Friday, April 28, 2017

Music Study Guide: JS Bach, Fugues, and The Blues

Minnesota High School Music Listening Contest 2004-05 (rev*2008-09)

Authored by K. Christian McGuire
Hosted by Steve Seel, MPR

Click on the chapter heading to view the PDF of the subjects within the chapter. Click on the commentary or track title to listen to the audio.
For instance: To view the text regarding Magister Leoninus click on "Medieval and Renaissance Music" and scroll to his entry. To hear his music, Click on "Viderunt Omnes"

Concepts in Music and Introduction

Medieval and Renaissance Music

Magister Leoninus, Viderunt Omnes
Perotin, Viderunt Omnes
The Carmina Buruna, Olim Sudor Herculis
Philippe de Vitry, Tribumque/Quoniam secta/Merito hec patimur
Tomas Luis de Victoria, O Magnum Mysterium
Tomas Luis de Victoria, Missa O Magnum Mysterium

Baroque Period (1600-1750)

Girolamo Frescobaldi - Toccata No. 3
Girolamo Frescobaldi – Canzona
Girolamo Frescobaldi – Passacaglia
Jean-Baptiste Lully – Overture from Armide
Francois Couperin, Les Moissonneurs (The Field Workers)
Francois Couperin Les Langueurs-Tendres (The Languishers)
Francois Couperin La Bersan

Classical Period (1750-1820)

Beethoven - Symphony No. 1
Mozart - Piano Concerto in Eb K.482
Mozart – Terzetto No. 7 from The Marriage of Figaro
Haydn - Symphony No. 101 in D major (‘The Clock’) Hob. I/10

19th Century

Hector Berlioz - Symphony Fantastique
Mendelssohn - Symphony No. 4
Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov – Scheherazade

20th Century

Example of Eastern European folk music
Bela Bartok - 4th String Quartet
Igor Stravinksy - Concerto for Piano and Winds
Aaron Jay Kernis - Musica Celestes from String Quartet no. 1

Featured Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1751)

Cantata - Nun Komm Der Heiden Heiland, BWV 61 (1714)

  • Chorus
  • Recitative and Arioso
  • Aria
  • Recitative
  • Aria
  • Chorus

  • Brandenberg Concerto 4 BWV 1049 (1720)

  • 1st movement
  • 2nd movement
  • 3rd movement

  • Partita No. 2 in D Minor for Violin Solo, BWV 1004 (1720)

  • Allemande (Ger.) - 4/4 Moderate
  • Courante (Fr.)- 3/2 Moderate
  • Sarabande (South American)- 3/4 Slow, accented 2nd beat
  • Gigue (Irish/Anglo)- 6/8 Lively, wide skips
  • Chaconne - 3/4 Slow, continuous variation

  • B Minor Mass BWV 232 (1733)

    Musical Offering BWV 1079 (1747)

  • Ricercar a 6
  • Canon a 2
  • Trio Sonata

  • Featured Genre: Fugues and Canons

    J.S. Bach - Fugue No. 2 in C minor from WTC
    Beethoven - Grosse Fuge, Op. 133
    Charles Ives – 3rd Movement from the 4th Symphony
    Arnold Schoenberg - Der Mondfleck from Pierrot lunaire
    Darius Milhaud - La Creation du Monde
    Paul Hindemith – Fuga in C from Ludus Tonalis

    Featured Influence: The Blues and its Heirs

    Work Song - Rosie
    B.B. King – It’s My Own Fault Baby
    George Gershwin - "It Ain’t Necessarily So", from Porgy and Bess
    Charles Mingus -

  • The Work Song
  • Theme for Lester Young (a.k.a. Goodbye Porkpie Hat)

  • The Beatles - I Want You (She’s So Heavy)
    Jimi Hendrix - Manic Depression
    The Who - My Generation


    Music Study Guide: Copland, Opera & the Middle East

    Minnesota High School Music Listening Contest 2005-06

    Authored & Hosted by K. Christian McGuire

    Click on the chapter heading to view the PDF of the subjects within the chapter. Click on the commentary or track title to listen to the audio.
    For instance: To view the text regarding Francesco Landini click on "Early Music" and scroll to his entry. To hear his music. Click on "Francesco Landini" to hear the commentary, click the preceding "Commentary" to his track selection.

    Concepts in Music

    Early Music (-1599)

    Mesmodes of Crete, Hymn to the Sun
    Francesco Landini, Non avra ma pieta
    Antoine Busnois, Missa O crux lignum
    Carlo Gesualdo, Arde il mio cor

    Baroque Period (1600-1750)

    Antonio Vivaldi, Concerto in D, RV 93, 1st movement
    Antonio Vivaldi, Concerto in D, RV 93, 2nd movement
    Antonio Vivaldi, Concerto in D, RV 93, 3rd movement
    Johann Sebastian Bach, Fugue in A Minor, BWV 543
    Domenico Scarlatti, Sonata in C, L. 104

    Classical Period (1750-1820)

