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MUSIC IN PRACTICE (2001-2002)

  • Fall 2001 syllabus

  • Spring 2002 syllabus


  • GENERAL DESCRIPTION

    MUSIC IN PRACTICE was an introductory course at Bennington for years before I arrived. Otto Luening once taught it. Willi Finckel, my predecessor in the course, calmly explained that students should learn to read music, and become exposed to many aspects of music, while making music---hands-on learning---it sounded wonderful, and if I were a student, I would study anything I could with Willi Finckel, one of the most nurturing, evocative and dedicated teachers I know.

    But my first group MIP students all knew how to read! (Meanwhile my advanced students didn't!) And some of them came expecting to practice their instruments because the word was in the title. Here is the original description:

    Bennington students explore music from many angles - improvisation, composition and performance. Music in Practice reflects this philosophy and offers the student who may not have experienced music closely up to now, the opportunity to hear from the inside. Along with work on musical fundamentals, students will improvise, compose for their own instruments and voices, and listen to music from many eras and genres around the world and close at hand.

    At one time MUSIC IN PRACTICE was the standard prerequisite for all other music study, but then Bennington as an educational institution rethought prerequisites as an academic structure and decided to present courses without them.

    I decided that the course needed a more specific focus, that music literacy needed to be separated and offered as such to those who wanted it, and that a learning goal which generated the fundamentals of music in more of a context would be a richer way to teach and learn.

    So I have abandoned MUSIC IN PRACTICE in name, but not in essential purpose. I have developed WINDOW FOR THE EAR: OTHER MUSIC CULTURES TEACH US ABOUT OUR OWN for which I use a basic ethnomusicaological textbook called "Worlds of Music" edited by Jeff Todd Titon. During this course, we develop the language to talk about what we encounter, we "translate" our findings into student compositions and explore what it takes to

    1. "compose" or create music for others to play
    2. rehearse, remember, prepare a performance of an idea
    We cover the need for notation and students are exposed to standard Western notation in the text as a visual to assess the accompanying recordings, but I do not require mastery. I present and discuss music fundamentals, and require the students to use these concepts as tools for measuring what they hear. Finally, I have made this a 4-credit course because I felt there was not enough immersion with a 2-credit course to really learn new ideas. Finally, the music faculty has instituted a 1-credit music literacy course, and we are starting to recommend that all students achieve competency.