Welcome to my weblog!
The place where I will regularly post thoughts and comments on any aspect of music.
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(As you see, the blog is in DInglish - Dutch International English - but comments in Dutch, German, French, Spanish and Frisian are welcome.)

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And you might check my other blog, Evert Listens to Dylan, if you would be interested what listening to the complete recordings of Bob Dylan does with (or to, or for) me.

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Friday, July 1, 2016

Special Needs

I think I told this story before: I once told a group of music education students about my developing ideas about 'idiocultural music education', a form of music education that acknowledges the musical individuality of every child and takes that as its point of departure. (Many people say: "Oh, I do that all the time. What's new?" I take the liberty to doubt that - true idiocultural music education is a severe paradigm shift once you think it through. And, I would like to add for those interested, it has something to do with Gert Biesta's idea of 'subjectivation' as one of the three functions of education.)

Monday, May 16, 2016

An embarrassingly auto-ethnographical piece of writing

Although it is rainy and windy now and one would not say it is late spring, only a couple of days ago the weather made us believe it was summer. One afternoon, I was cycling home after a quite busy day. I was good-humored, due to the fact that the last meeting I attended showed signs of improvement in a field which had given rise to worries and even conflicts in the past year.

These days I often listen to music while biking to my work and back. I put some fifty or so albums I like on my phone and listen over those small earphones which deliver a quality which never stops amazing me. Occasionally I listen to Soundcloud - I subscribed to a couple of channels of EDM-artists just to keep an idea of what is going on in the world of my son, musically: Skrillex, David Guetta.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The M4 Principle

This is a little note about the M4 Principle: the Miraculous Meaningfulness of Musical 'Mediocracy'.

I was in Sarajevo last week, as I have been every year those past few years to deliver guest lectures to master and PhD students. I was, to be honest, not looking forward to go, because I have been too busy lately to enjoy travel and I did not want to leave my family. But of course, once I was there I was happy to be back, meeting my Sarajevan colleagues who have become very dear to me over the years, working with those nice students, and wandering around this beautiful city, scarred by history and teeming with life. The smokey smell of Cevabcici-fires. The beautiful mosques, the guilty mountains. Bosnian coffee.

Monday, March 7, 2016

A Little Anthem for an Anthem

On Saturday afternoon I went with my shanty choir to a residential home for the elderly in Slochteren, to sing for the inhabitants. The home, 'Olderloug', was well known terrain - we had sung there before, for an audience of (very) old people, some care staff, quite some volunteers, and maybe some inhabitants from the neighborhood.

The days are long gone that in the Netherlands you could enter a residential home for the elderly at retirement age and live there for a couple of decades. Nowadays, one has to be really fragile in order to enter a residential home. If you are only a bit fragile, or rather fragile but not enough to convince the authorities that you need care in a residential home, the powers that be claim that 'family', 'friends', and 'the community' ought to take care of older people, rather than 'the government' (forgetting that 'the government' is nothing else than 'the community' but then institutionalized through tax-paying mechanisms).

I am not going to enter into discussions about today's claims that our society should be 'inclusive' and directed towards 'participation', although, to speak with Dylan, "you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows" - just looking around you is enough to separate the high-strung idealistic and political correct language from the sometimes grey reality unfolding. I am just noticing here that one of the consequences of all this newspeak is that more and more residential homes have to close down because of a lack of inhabitants (basically: because of a lack of money, or rather: because of a lack of willingness to keep investing - the system simply becomes too expensive to be sustained by this poor country I live in).

And so the concert we were giving in Olderloug would be the last concert ever there, because next week Olderloug would be closed down and the remaining inhabitants would be moved to various homes elsewhere in the province - to be, after a while, probably moved to yet another home somewhere else in the province because more homes will be closed down. Et cetera.

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Contemporary Octogenarion

Not so long ago, a cherished colleague tweeted that he found it nice to see how new music education projects tried to connect to today's music practices.

Of course, I would find that nice, too.

The funny thing was that he was talking about an initiative where pupils from primary schools were given the opportunity to learn to play the electrical guitar in groups. And then my thoughts started to wander.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Humanly Organized Sound?

Recently I was in an international meeting on music education. Many concrete music education practices were shown. One of them started from a definition of music which ethnomusicologists immediately recognize: John Blacking's famous "Music is humanly organized sound".

Although I am an ethnomusicologist and I admire John Blacking (at least the relatively little I know of him), I am not at all a fan of this definition. At a first glance, it looks rather harmless. It is nice that the word 'human' is there. But I don't like he stress on 'sound' - it points too much to the idea that the essence of music is the way it sounds, and it is only a short run then towards the idea that music is, essentially, a 'piece' of sound. I also don't like the stress on 'organized', as it turns our focus towards they-that-organize: composers and musicians. And I miss, for example, the word 'meaning'; meaning is what music is all about.

It is good to remember that defining is not an innocent, neutral or objective activity, and that a definition is not an objective fact or a representation of an abstract truth. Defining is a human act, and an individual act for that: somebody defines. Defining means: stating which of the innumerable characteristics of a phenomenon one considers characteristic of the phenomenon. It is choosing a specific focus on the world, and ignoring other possible focuses. And it is marking boundaries; it is an act of inclusion and of exclusion.

It is maybe good to realize that John Blacking was, apart from being an anthropologist focusing on music, also an accomplished classical pianist who for a time had the ambition of becoming a professional concert pianist. Maybe this background and the doubtless emotionally grounded importance of being a classical pianist shimmers through his definition of music. Mind you: I know that John Blacking is the opposite of the classical musician considering classical music the alpha and omega of music in general, and that his work amongst the Venda in South-Africa made him realize that nearly all his presuppositions about what music might be had become untenable. I am not accusing him of implicit musicological colonialism; I just want to suggest that maybe our own experiences with music are so fundamental that it is hard to detach us from them.

The main thing I want to say is: when people start defining music, be cautious. So here is my own definition of music, to be equally cautious of: "music" is what someone considers to be 'music'.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Are DJs Musicians?

Earlier I wrote about the question whether or not singers are musicians. The question is as pressing as ever - again and again I find snippets of language in daily life in which speakers equate 'music' with 'music played on an instrument'. Please understand me right: this is not 'wrong' - it is simply 'culture'; it is the way we ('we') think and speak about music. I guess the fact that Mischa Spel (about whom I wrote in my previous blog) is announced to write for her newspaper about 'classical music and opera' is connected to the same question. And the fact that the particular blog entry called "Are Singers Musicians" is the entry that has attracted the most readers of all 150+ entries of this my blog may show that the question makes people curious (or maybe it shows that there are many singers around longing for a positive answer?).

I can tell you that there is a related question: are DJs musicians? Again, the question revolves about ideas whether or not they produce sounds in the way instrumentalists do - "with their own bare hands", one might say. We are so used thinking in terms of the production of sound vs. the reproduction of sounds that it seems unthinkable that somebody 'just' reproducing music produced by others is a musician. And of course, while typing the sentence, I realize that for example classical musicians do precisely that: in their production they reproduce.