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Monday, July 4, 2011

What is it with music in schools

Oh, the endless amazement music leads to.
Last week, on Thursdays, I had organized a workshop on Indian music for our students. Teachers were Ludwig Pesch and Yoga Manickam Yogeswaran (for both of them, see www.aiume.org). For 3 hours they entertained us on high level – explaining how to fill an 8-beat cycle with fixed patterns of 1 to 7 semi-quavers, adding up to a total of 32 semi-quavers; “some percussion players are living computers”, Ludwig said. More important for me were the raga-improvisations Yoga sang – and especially how he sat there, just doing what he had to do, I imagined. And me being kind of part of that.
I also had the opportunity to buy a couple of second hand lp’s this weekend. To be precisely: one by The Beatles, one by John Lennon, two by Paul McCartney and two by George Harrison.  I kind of collect lp’s from the Beatles and their individual members, but had not been looking consciously for albums for a long time. But I was especially glad with the John Lennon “Live Peace in Toronto” album, with Yer Blues on it, Eric Clapton playing the lead guitar. Lennon is my favorite Beatle anyway (just listen to “I’m So Tired” or “Julia” to understand why).
Then, I spent an evening with my wife in an Irish pub where a guitarist sang golden oldies; even including the German version (we were in Oldenburg for the weekend) of “Wat zullen wij drinken” from the 70’s socialist Dutch group Bots. The pub was quite full, and loads of people – many of them students, it seemed – sang along loudly, including myself from time to time; and a group of 4 women opposite us who were drinking various alcoholic drinks with amazing speed. Nothing special, apart from the fact that the evening was completely satisfying for me and many present, I presume; “me being kind of part of that”, as it were, again.
The morning after the pub night I watched a German carnival procession. People were dressed up in semi-formal mock-costumes; wind bands were playing a rather swinging repertoire; the executive boards of the various carnival clubs were driven along in carriages and waving to the audience; and the audience, not dressed up at all (it is not carnival, after all), was standing in rows alongside the streets and waving back.
This morning, I visited the school of my children to see the week’s opening ceremony.  Stories were told and little plays were played; and a song was announced, played on a cd and sung along halfheartedly by about one quarter of the pupils involved.
That’s one of the big contradictions of the world I live in: any kind of music is available for anyone anywhere, everybody can buy any music he wants to hear, singing along is done large scale at many occasions (think of soccer, of birthday parties, of singing in showers and cars) and hordes of people love music to accompany the most varied occasions of their lives – but we keep it out of our schools desperately, it seems, and if we get it in, we transform it into something so difficult and far away from our daily life that pupils as well as general school teachers are not able to attach any significance to it.
We’re lucky the life of music is not dependent on what we do with it in our schools.

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