’d better check this lot out. Hmm American lo-fi legends on a reunion tour. Seem to attract lots of adulation for ‘core fans: “this is f*****g Pavement!” So I found a Pavement podcast and had a bit of a listen. Sheesh, lo-fi alright. But kinda cool. Acquired taste I guess. Hey I can go weirder: try Pruitt Igoe! His enthusiasm (James’s that is) reminded me of a friend’s enthusiasm for Elbow. And I’m intrigued too by that process of fandom and communal expectation facing a visiting artist who you’ve managed to get tickets to. Like festival expectation fever: an interesting expression of artistic/aesthetic/human community. What would the anthropologists make of it all?

While on the subject of weird and the wondrous:

I love New Weird America: check out Joanna Newsom:

And here’s a link my son sent me this week, the wondrous late Esbjorn Svensson playing when ‘God invented the coffee break’:

This blog started off as a reflection of what happened to me musically this week, allied to MTeach learning, and it’s kind of blurred into a reflection on my thoughts about music this week too. So get bored or inspired as you will. But keep up the good musical work wherever you’re doing it, especially if you’re working to find ways of firing up our young people.

Andrew Tredinnick

Well the week’s only just got started and the blog’s running on… Here’s some other things that I was involved in at school later this week:


March 7, 2010

Hmm. Reading previous post: Seems to need some categories so it’s easier to browse. And shorter sentences. And better awareness that reader might not know what I’ m talking about. And a few more links. And watch out for privacy and personal details of others & institutional practices etc. Anyway, I’ll get better  at this by doing it.

Lecture 1: Music 1Y

March 6, 2010

UWS MTeach music lectures with James Humberstone

March 1 2010

Well due to my not going to the course commencement day, I thought the lecture/tutorial started at 6pm, arrived late at about 6:20, to discover that it had been going since 4pm!

So I’m substituting a few reflections/connections of my own for my lack of note taking from the section I missed.

James seems like a lively chap with lots of technical chops. And he’s a good improviser through his content, adapting to a crazy, crowded, unventilated, ohs-nightmare room, and late-notice time-shifting and room double bookings etc, with good humour, and conveying passion and enthusiasm for teaching and learning throughout.

A composer with online presence. I should check that out.

Works at MLC.

I’m a bit of a remote admirer of MLC’s programs and realised possibilities. What do I know? Well not a lot, but a few speculations:

  • James is composer in residence, and I suppose he teaches students who’ve elected composition.
  • MLC have an excellent string orchestra too: I saw them when I went to MLC a couple of weeks ago for an IB graduation.
  • I went to uni with Matthew Hindson, former MLC composer in residence and head of strings there
  • I met one of the other teachers from MLC, Ian Munns, at an IB teachers’ workshop/conference last year.

So I know a bit about their programs and approach from conversations with Matthew and Ian and having seen their orchestra play. Lots of resources, as is typical in a sense of an older established private school, and the product of a few generations of vision and the skills and the ongoing learning of serious contemporary art musicians who’ve worked to make their teaching relevant to young musicians.

I’m intrigued by learning from a contemporary art music practitioner who’s done a lot of work in schools.

My own experience of school music teaching is more taking a world music perspective on all music. And the idea of bimusicality or multimusicality. I was a self-taught blues and rock musician who learned a little bit of classical piano who learned other musics later (country, folk, bluegrass, Celtic, baroque, medieval, Macedonian) and came to formal BMus study in my late 20s. So I’ve always tried to integrate formal and informal approaches to teaching music.

My own challenge this year that’s directly related to this course is to link learning to the laptop rollout that’s just happened among our Year 9 and 10 students.

Music technology at our independent secondary school is currently integrated through one of our music teachers who is employed as a music technology specialist, working with all elective music and senior music students. Years 9 and 10 get two periods a fortnight in a dedicated music tech studio, equipped with sound-card enhanced PCs with USB/midi music keyboards, Cubase, Reason and Sibelius. Year 11 and 12 IB and HSC students get three periods a fortnight. This teaching focuses around composition and soundtrack work, and off line computer-based music work. Other music classes focus around performance, musicology, aural and listening, and integrated music theory and history as relevant to topics and contexts studies, and relating to the skills, needs and experiences of students.

My challenge is the integration of newly installed smartboard and data projector, and my own free internet access in the classroom, with student laptop work into a program that continues to have computer-enabled lab access under a specialist teacher for composition.

