I was delighted to be invited to respond to John Kratus’ talk at the CIC/New Directions conference today at Michigan State University.
My response focuses on the importance of a critical perspective and pragmatic approach to technology in music education. To assist those who might like to follow up on some of the ideas, I’ve posted my response, with additional footnotes and references, right here:
Thibeault CIC 2011 Response.pdf
And here’s the picture from the Ellnora Guitar Festival sing-along from my slides:
fantastic response, Matt–thanks so much for being a part of this event!
I agree! Loved your thoughts!
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Reblogged this on Akutsk and commented:
Thanks for a very intersting text! And well written. Your debugging of the musicotechnophilia is indeed very important.
In musical education in Scandinavia, you have a trend for the moment I would call ipadialisation, where technoenthousiasts praise the possibilities in a software like Garageband. It simply, – this is their claim – enables the kids to express themselves musically in a natural way.
This is where your criticism about the inbaked bias of the technologies hits bulls eye: no technology has ever been or will ever be value free or neutral.
This is also why, by the way, that it is not a big surprise that the tools are eurocentric. Actually they SHOULD be centered in the culture in which they exist. If exported to other cultures, each local culture should then reinvent the technologies or make new ones according to their context. The REAL problem is that the tools are not eurocentric enough.
The current technologies are build on abstractions like scales, chords, metrum, notes etc., this being reinforced by techniques like autotune, quantization etc. These abstractions come from an analysis of what we used to call music.
They are based on music theory, which is to say that they are focused on an end product, viewed through certain filters, and that they completely overlook 1) the embeddedness in real life materials, – the resistance of musical instruments, of the human voice, of space and of context in general, and 2) the potential generation of new elements to be included in what we might consider as musical, ie noise, gesture etc. and not least 3) the non-conformity of actual musical practices with what musicologists and others have zipped into these abstractions, basically driven by a logico-deductive approach, – probably in an attempt to legitimize the field of study called musicology.
Real eurocentric digital technologies would
A) take the technologies themselves seriously, and use the new media in their own right, while allowing them to combine with existing technologies.
B) be sensitive to humanness, be tweakable for to the user, be open for him/her to express the nuances of everyday life.
C) be open to context, be combinable, pluridimensional.
Wonderful comment, thank you very much!
Interesting post, and replies, on an interesting subject. Coincidentally, it touches on some of the issues raised in my latest post where I take a (very) brief look at some of these points but from the day-to-day perspective of a working composer. I always say ‘new methods, new disciplines’. There’s always a price to pay and a balance sheet of pluses and minuses has to be drawn up before I reject anything. Even humble sequencing programs offer a useful way of laying down funky rhythms etc.
Deviating slightly from music itself, words such as ‘culture’ always make me nervous. Living in Britain, where our whole way of life is under threat, expressions of culture involve the emphasis and reinforcement of divisions, which isn’t the way to achieve what must be the ultimate goal of our species: the evolution of a global family of mankind.
Added to this, as I point out in the book, cultural differences would be less marked if we had always possessed modern methods of transport and communication, the absence of which led to isolated attitudes prevailing.
Finally, I was puzzled by the description of scales and chords as being ‘abstractions’.
Thanks again, John Morton.