This online discussion is open for comments February 18-24. An overview of these assignments and how you’ll be graded is available here.

This is our first online discussion that starts with a substantial blog post. At the end of the post is a set of questions to get the conversation going. You may find it helpful to read those first to guide you through the content. The approximate reading time of this post is 13 minutes, not counting any video media.

Most aspects of music—how it’s made, how it’s consumed, what sounds people prefer, how it’s performed, and how it’s learned—progress in cycles throughout history from being popular/affordable/accessible to being elite/costly/niche and back again. Put another way, aspects of music that were popular in one generation or century are the same features that are considered elite or rare in the next. As cultural norms, wealth, and social needs shift over time, music changes, too. So, the history of music can be an indicator of other broad trends in history, economics, politics, and social structure.

As you read, think about other history courses you’ve taken that help fill in the gaps in this chronological survey. Think, too, about the ways in which this survey reinforces what you’ve learned in school or from reading (literature and non-fiction!) and movies—every piece of information we add helps flesh out your sense of the world and all it contains.

There’s one constant about how music is learned to keep in mind throughout this historical survey. As long as music has existed—and this is true today, as well—people have learned to make music by listening to music that’s already been made and by trying their hand at making music with each other. The skills, techniques, and details of music are passed down directly from an older group of musicians to a younger group.

Ancient Greece and the Medieval period (ca. 12th century BC to 1400 AD)

Medieval manuscript - The Geese Book 1503-10
A manuscript known as “The Geese Book” (1503-10)

For a large portion of European history, the keepers of knowledge were monks and nuns. In between prayers (we’ve heard examples of the prayers they would sing in class) and chores (e.g., cleaning, feeding animals, farming), a common daily task for men in a monastery or women in a nunnery was creating copies of important texts by hand. These texts included religious treatises, scientific texts, Ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, and music.

The history of how music was learned is also the history of how people thought about music. One of the most important takeaways when thinking about music in the Medieval period is knowing just how important music was in the whole spectrum of human knowledge. The way people thought about education was quite different than it is now, and people divided human knowledge into two groups of related subjects, the quadrivium and the trivium:

Trivium (Literary arts)Quadrivium (Mathematical disciplines)
  • Grammar
  • Logic
  • Rhetoric
  • Arithmetic
  • Geometry
  • Astronomy
  • Music

Together, all seven subjects constituted a complete liberal arts education, and mastery of the trivium was required before taking on the quadrivium. Notice where music is placed—it’s of equal importance with math and the sciences. Notice, too, that none of the other fine arts appear anywhere in this list of essential subjects.

Organizing and prioritizing human knowledge in this way is an idea that comes from Ancient Greek philosophy. Here are some examples of how people thought about knowledge and music:

“Music is a science, certainly, in which exists sure and infallible knowledge.” —Aristides Quintilianus, On Music (ca. 130 AD)

“[T]he cosmos is ordered in accord with harmonia (just as the disciples of Pythagoras assert) and we need the musical theorems for the understanding of the whole universe.. [and] certain types of melos [melody, rhythm, and words sung] form the ethos of the soul.” —Sextus Empiricus, Against the Musicians (2nd century)

“Plato said, not idly, that the soul of the universe is united by musical concord [consonance]… [T]he music of the universe is especially to be studied in the combining of the elements and the variety of the seasons which are observed in the heavens. How indeed could the swift mechanism of the sky move silently in its course? And although the sound does not reach our ears, the extremely rapid motion of such great bodies could not be altogether silent, especially since the courses of the stars are joined together by such mutual adaptation that nothing more equally compacted or united could be imagined. For some orbit higher and others lower, and all revolve by a common impulse, so that an established order of their circuits can be deduced from their various inequalities. For this reason an established order of modulation [i.e., music with a mathematical connotation] cannot be lacking in this celestial revolution.” —Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius, Fundamentals of Music, Book I (ca. 500), a summary of the works of Nichomachus (60-100) and Ptolemy (100-168)

There are many ways that the works of Greek thinkers like Plato, Aristotle, Ptolemy, Epicurus, Euripides, and Socrates continue to shape the world in which we live today—democracy, trial by jury, empirical scientific observations, and public theater all come from Ancient Greece, for example. The very assumption that music is an important thing to study—something that Europeans have believed for thousands of years, long after the quadrivium was abandoned in education, to the point that nearly everyone takes it for granted without knowing where the idea came from—shows how such ideas are tied up in musical behaviors that are passed down over time.

Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical eras (ca. 1400-1800)

Musicians in these periods tended to be born rather than made. That’s not a knock against how hard they worked, just a pithy way of saying that in music, as in most other trades (e.g, blacksmiths, carpenters, farmers), fathers passed their skills directly to their children by teaching them to follow in their footsteps, and most education took place in the home. Most of the “big name” composers we’ll come across in class learned their craft or at least began their studies with their fathers at an early age (around 3 or 4 years old), who were themselves musicians who had learned from their fathers, who had learned from their fathers…

Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Ludwig van Beethoven (more on Beethoven in an upcoming online discussion!) all came from families of musicians and began their studies at an early age with their fathers. They heard excellent music making happening right in front of them from their infancy and reinforced what they saw with ongoing lessons in playing (usually keyboard, violin, and singing) and composition.

An important distinction of the post-Medieval era is that knowledge was more widely available beyond the monastery or the nunnery. Major universities were established in the Medieval period that grew in the Renaissance and beyond (Bologna, 1088; Oxford, 1096; Salamanca, 1134; Cambridge, 1209; Padua, 1222; Naples, 1224; Sorbonne, 1150). The invention of a printing press with movable type by Johannes Gutenberg in the mid-15th century facilitated the spread of knowledge, too. Both of these developments help support the general cultural trend towards making education fashionable—because book learning had been so rare previously, it was a mark of refinement, wealth, and quality at this point in time to be well-educated, and people who could afford to do so sought out education and ways to demonstrate their erudition.

