This is a preparation for the talks I’m going hold at TEDx Berlin on November 14th and 15th, 2010. Comments and criticism are welcome but I reserve the right to ignore them.
So please brace yourself now because I know what I’m going to write here will sound like blasphemy to many people. A friend of mine told me yesterday I can’t say this. I’ve thought about it. I can. Here goes nothing.
Music is being taught the wrong way nowadays.
I experienced the errors of todays music education and lots of people I’ve talked with have experienced the same. To demonstrate the amount of wrongness I am going to compare musical education to the process of teaching children how to read and write.
We’re taught to read and write with certain goals. After our education we’re supposed to be able to extract meaning from a text. We’re supposed to be able to express our opinion in a letter, article or in a twitter status message. We’re supposed to be able to articulate ourselves. And we’re supposed to be able to see the beauty of a text after reading it.
Musical education nowadays ignores most of these goals. When learning an instrument the goal is that we’re able to play. Not to compose. We’re not supposed to come up with our own musical pieces, but we’re supposed to be able to just play sheet music and maybe, just maybe understand a few basic harmonic and rhythmic wisdoms.
But that’s it.
We’re not taught to participate in the community of composers. It’s not expected of us.
We’re learning music without the goal of being able to express ourselves. Reciting a poem is the closest comparison of what we’re able to do after we’ve finished our musical education.
That’s the same as being taught to read and write without ever being encouraged to write an essay or even phrase a single opinion.
Playing Debussy well is the same as writing down a dictation flawlessly with nice letters. It’s nice but it’s not your music. You’re just playing stuff that someone else has come up with.
You’re just repeating someone else’s opinion. Worse even, you’re repeating it word by word.
Shakespeare was a great author and his works are great but they’re nothing compared to the importance of the notes people leave each other on the kitchen table, day by day.
A note reading ‘Honey, pick up the kids. I can’t make it today! Love you!’ is more important than any book of Mr. Shakespeare because it solves day to day problems. We wouldn’t be able to survive without these messages.
Can we live without music? Do we want to? I don’t think so.
But we’re accepting that most of us will never be able to write a musical note and leave it on the kitchen table that is life. It is accepted by society that we cannot express ourselves non-verbally with instruments. We’re a global society of illiterates when it comes to the field of music. And we think that’s ok.
Why is that?
Because we think that it’s too hard to compose and express ourselves through music.
Why do we think it is too hard?
Because the language we’ve created to write down music is fragmented, ineffective and inefficient. It’s old, complicated and doesn’t make use of any of todays technological accomplishments. Also we’re focusing our education on melody when our brains crave harmony.
We are using black and white cryptic numbers and icons printed on dead wood in the days of 3D Cinema and broad band mobile internet devices.
It’s a hurtful tradition.
It’s time to end this tradition.