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Some thoughts on our "musical education"

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    Some thoughts on our "musical education"

    Growing up in a family of musicians with a German made pipe organ(s) at home, I was lucky to get involved at an early age.
    Always enjoyed that sound coming out from the pipes and I remember my grandpa opening up the back cabinet to show me how it made beautiful sound by blowing air into the pipes.
    King of instrument, and yes I have lived all my life learning about and worshipping the king.

    So that said, I have absolutely no problem with people developing technological gems to simulate the instrument using 0s and 1s.
    I give them credit for extending the educational horizon for the instrument and also in getting more people interested by increasing accessibility.

    But are we doing enough to let people know its origin and what it stands for culturally and historically?
    My colleague told me that many musicians these days seem to believe that there is no boundary between the modern and classical instruments.
    That may be true but, to me, I do not consider someone a musician if she or he cannot tell me a thing on the historical, sociological, and religious significance of the instrument.

    Yep, just some old thoughts on those people not doing the job.

    #2
    A.. a bit philosophical....
    the way I see it,...
    general education: probably not so much,.. but there are so many topics to cover. The choice will always be limited at some point.

    however,... those who really go study will get music history lessons. On top that, in my experience those who really go professional have a healthy interest in this.

    (says a 58yo guy with a daughter who became a professional and educated singer)
    Made my own organs in 1975 and 1981.
    Fender Rhodes since 1982.
    Hammond xm1 midi-module with Solton Bass/Treble Leslie for many years
    Hammond L122 with 1speaker Leslie cabinet since January 2020

    Comment


    • illbebach
      illbebach commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks for the comments. But as I mentioned below, you should know basic bits of your instrument no matter where you are on the ladder.

    #3
    Illbebach,

    Ah, the classic take on pipe vs. digital organs. However, I do appreciate the way you morphed the discussion to the history of the instrument.

    I'm not sure if you're familiar with the AGO (American Guild of Organists). Many chapters have at least annual organ crawls, which allow students and adults to go inside a local pipe organ to see how it works. The history of the pipe organ is sometimes covered in those events, or at separate events like an annual hymn sing or something like that.

    As a teacher, I certainly educate my elementary and middle school students regarding the pipe organ and its relevance to many other instruments, and to music in general.

    You sound fortunate. I was in high school before I ever saw my first real pipe organ. Unfortunate, but typical of today's world.

    Michael
    Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
    • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
    • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
    • 9 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 6 Pianos

    Comment


    • illbebach
      illbebach commented
      Editing a comment
      Thank you for the comments. I am of course familar with AGO and also understand their effort in educating on the basics. What I am concerned is that some people seemed to believe that learning process can be flexible but, in my opinion, it is best to have people play and learn about the instrument simultaneously. I'm not just talking about college curriculum but it should be applied as Golden rule at any level of instruction.

    #4
    Originally posted by illbebach View Post
    That may be true but, to me, I do not consider someone a musician if she or he cannot tell me a thing on the historical, sociological, and religious significance of the instrument.
    i'd still consider them a musician and/or organist if they can play (so long as they know what the stops and pedals do). They may still very talented and capable. of course i mean they're good players despite the gaps in knowledge, not because of it. i'm all in favor of learning about the pipe organ, -though i don't regularly play pipe- but most of what i know has been gathered from this site. the church organist described the basics to me of how it works and a little history; he offered to tell me more but sadly developed alzheimers and lost that teaching ability.

    as someone who plays tonewheel or combo organs, i would say i feel strongly toward knowing the instrument. i am bothered when people use an emulation of the organ sound but have velocity-sensitive dynamics or use a sustain pedal. aftertouch vibrato on a farfisa sound. percussion that retriggers with every note, regardless of other keys being held down

    i think sometimes my desire for electromechanical purity borders on pretentiousness so i don't police others' sound choices. but weighted keys on a clavinet sound is forbidden. hitting bass notes below low F on a clavinet simulator is a breach of reality. and the dx7 bright tines patch sounds nothing like a rhodes
    Why do fools fall in lava?

    Comment


    • illbebach
      illbebach commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks for the comments. I may have sounded like an old lady wearing tighty whities LOL. But no, I am just very concerned that some educators (i.e., not just in the U.S. but perhaps elsewhere in the world) are not doing enough to incorporate the basics into the learning process. I am not saying that we need to have a four-year old yet-to-be musician sit on the desk and listen to our BORING take on the history and philosophy behind it. But at some point, one should know more on the background of the instrument than those who do not play. Not bragging that they all need to be music historians or sociomusicologists but just the basics!