On the musical side, there was a flowering of new treatises (rather than just copying ancient ones) written and published about music: its history, music theory, how to make music socially, how to play various instruments, and how to compose. Here’s a small but representative sample, with links to original texts wherever possible:

  • Baldassare di Castiglione, Il libro del cortegiano (Book of the Courtesan, 1528)
  • Antonfrancesco Doni, Dialogo della musica (Dialogue on music, 1544)
  • Pontus de Tyard, Solitaire premier ou prose des Muses & de la fureur poétique (First Solitaire or Prose on the Muses and Poetic Furor, 1552)
  • Gioseffo Zarlino, Istitutioni harmoniche (Harmonic Institutions, 1558)
  • Henry Peacham, “The Compleat Gentleman” (1622)
  • Johann Joseph Fux, Gradus ad parnassum (1725)
  • Johann Mattheson, Der vollkommene Capellmeister (The Perfect Music Director, 1739)
  • Johann Joachim Quantz, Versuch einer Anweisung die Flöte traversiere zu spielen (Essay on Playing the Flute, 1752)
  • Joseph Riepel, “Fundamentals of Musical Composition” (1752)
  • Carl Philip Emmanuel Bach, Versuch über die wahre Art, das Clavier zu spielen (Essay on the Proper Manner of Playing A Keyboard Instrument, 1753)
  • Leopold Mozart, Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule (A Treatise on the Fundamental Principles of Violin Playing, 1756)
  • Georg Sulzer, Allgemeine Theorie der schönen Künste (General Theory of the Fine Arts, 1771-74)
  • Johann Philipp Kirnberger, “The Art of Strict Musical Composition,” (1776)
  • Johann Nikolaus Forkel, Allgemeine Geschichte der Musik (A General History of Music, 1788-1801)
  • Heinrich Christoph Koch, Versuch einer Anleitung zur Composition (Introductory Essay on Composition, 1782-93)

Music literacy—the ability to read music that is notated on a page—is central to the way classical music is taught from the Baroque era onwards. Musical notation allows musicians to share music with people who aren’t physically in front of them and to learn much more music than a single person can reasonably memorize in one lifetime. Here’s a brief video introduction to music notation:

Finally, another important method for learning music emerged in the Baroque era: conservatories. A conservatorio (for boys) or an ospedale (for girls) in Italy was an orphanage.

ospedale della pieta
Ospedale della Pietà, Venice, Italy

A conservatory’s main task was to train parent-less children in music. This may seem odd: Why teach an orphan to play violin when they don’t even have a home? But let’s take everything we’ve learned so far about the history of music into account: (1) There’s a long-standing assumption that music is crucial to making a complete human being (from the Ancient Greeks); and (2) People who have musical training are considered cultured and valuable (because it was was rare to have access to it). Given that, it’s pretty clear why people caring for orphans—children who have nothing, no money, no land, no dowry—would give those children some cultural capital in the form of musical training. Even a child with no family has something to offer if they can make music. For boys, that meant the potential to make a living—the fact that they didn’t have a father to teach them was no longer an impediment to success. For girls, this typically meant that they became marriageable—the fact that they could make beautiful music made them more attractive to a potential (rich) husband (more on this idea in another upcoming online discussion!).

What kind of music did these orphans play? Probably something like this this, which is a piece you’ve probably heard in commercials, hold music on the telephone, or other media:

It’s by a Baroque composer, Antonio Vivaldi (1683-1741), who taught violin at the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice, Italy (pictured above). He wrote hundreds of concertos like this (with a soloist standing in front of an ensemble that accompanies them). At the orphanage, likely Vivaldi himself would have played the solo part, with his students accompanying him. If he had an exceptionally talented student, she would have played the solo.

Romantic Era (basically the 19th century)

The goal of most music education in the Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical eras was to turn the student into a competent professional musician: someone whose entire career revolves around music making in many ways (composing, performing, playing multiple instruments, teaching, and writing about music). The most important shift that happens in the Romantic era is an increase in amateur music making: doing it for fun rather than for money.

(Hey, this is one of those cycle things again! Music has always been made for fun, but the people doing that in the Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical eras were members of the nobility and aristocracy. In the 19th century, people who didn’t have titles like “King” or “Duke” are able to make music, too—what had been elite becomes common.)

A common pastime in 19th-century Europe was making music at home—singing songs or playing chamber music with the family to pass the evening, playing for guests to entertain them (and to show off!), and keeping female children busy. People would learn to play an instrument and read music by hiring a professional musician to be their private teacher.

Jan Vermeer - The Music Lesson 1665
Johannes Vermeer, The Music Lesson (1662-65)

University-level music appreciation classes—just like this class you’re taking right now!—first appeared in the 19th century in Germany. This tells us some important things about the cultural landscape of the 19th century:

  • (1) People still thought that music was really important (those Greek ideals aren’t going away!),
  • (2) But not everyone felt like they understood music as well as they should (and they wanted to remedy that situation by studying), and
  • (3) Music was becoming more complex, and the kind of music being composed at the time was harder to understand just by hearing it once without some amount of training or background information.

Education of professional musicians was different; it didn’t take place in the home or in a university. People who showed particular musical talent at an early age in the 19th century didn’t study music with their fathers—middle class parents in the Romantic era were more likely to be teachers, government officials, or lawyers than musicians. Instead, they sent their children to the local (or regional) conservatory.