School is fully wireless-enabled for student and staff laptops, school network policy precludes internet access to video and sound websites, except a bit. E.g. YouTube is blocked. So the challenge is to find a way, or lobby a way forward whilst better learning technologies myself. School has dedicated intranet based classroom and blogging/wiki software (Scholaris), which we’re all beginning to figure out how to use

I have long experience with computers. Some experience with multitrack audio and sequencing software. A lot of experience with Sibelius. Some experience with two-track audio editing and using audio software to aid transcription. Not much interest in blogging or social networking. But sounds like that needs a shove-along.

So the challenge to set up electronic classroom access for project based learning.

Recently I’ve done a fair bit of online reading and research relating to contemporary learning & online pedagogies: Ted Robinson, Michael Wesch. And I’m intrigued by the possibilities.

I’m a pretty good Web 1.0 user, and a wide reader of books. I use an iPod including video iPod regularly in classroom. And I’m a heavy user of film and YouTube in class work. So more Web 2.0 is a big challenge, but not unrelated to what I’m already attempting.

I’m very used to using YouTube as an archive of great documentaries and performances.

So this course will be a challenge, at just the right time, and I’ll be able to integrate it with my school work. My only worry is finding the time.

Some reflections on the homework:

I actually have Ken Robinson’s talk on my iPod, as I got pretty inspired by it last year. And I followed up his reference to Gillian Lynne, the dancer he mentioned as a previous-era struggler with the then unknown ADD.

Here Jennifer Saunders interviews Gillian Lynne, humorously, but it’s not a send up or anything:

Ken Robinson’s talk on repeated listening seems artificially padded with rather generic jokes. But that criticism aside, he makes his points about the potential irrelevance of education practices very powerfully. Can children survive the creative numbing effects of education? Must their real potential always be subsumed in this wild quest for the highest marks, frequently at the expense of real learning? These questions daily confront me, and I take up Robinson’s challenge to find ways to make arts education a serious business and seriously part of holistic and embodied education.

I got really inspired recently too by Michael Wesch’s work. He’s most famous for the ‘vision of students today’ clip, derived from his work with his Digital Ethnography students in Social Anthropology at Kansas State U. As a young relatively inexperienced lecturer he questioned pretty much all received wisdom and went for what he thought were intuitively way better approaches to learning in a digital world. With ‘teacher of the year’ success. He has great humility and willingness to defer, you can tell from his presentation style; and that willingness to learn makes him naturally a good teacher. I’ve listened to several of his lectures and presentations in various north American forums. Challenging and inspiring us all to rethink our approaches to education in the digital era.

Everyone should at least look at his ‘vision of students today’:

Further on the digital world. If anyone has time, over a holiday season, it’s worth checking out Greg Niemeyer’s podcast lecture series ‘The Foundations of American Cyberculture’, from UC Berkeley, available free through iTunes U.

The video version just has powerpoints as well as lecture. The audio version is as followable. A wide-ranging history and cultural critique of internet origins and practices, from the perspective of a practising visual and multimedia artist. 20-plus hours of listening. But excellent background to the contemporary cultural world.

A few days later, after looking at James’s blog version of the lecture notes, for the bit I’d missed:

Wow! another connection: I went to uni with Melissa Kenny, and played with her for some time in the Renaissance Players, including on recordings etc. And we had the Soulfood choir to our school a year or so ago for a fundraising evening concert. Very inspiring.

Your Sting version and the teaching/learning possibilities of YouTube well taken.

Personally I get quite annoyed that many people just view YouTube as an endless source of funny clips to share, and many students I find are banned from using it by their parents, presumably because they think it’s frivolous; and people often neglect the amazing archive that it is of historic and contemporary performance. And a community for sharing learning and living as Wesch and others have pointed out. And a source for learning just about anything musical. So many generous teachers sharing their skills!

Sorry I missed the warm-ups and but I had a good look at the 6834 piece and will try it soon with some students.

On mirroring, Peter Dunbar-Hall demonstrated this in a video of gamelan teaching from Bali at the recent C-DIME conference. It seems to be standard practice for Balinese gamelan teachers to be just as virtuosic playing in mirror as right-way-round, as they teach students.

Andrew Tredinnick

Hello world!

March 6, 2010

Well we’re up and running!