    #5
    On the spectrum between "knowing how an instrument works" and "knowing how to use an instrument", I would expect an artist to have a lot more knowledge and experience with the "use" side and a technician to understand the "works" side better. Our time is limited enough it's difficult to be great at both. Spending time learning the history and functionality of an instrument may only contribute marginally to being able to play the instrument better (at least compared to actually practicing or studying technique). I feel that most overlap is mainly helpful for communication between artist and tech.

    I'm more technically minded. So I've spent a lot of time reading about how pipe and digital organs work (because it's fascinating to me). If I had spent that time practicing the organ, I would probably be a much better organist.

    I worked as a piano tech while I was going to college. I'm a decent pianist but I didn't (and still don't) have the skills to major in piano performance but I know way more about how a piano works than the piano major students and their professors. We used to have a one-hour seminar each semester where we tried to teach the piano majors a bit about piano technology so that they could communicate better with their technician. I'm not sure how much it helped. 8 hours over the course of a four-year degree is not much exposure but it's more than nothing.
    Last edited by samibe; 02-26-2020, 07:42 AM.
    Sam
    Home: Allen ADC-4500 Church: Allen MDS-5
    Files: Allen Tone Card (TC) Database, TC Info, TC Converter, TC Mixer, ADC TC SF2, and MOS TC SF2, ADC TC Cad/Rvt, MOS TC Cad/Rvt, Organ Database, Music Library, etc. PM for unlinked files.

    Comment


      #6
      When you do a certificate in "church music" over here, one of the subjects you're taught and tested on is the history of church music, and, on higher level, also the history of organ music. And you're supposed to know the basics, for example how a pipe organ works in general, what the difference is between types of pipes and so on.

      I think one needs to find a balance when teaching. Making music should always be in the foreground. If historical or technical issues help you to make (good) music, then you need to know about them.

      Comment


      • illbebach
        illbebach commented
        Editing a comment
        Thanks for the comments. The course you mentioned on the history of Church music is probably what most people need to get acquainted on the background. But what I would like to see is musicians themselves keep on learning and make efforts to better understand the instrument and its background. It's like Bible, we re-read and study the book over thousands of years but there are still things to be learned. I'd consider it as our responsibility as musicians. You play that marvelous instrument but why could you not spend a couple of hours reading per week to upgrade you as a better curator about it?

      • andijah
        andijah commented
        Editing a comment
        When you mention the "responsibility as musicians", are you talking about full-time musicians and/or professionals, or about any person who happens to have learned to play the organ and who does so every now and then?
        I don't think it helps to put too much pressure on amateurs who might struggle enough as it is by trying to hold a "normal" job, to look after their family, to practice their stuff and do all those other adult chores.

      #7
      Originally posted by samibe View Post
      I'm not sure how much it helped. 8 hours over the course of a four-year degree is not much exposure but it's more than nothing.
      Thanks for the comments. I totally agree that no one can be good at both. However, it sure makes a whole lot of difference when you are knowledgeable enough to talk about the story behind the instrument you are so good at playing.

      Comment


        #8
        Originally posted by illbebach View Post

        Thanks for the comments. I totally agree that no one can be good at both. However, it sure makes a whole lot of difference when you are knowledgeable enough to talk about the story behind the instrument you are so good at playing.
        i would at least expect an instructor or director to know a comprehensive history and the machinations or their instrument. but ime, most musicians lack a driving curiosity to study those adjacent topics. they see that an organ has a keyboard, oh that looks like a piano. what's tragic is that the majority of human knowleldge is available at our fingertips and there's no reason for it to stay untouched.

        synthesists are awful about this too. there are zounds of synth players who have never patched a sound or used a hardware synth or even edited a preset. i enjoy talking to them about the history* from the theremin to the novachord, to modular setups and the minimoog, to the advent of polysynths, introduction of digital circuits and FM, to the hybrid and software synths of today. these people absolutely enjoy hearing about these things. they just never thought to research it. but just a brief overview is still a lot of information and that's not even getting under the hood!

        *also tied to the pipe organ, whose sound generation could be considered additive synthesis.
        Why do fools fall in lava?

        Comment


          #9
          Originally posted by Logan View Post
          most musicians lack a driving curiosity to study those adjacent topics.
          It's really interesting how different experiences are! I've never met a professional musician who wasn't interested in his/her instrument and its history - but I have met amateur musicians who didn't know a lot about the instrument they play and sometimes didn't know much about general music history either. When I teach, I make sure that we cover those topics as well, but I can't force my students to read and study history and instrument technology and most amateurs are happy enough to know the basics. And that's fine with me.