Wait a minute! Weren’t conservatories just orphanages with musical training? Yes, originally (see above), but once people realized how effective musical training could be if you kept kids captive and immersed in music education, they started choosing to have conservatories take their children and train them professionally. The major music conservatories in Europe that are still active today were established in the early 19th century:

  • Paris, 1795
  • Bologna, 1804
  • Milan, 1807
  • Florence, 1811
  • Prague, 1811
  • Warsaw, 1821
  • Vienna, 1821
  • Royal Academy of Music in London, 1822
  • The Hague, 1826
  • Liège, 1827

Children would typically enter the conservatory between the ages of 5 and 15 and study music there exclusively—no literature, no math, no science—and intensively for 10-15 years. They’d become proficient in all the skills necessary to make music at the highest level: composition, counterpoint, performance, sight singing, and conducting. Many of the “big name” composers you’ll come across in the 19th and 20th centuries were conservatory-trained: Hector Berlioz, Claude Debussy, Gustav Mahler, Maurice Ravel, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

But what about the US? Even though the United States declared independence from Great Britain in 1776, American culture still imitated European culture. This included the assumption that having musical knowledge was crucial for a person to be fully educated and worldly. The US didn’t have the same long-standing music education tradition that Europe did, and the major US conservatories and music schools were established quite a bit later than their European counterparts:

  • The Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University, 1857
  • Oberlin Conservatory of Music, 1865
  • New England Conservatory, 1867
  • Boston Conservatory, 1867
  • Yale School of Music, 1894
  • The Juilliard School, 1905
  • San Francisco Conservatory of Music, 1917
  • Manhattan School of Music, 1917
  • Cleveland Institute of Music, 1920
  • Eastman School of Music, 1921
  • The Curtis Institute of Music, 1924
  • The Colburn School, 1950
Fry, William Henry
William Henry Fry, American composer, music critic, and educator

Without the same quality of musical training available, American orchestras and opera companies often weren’t as proficient as their European counterparts, and audiences weren’t as culturally savvy. Some American musicians experienced a fair amount of culture-envy or cultural inadequacy when they compared music making in America to the institutions of Europe.

One such musician, William Henry Fry (1813-64), staged a series of lengthy, dense public lectures in New York City in 1853 in a feverish attempt to bring the uncultured (or so he thought) American public up to speed with the European standard-makers. Notice that his lectures precede the establishment of any conservatories in the US—other people clearly felt the same pressure and put their efforts into institutional education.

Fry lecture 1853 NYT
An excerpt from a New York Times article in 1853 describing one of Fry’s public lectures on the history of music

The 20th century

The 19th-century trend of home music making (by amateurs for fun) was widespread—to the point that most middle-class families had a piano in their living room and at least one family member could play it reasonably well—until the Great Depression (1929-39). In the 20th century we again run up against another one of those social cycles: classical music making had become so common, and seemed so associated with “old people” (like parents and grandparents), that it stopped being fashionable. What was fashionable was popular music—jazz, rock, disco, hip-hop, or pop, depending on the decade in question and the audience at hand.

On top of that, the classical music made by those conservatory-trained professional musicians (who immersed themselves in all the techniques, skills, and history of music from an early age) was generally becoming even less accessible to the average listener. As an example of music from a conservatory-trained musician that is difficult for many new listeners, here’s Pierre Boulez’s Structures I (1952) and II (1962):

All of this means that the way music is learned in the 20th century is a more extreme version of trends that had already taken root in previous eras:

  • (1) Professional classical musicians were trained intensively, often from an early age, in a style of music that was becoming less and less popular;
  • (2) People who could afford it studied music privately in their homes (because they were continuing that Ancient Greek assumption that there’s value in music study!);
  • (3) Hands-on music making generally became less and less prevalent (consider that even garage bands, with self-taught teenagers playing guitars, drums, and bass, are significantly less popular now than they were 20 years ago—just a single generation); and
  • (4) The majority of the public only listened to music rather than playing it themselves, and increasingly they only listened to music that was recorded rather than played live. An oversimplified—and contentious!—description of the way music is learned today would suggest that there is a class of people who are trained to do the music making for everyone else.

There are exceptions to all historical trends, and in class we’ve already touched upon another approach to music education from the 20th century. The poster below hung in the New York City dance studio of choreographer Merce Cunningham in the 1960s consisting of rules for teachers and students, compiled by educator Sister Corita Kent in 1967-68 and partly inspired by composer John Cage. These rules (although the word “rules” here is used ironically, since the ideas they contain are so broad as to defy the formula of typical rules that must be followed) are an effort in one corner of the art world to buck against the rigidity of the conservatory tradition and the notion of top-down learning (i.e., from professional veterans to their disciples). Cage and his partner Cunningham used these rules as a way to create a learning environment in which they and their students were encouraged to grow, explore and create freely:

cage_merce_corita_rules-thumb-600x762-13868

Final thoughts

The question of “How is music learned?” is simplistic but not simple—the answer depends on when in history we’re talking about and who we’re talking about. The common thread in all of these music education methods is that effective learning involves meaningful and constant exposure to people who already make music at a high level, accompanied by rigorous, systematic training in many aspects of music making (e.g., multiple instruments, composition, performance). This should remind you of our last online discussion—even though historical music professionals didn’t know the neuroscience of training one’s brain, through thousands of years of passing music down people developed methods that reinforce neural pathways!

-Dr. J.

Some questions to get the conversation going

Because this is our first substantial online discussion of the semester, I’m providing a set of questions just to get the conversation started. As we proceed with these discussions, I’ll no longer add these guiding questions and trust that you have developed the critical reading skills to launch the conversation successfully on your own.

It’s most effective in an online forum like this to pick one idea at a time to respond to in a single comment, rather than combining several different ideas into one comment. And, these are just a way to get started—the best online discussions branch out into surprising new topics!

  • What would be your preferred way to study music of all the methods described?
  • What would happen if you adopted the Kent/Cage/Cunningham rules in your own life?
  • What kinds of music making/learning does this survey omit or leave out? Why do you think they’re not included here?
  • Why might knowing the history of how a subject has been taught be helpful?
  • How are your own educational experiences similar or dissimilar to the ways in which music has been taught?

