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

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