          Comment


          • Logan
            Logan commented
            Editing a comment
            ah, that must be the difference. the musicians i had in mind were the ones i've most closely worked with- semi-professionals, amateurs, and guitar students. bands playing rock, funk, soul, and such. i teach theory/guitar and direct a group of young church players, and as much as i want to give background on instruments and also the material, there's just no time. i trust they'll develop an deeper interest in their instruments if they keep making progress

            edit: i also think extreme or disparaging cases are more memorable; if i were to quantify it somehow it'd surely be less common than i suggested

          • illbebach
            illbebach commented
            Editing a comment
            Yes, don't force them into it, but from my experience, little exposure does make a whole lot of difference. You are doing a great job!

          #10
          How to rise interest in the history of the organ and its music?

          My organ teacher in Holland organized excursions to organs in the area, for his amateur students. Organs from different periods and different building styles (for example Dutch Renaissance, Noth-German, French and Spanish Baroque, Church organ playing styles, Cavaille-Coll and German oriented romantic organs, and Neobarock styles). Something was told by him (or one of his conservatorium disciples) about that organ, its characteristics and the appropriate music for it, so we learned a lot in one evening. And each of us amateurs played a suitable repertoire piece on the organ in question.

          It was a beautiful experience, every organ teacher should organize such excursions if possible. Since we amateurs were usually with more than 10 people, the costs per person could be low (yes, we remain economical Dutchies….)

          @ orther posters: I agree, not everbody has time for such events or other ways of studying history of organ styles and the appropriate music correlated with it, but my teacher at least created the possibility and the accesibility was very good because it was not only educative but also fun.

          Comment


          • illbebach
            illbebach commented
            Editing a comment
            Thanks for the comments. As Heinlein once said "a generation which ignores history has no past and no future."

          #11
          Originally posted by illbebach View Post

          Thanks for the comments. I totally agree that no one can be good at both. However, it sure makes a whole lot of difference when you are knowledgeable enough to talk about the story behind the instrument you are so good at playing.
          I've had many positions in my long career in Church Music and exactly zero Organist Selection Committees have cared a single whit whether or not I knew how the Organ worked. Should pianists have to know the difference between the action in an upright grand and a concert grand? Do they know how a Harpsichord or Clavichord action works? What about the Pianoforte precursor of the Modern Piano? Some do. Most don't. They pick up as much or as little of the minutiae of history and development and the technology as they want to. Most importantly is how they play. Their technique.

          My Rodgers Digital organ IS a pipe organ. If asked directly I certainly wouldn't lie about it, but I don't dwell on the subject. It is a non-issue. It looks like one, sounds like one, most people (including those who should know better) think it is one, and the technique used in playing a pipe organ transfers completely over to the digital. One day it will be considered vastly wasteful to use tons of toxic metals to fashion pipes out of lead (mostly), zinc, and copper. Pianos too will not use cast iron frames to support the soundboard against the immense pressure of the strings. Cellos and Double Basses are being made from Carbon Fiber. Tubas and Euphoniums are being made from ABS (plastic) and Carbon Fiber to reduce their weight. Pipe Organs and Pianos are going to more and more use electronic components to reduce their weight. Its been happening for decades. The world hasn't ended yet. Most musicians WANT to play the plastic instruments but can't because of the cost. Organists turn up their noses at digital instruments that cost 100th of the pipe organs that they covet. Sigh.

          The tail does not wag the dog. It is completely possible to be an amazing musician and know zero about the history or evolution of the instrument. I'm not saying that that is a good thing but this "you gotta pay the dues if you want to play the Blues ... " Some amazing young Blues musicians are coming up who have not payed any dues yet, or maybe ever. We must learn to check our elitism at the start of the lesson lest we scare off the pupil. I like what Andijah said earlier. It's really enough to focus mainly on technique. That's what people are paying for. My first and only teacher who I had for only a year or so as a child made sure I knew TONS of music theory. It didn't help me play any better but later on it came in very handy. He did not teach or tell me the first thing about the instrument. Not a word. When would he have had time? As it was he was spending half of the lesson time on non-musical exercises. My parents would probably have fired him if he had gone into the historical record of the instrument. My organist at church. Not a word. I doubt she even knew herself.

          Comment


          • tbeck
            tbeck commented
            Editing a comment
            I would argue that a pianist should know the difference between the actions in an upright and a grand piano. As you know, because of that difference, a key on an upright must be completely released before that note can be repeated whereas on a grand, the note can be repeated with just a slight rise of the key.