87 thoughts on “Musical educations and the education of music (Online discussion Feb 18-24)

  1. Hello Dr. Jones,

    I hope all is well. Just notifying you that I’m getting emails for MUS102 this semester as well. But, I completed the course Fall 2018.

    Best, Jenelle ________________________________

    Liked by 1 person

  2. If I had to choose one way to learn music I would say going to as many musical artists that have been making music nd learning from them and what they have to offer. Even people who just learned music could still have a piece of knowledge to impart with you if you go looking for it.

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    1. I agree that listening to others artists music can give you a better knowledge of how its made if you want to make your own music if you ever dreamed of becoming a musican one day. For the most part learning from professional artists would show you how his/her music is made and what style do they use to make this kind of music. You have a lot of great points.

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      1. I can agree that listening to other artists can give you a good idea on how the their style of music sounds. it is very important to listen to others even in music.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I thinks that’s an interesting strategy when it comes to learning music, but i was just wondering, do you feel like going to artist who work in different musical categories may lead to you getting some advice that may not be of use to you or do you feel a rock and roll drummer can offer the same valued information as a opera singer?

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    3. I think thats a great idea getting the resources right from the source. Who would be the first musical artist you would meet and learn from?

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    4. I can understand that people who are experienced in music teaching you the ins and outs can be an engaging and effective method for teaching newcomers how to learn music, but I wouldn’t say its the best on the grounds that it is possible that the same ideas get regurgitated over and over again, limiting and reducing the amount innovation that should naturally come with making and learning music. Perhaps a class would be better than just a one on one type of situation so that more ideas happen, leading to better and more music. Do you agree/disagree?

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  3. The preferred way for me to study music is the one video describing what people learned 100 years ago. The video that shows the 20th century the music is low but slow at the same time but you can hear what is going on. There is an easier way to understand things from hearing the music be performed rather than somebody telling you. In the first video there telling you how to study music but not showing you music being played so you know what is going on. For me personally this would be too visually see the people playing the instruments and then hearing it.
    By adopting the Kent/ Cage/ Cunningham rules I would be somebody who is really really demanding. The first rule that Kent/ Cage/ Cunningham states is about taking everything out of your students. I think from this there saying to ask all the questions that you can to get other students involved. They are telling you to get them involved by asking them follow up questions. In terms of honesty, this is good for you in your life but not music maybe if you want to write a song that is emotional
    The kind of music making that this survey is leaving out is the process while playing music. The way you teach music is like a study lesson by telling people what the definition of something is like pace, tempo. In examples of songs, you interpret the music at that time with what is going on for example a homo phonic texture. Their not included because that survey is for a life lesson per say. The survey is about your own self having trust but to put your trust in something for reliability and that is not really describing the definition of music or what it’s impact is.

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    1. I completely understand and I believe that would be the best way for me to learn music as well. I believe that visual learning is just as important someone teaching you verbally.

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  4. Knowing the history of how a subject has been taught is really helpful because it makes easier to understand, but have discussions, debates, interpretations about it being the true definition of music. Their is so much information to know in different points in time like the Baroque Period which ended in 1750. The information is significant because each time period describes what type of music was being performed and how it changed over time. By knowing the information the tests or quizzes will be very easy for you and your work will be very comprehensible. The thing is to have a good memory of the information and retain the information so you will exceed in that course.
    My own educational experiences are similar in a way because I would explain a lot of information just like they are doing here with music. Music being taught has a lot of information on the composer, the melody being in a minor or major, and also identifying the texture being monophonic or polyphonic. My experience of education would kind of go deep into the topic but me personally would go in a different direction. The educational experience is dissimilar because they explain the detail of music with a flow, lots of detail, and definitions. I kind of just get to the point but they kind of take a really long time explaining the information getting to the point but it is in a more intelligent way where I would not explain it that thoroughly.

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  5. I think the Cage rules are good rules to live by because this is the way you will get the most out of your education. I think these rules are also good rules to apply to your daily life. Being self-disciplined (rule 5) is a good trait to have because with self-discipline comes self-control. Working hard (rule 7) will guarantee positive outcomes and being happy (rule 9) is key because your own happiness matters the most.

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    1. rules number 5 and 7 are excellent rules from cage to apply to our lives. They are also the kinda of rules that take time, work and dedication. Sometimes people are discipline in one aspect of their life and lack it in other parts of their life. (rule 4) “consider everything as an experience” is a great rule, its easier to accept the situation as an experience after one has gone through a situation and the emotions are over but not in the moment of the incident.

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  6. The way I would study music is to keep listening and listening to it as it can provide you to brian storm ideas of how is this music is made and what is it about going forward. In addition to that by studying music as to listening to it you will have a better working knowledge about it. While listening to a certain artist of your interest you could learn and take notes from that certain artist and learn from his/her way of how that artist makes music. Its more like that your starting from the bottom as you are working your way up to the top as you continue to learn and grow.

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    1. I agree with you, constantly listening to music allows you to understand what you like or dislike. So many current and past music artists have sampled songs or a style of music and incorporated into their own sound. For example Ray Charles sampling a church song and in later years Kanye West sampled Ray Charles. I feel listening to all genres of music can help a musician understand who they are and who their audience/listeners are.

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    2. I agree with you because I too find it rewarding to listening to music over and over again, by doing so you discover things you didn’t hear when you first listened. I always find that I can be a visual learner too and not just rely on the listening potion. Seeing everything being played can alway at depth as to why the rhymed is that way and the ay the instruments tie into the whole production of the music and its style.

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  7. When learning a course such as music, knowing the history of music give students a chance to understand the past while growing a knowledge and appreciation for the course. Learning about music also helps a student to know what they are looking for the next time they listen to a song, or a musical piece. Generally it improves the way that they hear music. In the future, if a music student wants to become a producer or an instrument player, they will have great examples to follow and can make music that other musical intellectuals would find interesting.

