Paul here. With all the advertising going on, I thought I’d fill people in on a few things. We are in North York and we intend on staying here until I am finished my DMA in music composition. I’ve also been thinking a lot about what I do. I’m such a jack of all trades kind of performer / musician. I mean I’ve played in University Orchestras, Rock bands, Choirs, Church music, Experimental Improv groups a la Fluxus. I also play a handful of instruments instead of really focusing all of my energies into one. I guess this is part of being a composer. After all, playing in multiple idioms makes the writing process better.
Having such a diverse background, I see many things that others often don’t see. With rock players, I see a very active disdain for the academics of music. Furthermore, I see a general apathy towards any sort of technique. As a product of this, we have a musical discipline where players are musically illiterate and who play with inefficient and even potentially harmful technique. BUT these people are not without skill. To write off what they can do well would be extremely foolish because it serves to expose the weakness of conservatory style instruction. Rock musicians are incredibly sensitive to one another. They know well how to listen, respond, and play together. The levels of rhythmic precision in a polished ensemble is remarkable, something largely foreign to conservatory trained players. Rock players have a philosophy that what you hear is what you get, which is probably why they have the sensitivity to pitch and rhythm that they do.
With conservatory (classically) trained players, I generally see a strong focus on sight reading, music theory, and history. There is an acknowledgement of where we came from and that without the history, the present wouldn’t be what it is. With instruction, classical players work on developing skill and finesse while playing. There is a huge focus on technique and the mechanics of playing. This discipline grows proficiency to phenomenal levels all while minimizing the risk of injury due to poor technique. On the dark side, ears are generally not musically sensitive. What I mean is that within an ensemble context, many players are not accustomed to hearing and responding. Very few do. Rather, most tap the food and play the notes on the page. Classical pedagogues are all to concerned with playing what is on the page and it is difficult for many students to get past that. Furthermore, there is an insensitivity or an imprecision on how rhythms are dealt with. While I have spoken with my string player friends who assure me rhythm is not a problem, my ears tell me otherwise. The beat often can be far too wide when in reality it needs to ‘groove’ more. In classical music as an idiom, the beat generally ‘floats’. There is a natural breathing or ‘ebb and flow’ which occurs throughout the course of a musical work. Contrast this with rock music. When you have a drum kit, you have a player sitting behind it who is concerned with metrically even subdivisions of every beat. The groove is really the polar opposite of european rhythm and in this instance, the metrical subdivision is almost machine like in its regularity. Where the pulse is, there is no mistaking. The predictability of where the beat falls is only disturbed by surprises such as a momentary lapse of the beat pattern used (Drum fill or rest), or use of odd metre. But I digress.
So classical players read and rock players listen. Yes, this is a bit of a generalization but for the most part, it works. Trust me, I’ve been on both sides of the fence, playing in rock bands and Orchestras. So the goal is really this: How can I, as an educator, expand the toolkit of young musicians so that they are better equipped to handle whatever challenge comes their way? How can I ensure that they will be able to have a foundation that allows them to choose whatever musical path they follow? How can I train people with a classical pedigree to listen with the ears of a rock musician? To have a true understand and appreciation of rhythm? How can I convince rock musicians that technique makes them play better? That theory is important? That the proverbial ‘box’ is bigger than they world they live in and that learning about it doesn’t mean that they have to keep living in it? That they can look out of the box and try really whatever they want? How can I distill music theory into a tool that helps understand how music is put together and why it sounds as it does? How can I teach composition skills to people who want to play in bands?
Well, these questions are not without answers but I’ll leave them there for people to ponder them. If you want to get into some of that, call us up and book a free trial lesson.
Pedagogical Projects: I (Paul) have a couple of long term visions. 1) I’d love to write a music book for rock guitarists. The idea would be to focus on how music theory applies to writing interesting music. Some possible focuses would be melody writing as well as different ways of organizing chord relationships and large scale formal designs.
2) I really want to compose a pedagogical tool for cellists. This would be organized as both etudes in every key as well as loads of sight reading practice in every key. Kind of like a Musician Skills book with pitch and rhythm examples, but specifically for cellists. I think such a tool may potentially bore players but it would also be interesting practice.
Anyway, I’m tired. I have blabbered too much already! Chat soon!