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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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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

On Participatory Presenting II

I like presenting research in front of groups of people. Whether it is a guest lecture at a university, a presentation at a conference, a talk for a local women's society, a class at a school - it is always nice to do.

Basically I work with two formats: either the 'reading of a paper' (so literally reading; a form I had to get used to but I like more and more because it allowes you to be very precise in your words and your phrasing) or the 'guided talk' where the guidance comes from either some speaking notes or a power point which guides you through your message - and leaves room for some extemporality.

But recently I realize that I am more and more attracted to forms of what I call 'participatory presenting'.  I wrote about one form of it before - see my blog on working with music workshop leader Hannah Conway - and now have another, maybe even more 'participatory' example I would like to share.

Monday, May 15, 2017

On Schizophonia

I went to see the gipsy. Or: I went to hear a Nobel prize winner sing. When I announced it on Facebook, one of my FB-friends asked me which one. I answered that I was not sure how recent Groningen-laureate Ben Feringa sings but that in this case I would go to listen to Bob Dylan.

The concert was great. Dylan sang a collection of his own songs, interspersed with songs from the American Songbook. Maybe he did it for Nobel purposes, to make clear why it is completely justified that he did receive the Nobel prize for his lyrics, rather than the writers of the American Songbook lyrics. The difference between the two is obvious and couldn't be greater. Day and night.

One of the other great things of Dylan's concert was that he is still, at 70+, able to infuriate people during a concert. A guy right behind me took pride in boo-ing every American Songbook song and every piano note Dylan hit. And honestly: I am not a fan of his American Songbook crooning, and neither do I think he is a great pianist. But for me, it is the fascinating play of foreground/background that counts.

Monday, April 24, 2017

On participatory presenting

One of the connections music may make is a connection to time. To the past, to the future. And to the present. When I developed a little model of the functions of music, I called the connection to time 'presenting'. Just a little pun, with a little truth in it.

But now, I want to talk about this other form of presenting: standing in front of an audience and present something you think might be meaningful to that audience. I do that a lot, these days. Tomorrow morning I have to present something called a 'keynote' at the Research in Music Education RIME conference in Bath, UK. I am looking forward to it. I have more time than the usual 20 minutes to explain what keeps me busy: music education and 'idioculturality'. I will try to give a sort of synthesis of the many little building blocks I have been working on those past five years, and hope it works - hope it may be useful and meaningful to the people who come to listen to me. (The doubt about whether I will succeed in being meaningful is part of the package, I know by now.)

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Ridiculous question

Recently, the national education authority (‘onderwijsinspectie’) assessed the level of arts education in the Netherlands. I am not going to say anything about their findings, apart from the fact that they were not very positive. What I do want to say samething about, however, is how the national education authority thinks it can assess the level of arts education.

Children were asked, in the ‘knowledge assessment’, subtheme ‘own valuation’, the following question after hearing an unspecified music example (C.P.E. Bach? Martin Garrix?):

“Which word fits the music fragment?
a. solemn
b. rough
c. calm
d. boring
e. gloomy
f. cool
g. wild
h. happy
i. another word:
j. I don’t know
Why does this word fit the music fragment?”

Sunday, January 22, 2017

On the brain, unfortunately

A colleague of mine recently pointed out that the difference between psychologists and pedagogues is that psychologists care about the 'how' question whereas pedagogues are concerned about the 'why' and 'what' questions in education.

She immediately added that of course this was a gross exaggeration. Nevertheless, there seems to be a kind of truth in it to me. Let us accept, for the moment, that she is right, and that therefore one needs both psychologists and pedagogues to think about education. And let me then apply this difference to what some people consider to be the most important contribution nowadays to the discussion about music education: neuropsychology.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Serious Request - or: So Deadly Contageous is Music.

There may come a time when the mist that surrounds us all may thicken around me, and thicken and thicken. I will first find my way without any problem. But gradually I will lose sight of this beautiful world I know so well - and I will lose how it smells, and how it tastes, and how it feels, and how it sounds. Or at least, that is how I will look to you.

I would appreciate it if by then, you would help me a bit. Nothing serious - I hope others will be able to do the serious stuff - but when you visit me, play me a tune, sing me a song, put on the radio.

Play me 'Go Leave' by Kate McGarrigle, because I love this voice (and that of her sister Anna, of course), and because she sings 'ears have a way of calling...'.

Friday, November 18, 2016

On the 'Added Value' of Music

I was at a conference where numerous projects were presented in the domain of 'Arts and the Elderly'. It was good to notice that, where ten years ago activities in this domain were hardly visible and actors hardly met, now this domain has constituted itself as an actual domain with actual key questions and a growing network of people who know how to find each other and appreciate each other.

One of the key questions, a persistent and recurring one, is that of advocacy for and, ultimately, of financing of activities for frail and vulnerable elderly: those with dementia, those in hospitals or in care homes, those living a lonely life at home devoid of meaningful social contacts, et cetera.

The communis opinio is that the arts may contribute to physical and mental health, and to a general sense of well-being and meaningfulness of life. There are many strong examples to show that, and research is carried out both to give 'deep' evidence (through, e.g. ethnography, case studies or action research) as well as 'broad' evidence (through larger scale but more superficial effect measurements). And slowly but surely the knowledge of what the arts contribute to the elderly is building up.

But in the back of my head there is this persisting and recurring question of my own: why do we, suddenly, in the case of the vulnerable older woman, have to explain something that was taken for granted when that same woman was not yet vulnerable and older but just simply living her everyday life. When it comes to music: why do we have to argue that there is something missing in the life of this vulnerable older woman if music has no place in it in the same way as it did before? And why do we have to deliver the 'evidence-base' for the simple, widely accepted notion underpinned by libraries of research that human beings are learning beings, and that therefore life is incomplete without the possibility to be surprised by new music, new images, new movements, and that even the very vulnerable should be given the opportunities to living by learning?

I was in a session on the said conference where we were making an inventory of 'the value of the arts', and where we were talking in terms of 'added value': the arts give you the opportunity to express yourself, to bond socially, et cetera. But the idea of 'added value' gives one the idea that the arts are not part of the basis of life, but form an 'extra' in order to reach specific 'goals'. That may be the case in for example the therapeutic use of the arts, but even arts therapy nowadays is firmly grounded in the idea that it works precisely because the arts are nót an extra in life, but rather an undeniable part of life.

Speaking for music - the only 'art' of which I really know something - I would like to draw your attention to the fact that 99,9% of our population leads an intense and deeply satisfying - and very idio-syncratic, and often not very 'canonical' - musical life on a day-to-day basis. If at an elderly age people get less and less opportunities to continue their musical life, it is very simply part of a human health care system to provide those opportunities. The questions may be who should be doing that (contrary to popular belief in my circles I do not see why 'music professionals' should suddenly take the lead here), how we organize it, and who pays for it.

But the fundamental position should be: music is not an added value. It is a basic value. Music for elderly people should not be judged on the basis of the fact that it is 'fostering well-being', or on any other kind of 'added value' of music. It should be judged on the basis of the fact that human life by definition is musical, and that living the full life till the end means also living the musical life till the end. And if a care system is a 'care' system at all: simply taking care that that happens.