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    1. I agree but I can also disagree with you. Knowing the history of music can be a good thing, you learn how everything was created and how it all developed throughout history. I know a lot of artist became musicians because they had somebody in the music industry inspire them, and that person had someone inspire them, its like a long chain of this person inspire this person and on and on. But then there is people who was born to sing, it has nothin to do with anyone else, its just in them and who they were meant to be.

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  8. I believe that knowing the history about anything is always important. I believe that knowing the the history of how music was taught is helpful because it makes you better understand how individuals learned in the past and what prompted them to learn music in such a different time. Of course as one of my fellow students said, it can help someone who wants to teach music or maybe work in music. Knowing the difference of why music was taught and how it was taught can help you connect with students or fellow musicians in different ways.

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    1. great response and i agree with you that knowing the history is very helpful but i would to know if you that the way people have been thought music could have changed the authenticity of the musical work?

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      1. To answer your question, in my opinion, I think the approach would be different. Things change and so do people because of our relationship/interactions with everything around us.

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  9. If I was to apply the Kent/cage/Cunningham rule I believe I would be a very strict person and be viewed as an evil teacher.. Information is the key to anything that is being taught. Every time you learn something new the teacher/professor/ mentor always asks “Does anyone have any questions?”. When asking a question you learn information and with that comes understandingI find it easier learning anything in general by knowing a little background that can establish a better understanding and meaning to what is being taught. Learning the baroque period and being taught a little background in what was going on in that era helped with understands the pictures and the painting showed in class. In my experience I like to be taught things straight forward rather than a teacher or anyone take the long route. I am an up front person and I tend to catch on to things quickly when in math and history. In other studies I would agree with the method .

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    1. i really like what you have pointed on your comment. i would just want to knowhow teaching yourself or being an upfront person makes you feel as a learner?

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  10. As the romantic era came around, learning to play intruments and reading music became a pasttime not just for nobles, but for everyone. Instead of being classified as an activity that manifests an upper class aristocracy, anyone of any social standing can now begin make music as they pleased. If I could travel back in time to learn music, it would be to the 19th century. This is not just a time when music became that much more significant, but more accessible to the whole of the population. More music was shared amongst musicians and it became a common household interest. Being able to hire a professional musician and learn from them personally during these years would be a great honor, considering the popularity of classical music was still at its peak.

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    1. @christinelim71 – What an interesting vivid description to travel back to the nineteenth century to learn music and interacting with other musicians while finding classical music the best genre out of music out of all the other ones!
      However, what I am curious about is what would you do if Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, or Ludwig van Beethoven came up to you and was interested in tutoring you free of charge because they were impressed by how much passion you put towards music and willing to follow in their foot steps? Would you accept their offer? If so, why?

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    2. I completely admire and agree with your analogy. The romantic era was indeed a step within music history I too would have enjoyed and prefer the 19th century, music was accessible to every social class.

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  11. Additionally, a couple posts seem to find the Kent/Cage/Cunningham rules a bit draconian. It does enforce hard work and discipline, but both are necessary if a student is attempting to achieve their goals. Though it may come off as laborious and challenging, it also encourages students to be free of any negativity while working hard. It advocates happiness and claims the key to being ambitious in your work is to enjoy it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just feel like that enforcement might make people reject working hard and it would back fire. I guess it just depends on the student but I’m not sure it’s the best way to learn. It seems like ya one of those things that’s good on paper.

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  12. If I were to choose a method of learning music, I would prefer learning music through my father. Based on what I’ve read, I mostly agree to this sentence, “most education took place in the home.”. There’s no more comfortable way of learning something through your parents. This does not just make you absorb knowledge about music, this also fortifies the bond of the family. No father wants to see their children fail. I guess this the reason why there are a lot of successful musicians whose skills were passed from their fathers. Also passing this legacy onto the next family generations gives pride and a name to the family and it is something to be proud of.

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    1. @Jnavz Navarro – I agree with you 100%. When it comes to learning music, fathers should be the ones to teach their children, not a professional musician because fathers have a mutual relationship with their children. Also, fathers knows what is best for their children and they want them to succeed in life. Look what happened to Beetoven, Mozart and Bach and where they ended up!

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      1. I agree, I would choose to learn from my fathers as well. They can share wisdom with you that will help you get far in your musical career.

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    2. I totally agree with you one of the best ways to learn music is through home, because then you wont miss out on cultural facts or your family’s history.

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    3. I completely agree, the same way most families pass money and business down from generation to generation, music was passed down to most of these famous musicians. This is even present today with most of the popular musicians we know having learned to play by someone in their childhood.

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  13. Yes! I do agree with you.
    Learning from home is the most comfortable way of learning and helps deepen a families bond, but I also believe being taught by someone you love automatically puts pressure on the learner which is why Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Ludwig van Beethoven became so great.

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  14. The Rules of Kent/Cage/Cunningham rules are some great rules to achieve success in anything you are trying to learn. By following these rules, you will not only learn about the exact subject but also you will learn to focus and discipline yourself in order to succeed. My favorite is rule #6 : Follow the leader, Nothing is a mistake. There is no win and no fail. there is only make. i don’t consider this as a rule, i would rather call it a ” state of mind. If i apply those rule to my own life, i believe that anything would seem a bit easier and challenges will appear less scarier, my life would be less stressful and success would always appear to be a step away.

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  15. Out of all the ways mentioned I personally would prefer to learn music through a parent or a much older sibling. I feel that having the ability to relate to your teacher on a personal level is very important when it comes to learning any set of information, and it doesn’t really get much closer than your own family. A personal connection with your teacher will in some ways compel you to listen just a little closer and focus just a little more. I know not everyone will agree with me about this perspective however it’s one that i believe and i’m sticking to it.

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    1. I totally agree with you! i prefer more of a one on one way of learning especially when it comes to instruments because it can feel like learning a new language. In highschool i wish we had more repetition of a piece, my teacher would jump from topic to topic too fast and sometimes it felt like muscle memory and not like I can read the music.