            That obviously makes a huge difference in the touch and the pianists ability to control dynamics.

          • Logan
            Logan commented
            Editing a comment
            ^^ on a tangential note, tbeck's reply reminds me: in highschool, the jazz band played a regional competition. i had never played a grand of any variety so the instant we started performing was my first experience. i was startled by the difference and most of my changes were noticeably off. it wasn't entirely my fault, but we didn't even place, were somewhere at the bottom. just a few words from the director or someone beforehand could've saved me some indignation

          #12
          Originally posted by Logan View Post
          what's tragic is that the majority of human knowleldge is available at our fingertips and there's no reason for it to stay untouched.
          Absolutely, there is no excuse, just procrastination.

          Comment


            #13
            Originally posted by Leisesturm View Post
            It's really enough to focus mainly on technique.
            Hmm, may be this is right if one only play he same kind of music, always, again and again. But as soon as you want to play in several styles, you must know something more. I will explain what I mean.

            Example 1. if you play some piece of Couperin, or a Noel of Balbastre, or any other piece of music from the French Baroque period, one MUST know about inegalité and the specific French Baroque registrations, otherwise the music will not flourish and even will become dull. So the listener is bored and the player is in refrain to play it any more.

            Example 2. if you play some kind of North German Baroque music (I.e. Bruhns or Buxtehude) one MUST know something about Stylus Phantasticus, consort registrations and so on. Ortherwise the music will never come to life. For example,when a Stylus Phantasicus passage is played strictly in time, all musical satisfaction will be murdered.

            The same goes for Romantic music, I.e. Guilmant or Reger.

            As said, when one ONLY want to play always the same kind of music (for example in church services) no knowledge of organ music styles is required - but I'm convinced that such playing is one of the reasons that organ music in church service as well as in concert, is in decline nowadays.

            So again, in my opinion every organ teacher has the duty to familiarize the student with different organ styles, even if it is at rudimentary level. And I'm convinced, based on the experience from myself and my fellows, that most students wil like it very much, as well as the audience will do when the organ is played well.

            Comment


            • illbebach
              illbebach commented
              Editing a comment
              Thanks for the comments. Yes, you're absolutely correct. I am just very curious how one can teach say Bach without any sort of brief overview of historical background on his styles. I sometimes have a very difficult time at concerts figuring out whether I am listening to a piece by a programmed robot or a musician. With technological advancement, sure you might have your AI learn enough to perfectly simulate Bach but can it breathe after stroking a e-minor?

            #14
            Recent comments are moving the goalposts set by the o.p. I think. I will quote what I took away to be the crux of the discussion: "But are we doing enough to let people know its origin and what it stands for culturally and historically? My colleague told me that many musicians these days seem to believe that there is no boundary between the modern and classical instruments. That may be true but, to me, I do not consider someone a musician if she or he cannot tell me a thing on the historical, sociological, and religious significance of the instrument." Anecdotes as to how it might be useful to know the difference between piano actions might seem valid on first hearing. However, I might argue that PLAYING the different instrument for 10 minutes would be far more informative than an hour or more of dry lecture on said peculiarities without some hands on experimentation.

            Absolutely, if a student is learning a piece in French Toccata style, some explanation of the form and the technique, and perhaps the evolution, is in order. Does the student really need to know about Aristide Cavaille-Coll and his development of the organ in France? Not if the instrument the student is working with is a stock instrument by a third tier American builder. It won't hurt, of course, but will it be helpful? I doubt it, which was my point earlier.

            As to the most recent comment. Not to worry. AI musical composition is still very experimental. Local symphonies will not be performing AI composed musical selections anytime soon, if ever. With technological advancement comes innovations like VPO technology. MIDI sequencing can RECORD a performance by a human player to exactitude, but it cannot compose a St. Anne Prelude and Fugue. Automakers should take a page from Hauptwerk and continue to develop cars that sense deviation from lane and/or imminent collisions, or driver distraction, and alert or assist the driver in recovery from a potential accident. The leap beyond that to completely autonomous vehicles is a bridge too far given our present state of AI development. I may have moved some goalposts myself in there but I trust y'all's can handle it.

            Comment


            • tbeck
              tbeck commented
              Editing a comment
              "However, I might argue that PLAYING the different instrument for 10 minutes would be far more informative than an hour or more of dry lecture on said peculiarities without some hands on experimentation."

              Who said anything about a dry hour-long lecture?
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