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Friday, April 20, 2012

On Teaching in the Wireless Age, or: Dutch Folkmetal Exists and is Called Heidevolk

I was guest teacher in a neighbouring conservatoire last week. Three lectures of about three hours on `world music' for a bunch of about hundred music education and music therapy students. Just simple, old-fashioned, frontal lecturing - of course with invitations to students to participate, to make themselves heard, but still: my story. I tend to think that in these days, where self-directed learning, working groups, thinking in competencies have become mainstream it is not so bad that occasionally students are confronted with an old-fashioned teacher who thinks that he has something to tell them. An exercise in patience and in humbleness for them, as it were.

And I love talking to - and with - groups.
Anyway. At the end of the last lecture, I turned towards the music of Europe, and of the Netherlands. I started, as I often do, with showing them theYouTube-video of Finntroll's `Trollhammaren', just to be able to get them thinking about Clifford Geertz' question `What the hell is going on here?' And I was asking them why this kind of folkmetal is so popular in Scandinavian countries (and here also amongst metal fans) but why the genre is absent in the Netherlands.

Now that was imprudent. Saying in absolute terms that something does not exist demands falsifying activities from students. So within five minutes one of the students put up her finger and, once having been given the word, said that actually folkmetal was not absent in the Netherlands - the group Heidevolk being proof of that. So I learned something, and am very curious to find out more about them - there is quite some reference to a constructed medieval past, quite some blood & soil in the lyrics. I wonder what entering their site brings me.

But there is another point to this. How did the student find out about Heidevolk? Simple: when I said no Dutch folkmetal existed, she texted to one of her metal friends asking her if this was true; her friend texted back about Heidevolk (the text message being something like `Finntroll sucks. Check Heidevolk', expressing a sophisticated form of connoisseurship in ultmate terms to me). And then she put up her finger.

It is slightly intimidating to know that speaking in front of a bunch of students nowadays makes you the subject of immediate verifying. You cannot say just anything - students will check what you say by consulting wikipedia on their i-phone and then correcting you if you're wrong. I don't have trouble with that - ninety-five percent of what you say as a teacher should be about adequate, and for the other five percent you should possess an attitude of fundamental correctability, I think.

But recently I read  about the ten features of excellent teaching in the US, and one of them was that digital gear was forbidden in lectures - pencil and paper, and for the rest you are supposed to direct your attention to your fellow students and the teacher, and not to surfing the internet for additional information.

There is something to say for that.

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