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    2. I also agree with you. I find it more personal when learning new music or musical instruments from family members. I had a music class in middle school and was taught how to play the acoustic guitar but learning how to play new pieces by cousins made it more personal and special to me.

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  16. For me, the best way to learn music would be in a conservatory from the Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical eras. Growing up I started studying music since I was about 3 years old and continued learning and practicing music (Singing in particular) until I was 18. By learning from a professional who has studied the field much more intensively for a longer time, a student can truly get a better understanding of every aspect of music.

    I also agree with @sebastien509 on that by following the rules of Kent, Cage, and Cunningham, a person can achieve anything to set their mind to. My favorite being rule #7. Nothing can be achieved by sitting around doing nothing. If someone wants to achieve anything, they have to put the work in to get it, no one becomes great at anything overnight.

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  17. 1) Out of all the methods described, my preferred way to study music is to learn music through an conservatory. The reason is because in an conservatory I am able to gain musical knowledge and acquire new skills through a professional musician such as conducting, playing an instrument and singing. On the other hand, since my parents have no musical experience and background training, I would have to choose to go to one of the music schools (Julliard) in order to be a well – educated and competent musician that lives up to my dreams in the music field.

    2) If I happened to adopt the Kent/Cage/Cunningham rules and apply it to my life, I would use steps one, two and seven to be a diligent student that tries his best in a classroom setting. In step one, I would find a professor that is patient and able to communicate with me on a weekly basis regarding assignments, projects, examinations, etc so she can gain my trust. For step two, I would not be afraid to raise my hand and ask any questions that I could not understand in the beginning, middle and end of class so she can explain it to me clearly. Last, but not least, in step seven as long as I ask questions, participate in class, perform well on exams and complete assignments on time, it will lead me to earn a better grade in the course.

    3) The kinds of music making/learning that the survey leaves out is the Suzuki Method. The Suzuki Method, created by Japanese violinist Shinichi Suzuki is a technique used to help children master music as a new language for them. A source that is reminds me of this method is Suzuki Association of the Americas because it shows me what steps it takes for children to learn music.
    (https://suzukiassociation.org/about/suzuki-method/)
    Factors that are involved in this method are parent involvement, early beginning, listening, repetition, encouragement, learning with other children, graded repertoire and delayed reading. Parent involvement starts by parents teaching their children what they need to do in music. Next, early beginning involves children listening to music to get a sense of how music sounds beginning at birth. Then, listening to words in music helps them be familiarized. Repetition displays words that they can memorize and know over and over again. After, encouragement assists children learn music in baby steps and at their own pace. Also, when children interact with each other they are inspired to perform in front of others. Finally, children utilizes graded repertoire to practice musical exercises and delayed reading teaches children that they should learn how to play an instrument before reading music so they know what notes they should play.

    4) In my opinion, I believe knowing the history of a subject has been taught to be helpful because to have a sense of background information and knowing major historical key points that contributed towards the subject before diving deep into the subject itself.

    5) My own educational experiences are similar to the ways in which music has been taught because similar to the Suzuki Method, my parents taught me what was expected of me academically as I grew up. Remembering terminology and repeating it over again that would last in my head. Consuming information would take time and effort in my own pace so I would get used to it. When interacting with other children my own age in a classroom setting, I would be inspired to ask questions because I saw them raising their hands and not be afraid of what others would think. Ultimately, expressing myself in a classroom setting would be nerve wrecking for me in the beginning, but I realized that being judged would stand in the way and I was not going to allow that to happen.

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  18. If I were to adopt and begin following the Kent/Cage/Cunningham rules into my own personally life i can honestly say that I believe my life would become 10 times better. That being said, some people may ask why i haven’t adopted it yet; and the answer is this. Following those rules requires something called consistency, some people are capable of being consistent, others are not, i’m not. I’ve accepted that i’m not consistent and at this point all i can do is keep trying to change my ways.

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    1. Yes, I can totally agree with you that being consistent with something is really difficult, especially when you have to change yourself in my opinion. It can be really hard for some people to stop doing something that they do regularly or even adopt new things in their life.

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  19. Each century prioritized music in an interesting and effective way. Although I like the John Cage rules like most of you guys. I would prefer the Romantic Era method where everyone was able to enjoy music with their families, entertain their guest and still incorporate conservatories since they were effective. In the prior eras, only people of high statuses were able to enjoy music, but in the romantic era “what had been elite becomes common”.

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  20. One of the the things that caught my attention in this reading was the bit about orphans. Giving orphans cultural capital is actually very smart in the aspect of making them ‘valuable and more of a spousal candidate’ but beyond that the positive psychological impact it can make. when reading that I immediately thought that this is also a great to manage emotions and find a positive way to transfer agression. music is also capable of bringing people together so the sense of community can also positively impact someone in an emotionally stressful place in their life.

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  21. in comparison to others In my opinion i believe the first step of learning music is to learn the history and time span, this would help s me personally understand where music has stared and how its evolved over the centuries. My secound step that helped me learn music or how to play music was purely off my aural/auditory senses , where i would hear a beat or rhythm and try my best to impersonate and play it as best as I could rather then just leaning how to read notes like most people.

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  22. I don’t know much about music, nor am I a music major. However, in my situation if I had to learn about music I would start by looking into the history of music, and different type of culture. Knowing the history of music helps in every possible way because it gives us a better understanding of how much work musicians put into this work to get where they’re. In my opinion I find classical music is very hard it’s not so easy to learn it amazes me that classical music is so beautiful and calm. Nonetheless in the cage rule i find number 9 it’s the prefect example of enjoy yourself take it easy and go with the flow, also into today’s music artists the song are so retro and rebel the artist puts their feelings and thoughts and emotions into their music which give us as listeners the view point for us to feel their emotions. And from those it’s give upcoming artist to learn from them.

