The benefit of a lockdown is having so much time to wander where your curiosities lead you. In an ever increasingly busy lifestyle you end up giving up pursuing those musings for lack of time and stamina – I encountered Sir Ken Robinson’s talks on Youtube for the first time and fell down that rabbit hole today, what a shame I had not heard of him and what a shame to find out he passed away only a year ago. Here we have a Educational revolutionist whose background was in theater and drama advocating for the arts and creativity and how standardised systems are stifling creativity. To quote him, “We don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it, or rather we get educated out of it.”
I agree with his statement that life and creativity is not linear, but rather organic – and this takes time. We need time to make ‘happy mistakes,’ stumbling upon talents and interests that never occurred to us or better still, had not even existed in this world until we created it.
True to Sir Robinson’s claim education as we know it is shifting under our feet. In a post internet society, in just the last couple of decades we have seen an explosion of educational potential like the video above where anybody can choose to learn and discover new things. This falls under the umbrella of informal learning and what better way is there for a student than to direct their own learning like I did for the past twelve hours or so?
Another thing I learned today is a concept called reification – having its origin in Marxist theory, it has been divorced from thence and we now apply it in many ways including music philosophy and aesthetics. It comes from the latin word res which means ‘thing’ and the idea is that we attach simplistic meanings to complex origins, in other words a cliche or generalisation of sorts. Youtuber Tantacrul is an amazing educator and a comic and does a fantastic job capturing this in this video.
Watching the two videos in the span of one day made me realise that by insisting on reiterating dead white composers, as musicians and teachers we may be unconsciously contributing to a reification of those great artists in a negative way. By bringing these pinnacles of creative achievement into the classroom to be dissected and laboured over may have had a more detrimental effect than we realised. Imagine a student’s response to a typical study of Shakespeare and we have a similar case. We know that these artists were producing groundbreaking material at their conception but by a process of reification we associate symphonies and tragedies with boring, anachronistic lessons – it’s lamentable.
Another danger is by tokenising cultural music – this too is another form of reification. As Tentacrul’s video suggests there is a real danger to limiting a musical trope to a specific culture as it suggests that Indigenous music must contain Indigenous instruments or sounds. As teachers despite our well meaning intentions we may fall into those traps if we are not careful and discerning.
In conclusion, I want to teach in a way that piques student curiosity and interest, encourages self guided exploration and informal learning from there, and an helping students to have informed consumption of creative medias. It would be wonderful if students were to stumble upon Rachmaninoff’s piano concertos or Goldberg variations outside the classroom, anywhere but the classroom. It would be a happy accident indeed.