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    1. I also believe that classical music is very beautiful and calm to listen to. But sometimes I find it way too calm that it puts me to sleep. I think its best to listen to when your mad because it can calm you down. It sets a calm and relaxing mood.

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      1. I totally agree with you, I usually listen to classical music when I’m sad because I feel like it puts my mind at an peaceful place to find that brave and powerful side of myself and remind me of finding that person again.

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      2. I never thought of listening to classical music when your mad but i completely agree that classical music is very unique and very mood setting for anyone.

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    2. I also agree with you because if I didn’t get to learn music at home I would definitely start by looking at music’s history and where it originated from to get a feel and sense of the meaning of the music.

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  23. I believe that if I was to adopt the rules by Cage I would be a better student academically. Certain rules like number 2 and number 5 push a person to be the best they can be. Not only would it push me in school but it would also help my work ethic outside of school. These rules are meant to help a person find success and achieve their goals. If I was to follow these rules it would put in a better position to be successful and obtain my goals.

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  24. The best way to learn about music is by learning about its history . In my opinion learning and knowing about the history of music will help the listener understand and appreciate music better. Knowing about the artist you are listening to also help you better understand the songs too for example: whenever i hear a song that i like i always like to look up the artist to see where they are from? how long they’ve been making music? who inspired them to start making music? having that background information helps you as the listener connect better with the music the artist is putting out.

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  25. To be able to follow any of Kent/Cage/Cunningham rules my life would be so much easier and organized. To be able to do so i would first have to gain discipline. To have discipline is the ability to motivate , stay on track and do what is right . Something that i hope to get is self discipline , by knowing my weakness ad practicing . What is your opinion on discipline?

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    1. I think the only way to get self-discipline is by disciplining yourself. As obvious and as straight forward as that sounds, I don’t think there’s no set of rules to attain that virtue but to dive right into the regulations you place for yourself.

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  26. In my opinion, the best way to learn music would be to understand what a song is about. I think that once you can understand why the music was made, you can have a much deeper connection with it than you would if you were just listening because you like the beat. Even songs with lyrics, it’s important to understand what type of emotion the music is giving off. For example the song could have lyrics that maybe wouldn’t make sense to the average listener, but if you listen more closely, maybe you can infer that the song is giving off a happy, sad, romantic, etc. aura.

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    1. Yes, I agree with you because I also believe that to learn music, it is really important to know what the song is about. It really gives you information on the song and what it is trying to infer. This way you have a much better understanding of the piece of music.

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  27. I believe that learning the history about music is very important. Learning from the past helps you understand why a certain song was made. People express their feelings and thoughts through music. Listening to a piece of music can help you understand what was happening at the certain time period it was made. You can get get a better understanding of why the person made their piece of music. Learning the history can help you relate more to the musician and have a better understanding of what was going at the moment. But there are pieces of music that appeal to you and some that just don’t. Maybe by learning about the situations that were occurring you can find a connection with the musician and be open to listen to their music.

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    1. Totally agree with you on how a music piece can express the musician feeling through the music they make. In a turn learning about how a piece was made can make you like some of it, since it can be interesting on how each rhythm and beat came together. While seeing the history of the music that is learn doesn’t become more apparent on how the musician is personality wise?

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  28. Personally, I find it so interesting how important music was in history and still is today. I feel like it’s easier to learn music visually and from someone else teaching it. I remember when I was younger, in middle school my great grandma got me a piano and from then I learned how to play piano by watching youtube videos or having my mom teach me. In this reading I was surprised about how orphans were taken and trained in music at a very young age and were taught very complicated music that would take years to learn.

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  29. The way I learn music was by practicing scales and learning different notes. If I have to choose a different way to start learning music, it would be reading notes and playing with others. I feel like reading notes is really important, more important then any other skill. Listening to music from the past can give the player insight on how classical music should sound but if they don’t know what note they are playing it is pointless and only good for enjoyment.

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    1. I agree that reading notes is really important because someone can teach themselves how to play an instrument and not know any notes, but when it comes to playing with others and different notes, they’ll be lost since they might not know how to read notes.

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  30. Knowing the history of something is never wrong and can always benefit in some way. In the case of learning, it can also be helpful. If you know the history of a subject, how it was taught it can be really beneficial in many ways. You will get to know how the subject was taught and whether that way worked or not. If the method of teaching actually worked, then you can also use it to your advantage and if a certain method does not work then, you know not to go that route for learning. It is better to learn from the people who already know how to do something rather than trying something new yourself with the risk of it not working out.

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    1. I agree with you. Sometimes learning old methods can simplify a subject. This goes for a lot of things and not only music. Knowing what works and what doesn’t was a great point that you made.

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  31. My preferred best way to learn would be by conservatory. It would make me grow new skills in music from playing, composing,singing, and reading music professionally. I would have the training necessary and acquire the ambition to become a composer like Gustave Mahlar.

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  32. Out of all the methods listed in this blog post, the one that seems the most effective to learn music would definitely be the way it was taught during the Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical eras. By exposing children to live music being performed on the daily at young ages, it would allow them to pick up on how to play instruments as they get older. The same way children learn a language by hearing their parents speak it everyday, they can do the same for how to play music. Best way to explain this method is “Monkey see, Monkey do.” Sadly this method can only be used by children who’s parents already learned to play music, which in this time period that we live in is slim. I myself never had this opportunity nor exposure in my childhood.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Angel,
      You make a great point in that learning music is best when it is introduced at a young age. Like with many other things, it is easier to learn them if you start learning them at a very young age because it is when the brain is most elastic. I see how my 6 year old son is excelling in math and it is due to my husband and I introducing it to him when he was 3 years old. He now easily builds upon the basics that we taught him. I didn’t have that exposure when I was a child growing up in a third world country and so now I feel like I have to study harder then I would had I been introduced to it at a young age. No wonder Beethoven and Mozart were so great.

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  33. I see myself learning music most effectively by studying written musical notes because Music is like mathematics and chemistry where you first must learn and master the basics before being be able to progress on to learning more complex concepts of that given subject. By learning to read musical notes on a staff, I can mentally hear the music as I am reading it. Likewise, by playing music on an instrument such as a violin or piano, I can visualize the musical notes on a staff. It is only when you reach that point, where you can visualize the individual musical notes as you are playing an instrument, without even looking at your music notes pages, and vice versa, that you are a true musician.

    Mastery of reading written music and then interpreting it by playing an instrument to reproduce that music is definitely the best way to train your brain and becoming a great musician because you are training your eyes, your ears and your voice or hands to work in symphony to making beautiful flawless music. Of course, it is easier said than done because I had no idea before reading this article that written music was so complex. Learning and memorizing the many notes such as quarters and eighths and then taking into the account the pitches and bars and clefs is no easy task.

    I can clearly see why music is categorized as a Quadrivium instead of a Trivium in education. That is because it is just as hard as Math because both have a lot of concepts and rules that must be mastered in order to being well educated in that subject.

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    1. Your perspective and analogy on how you would learn music makes a brilliant point. As you said before, music is an art in which you must learn the basics before perfecting/mastering the art. Every subject before hand is difficult. Continuous on going and strong willfulness, allows us to alter our minds while learning music. Thank you, I appreciate your outlook. Do you believe that at some point studying music would be as convergent as mathematics or science?

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  34. Personally, I would have preferred to learn music within the 19th century. I prefer studying music for my own enjoyment and pleasure and love towards it. Unlike other centuries, learning music to fit into social classes make money. The common pastime of making music at home as well as in singing songs playing music with and for family and guests intrigue me entirely. I come from a family that does not play any instruments therefore I would hire a professional musician to be my private teacher. I believe that this may be a true way that music should be learned, it is not forceful and will cause positive contentment.

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  35. Knowing the history on how a subject has been taught can completely change the way you see it. In music by learning how composers may have created their music and finding out their method of composition we can make connections from how music is made now compared to then. By knowing the origin of something it is easier to build on that subject and you will be able to recognize influences from the past in the current era.

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  36. Knowing the history of a subject can be important since it can show you how a person created something and how he/she was at the time. Many thing can be learn through history and music can be one since it show us how people acted back before us. Music has a sense in showing how people are feeling at the time, since it can show power or even sadness. Like in the American civil war music was shown as for the soldier to move along the beat to stance in line, we can move in closer to our time like world war 2 music was a mean of its culture they where from and they would love to listen to it while at camp for them. Music is routed strongly into us and it show through our owned history even though the music changes over time.

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  37. I feel like John Cage’s rule #2 is a great method all students should follow. By challenging your peers and teacher to be the greatest they can be, will in return allow you as a student to learn so much. The Romantic Era(19th century) was a great time for musicians because students were taught to make their lives revolve around music. During this time period, students were trained in becoming “Professional Musicians” and I feel that is a great method to study if you want to become a master of your field. The more challenging a course is, the more effort you put into your craft. I also like the fact that students were taught to really have fun with music and to not just pay attention to the money. Some people choose careers just for the money,but if your really not passionate about that field, is the money really worth it? On a side note, listening to Pierre Boulez’s Structures I(1952) and II (1962) was music to my ears, jk lol, it was absolutely dreadful and I was cringing the whole time…..

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  38. Personally I would love to learn anything in life through home. I find that learning from a parent or older sibling is way better and more understandable than learning from a complete stranger. Parents are able to teach their kids early on in life and make the experience of learning something new way smoother. Also parents always know whats best for their kids and would always put their kids in the right direction. Kids also have a tendency to follow what their parents or older sibling does.

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  39. I think the best way to learn music is to read/write/listen to and about music as much as you can.
    Discipline and love towards music will play a huge role.
    Especially nowadays, it is really hard to succeed as a musician.
    If other people put 100%, you need to put 110%.
    And as always, enjoy yourself and the job you do.

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  40. I believe that the best method of learning so far was method of acquiring musical skills via conservatory. Think about what the conservatory offers: a learning environment for students to get serious about learning the ins and outs of music together, which reinforces education, and maximizes potential for growth. This is quite similar to the set up we have in our music class. In summary, because we enjoy and value music as a collective society, we should learn it as a community as well. Do you believe that another method is best for learning music or do you agree with my statement? Why or why not?

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    1. I agree with your point of view. I also see how this music class serves as a way for people to get educated on the basics of music. For me personally, the class has enlightened me on various things and with what I’ve learned, I’ve acquired a deeper appreciation for music in general.

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  41. I feel like knowing the history of how a subject has been taught be helpful because we know the effort that was made in teaching it and learning it. We also learn the motives as to why it was taught, for example, religion has been a big part of it. It’s also helpful because we get a sense of how someone who created a piece of music, felt during the process of it, we can hear or see their emotions.

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  42. Knowing the history of a subject or the history of music, in particular, is important as it provides a basis of why it matters. An individual can have a better understanding as to why such a thing existed and continues to exist. It’s also like a starting point where you can compare to other points in time and decipher what has remained the same as well as what has changed. With an acquired knowledge of music history, an individual is not only aware of how things used to sound or what people generally listened to but can also get a sense of the values and the culture that manifested during each certain time periods.

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  43. I would have preferred to learn music like the way it was taught during the Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical eras. This method is a way that young kids are exposed to something new and they have the opportunity to learn it at home during daily life and by their fathers or siblings. Kids are like sponges everything that they learn during a young age continuously it will be in their brain and it will become something normal for them. For example, my mom’s friend daughter know 3 languages and she changes one language to another one without any problem because the parent taught her since she was born. The same happens with music if someone close to you teaches you something since at a young age it will be comfortable for you or not? Why if the kids do not like music but they have to learn because his father is their teacher? How will you feel?

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