    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Horn Concerto No. 3, 1st movement
    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Horn Concerto No. 3, 2nd movement
    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Horn Concerto No. 3, 3rd movement
    Franz Joseph Haydn, Missa in Angustiis
    Ludwig van Beethoven, Waldstein Sonata

    Romantic Period (1820-1900)

    Frederic Chopin, Nocturne in F-sharp,Op. 15, No.2
    Gabriel Faure, Pie Jesu from Requiem, op. 48
    Gustav Mahler, Symphony No. 2 in C minor 'Auferstehung'

    20th Century (1901-2000)

    Featured Composer: Aaron Copland (1900-1990)

    Symphony for Organ and Orchestra
    , 1st movement
    Symphony for Organ and Orchestra, 2nd movement
    , 1st movement - Buckaroo Holiday
    Rodeo, 4th movement - Hoe-Down
    Appalachian Spring

    Third Symphony
    , 4th movement (Fanfare)
    Quartet for Piano and Strings
    , 1st movement
    Quartet for Piano and Strings, 2nd movement

    Featured Genre: Opera (1600-present)

    Featured Global Music: Music of the Middle East

    Commentary on Middle Eastern Music
    A Turkish version of an Azhan (A call to prayer)
    Iraqi folk song, My Heart Promised Me...
    Music of Egypt
    solo - Tabalah
    solo - Qanun
    solo - Riqq
    Egyptian folk tune, The Beautiful Girl in the Window
    Maluf (Classical Tunisian Music), Abyat movement from a Nuba Al-Ramal

    Franghiz Ali-Zadeh, Mugam Sayagi

    Copyright © 1997, 2008 Grianeala Publishing | All Rights Reserved

    Music Study Guide: Beethoven, Movies, Music of Africa

    Minnesota High School Music Listening Contest 2007-08

    Authored & Hosted by K. Christian McGuire

    Click on the chapter heading to view the PDF of the subjects within the chapter. Click on the commentary or track title to listen to the audio.
    For instance: To view the text regarding Hildegard von Bingen click on "Early Music" and scroll to her entry. To hear her music. Click on "Hildegard von Bingeni" to hear the commentary, click on "Karitas habundat" to her track selection.

    Concepts in Music (PDF)


    Early Music (-1599) (PDF)

    Hildegard von Bingen
    - Karitas habundat
    - Laus trinitati (on same track as above)
    Richard the Lionhearted - Ja nus hons pris
     * for more detail on this work, see my outline on Richard Coeur de Lion and the Troubadours
    Adam de la Halle
    - Robins m'aime (and commentary)
    - Mout / Robins m'aime / Portare
    John Dunstaple - Descendi in ortum meum
    Henry VIII of England - Pastime with Good Company

    Baroque Period (1600-1750) (PDF)

    Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre
    - "La Flamande" from Harpsichord Suite No. 5
    - "Chaconne" from Harpsichord Suite No. 5
    George Frideric Händel - Flammende Rose Zierde der Erde, HWV 210
    Johann Sebastian Bach - Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, BWV 903
    - Fantasy
    - Fugue
    Missionary Baroque - Caima, Iyai Jesus

    Classical Period (1750-1820) (PDF)

    Johann Georg Albrechtsberger - Allegro Moderato from Concertino in D
    Joseph-Boulogne Chevalier de Saint-Georges - Symphony in D, op. 11/2
    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - "O Zittre Nicht" from Die Zauberflote

    Romantic Period (1820-1900) (PDF)

    Louis Moreau Gottschalk - Tremolo, Grande etude de concert, op. 58
    Edvard Grieg - "Solveig's Song" from Peer Gynt, op. 23 no. 11
    Antonin Dvorak - Larghetto from String Quintet in E-flat, op. 97

    20th Century (1901-2000) (PDF)

    Gustav Holst - "Neptune" from The Planets, op 32 no. 7
    Arthur Honegger - from Jeanne d'arc au Bucher
    Alberto Ginastera - Variaciones Concertantes, op 23
    - "Tema per Violoncello ed Arpa"
    - "Variazione canonica per Oboe e Fagotto"
    Jaco Pastorius
    - Portrait of Tracy from Jaco Pastorius (1976)
    - Crisis from Word of Mouth (1981)

    Featured Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) (PDF)

    Sextet for 2 clarinets, 2 horns and 2 bassoons in E-flat, op. 71

    "Scherzo and Trio" from Symphony No. 2 in D, op. 36

    Lieder on texts by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
    - "Ich denke dein" from the poem Nahe des Geliebten
    - "Freudvoll und Leidvoll" from Egmont, op. 84

    Fantasy in C minor for Piano, Chorus, and Orchestra, op. 80

    "Der schwer gefaßte Entschluß" from String Quartet No. 16 in F, op. 135

    Featured Genre: Music in Cinema (PDF)

    Commentary - Korngold
    Erich Wolfgang Korngold - Main Theme from Captain Blood (1935)
    - Comparison Piece - John Williams - Main Theme from Star Wars (1977)

    Erich Wolfgang Korngold - Music from The Adventures of Robin Hood(1938)
    - "The Fish" - Meeting Friar Tuck
    Commentary - Use of leitmotivs in The Adventures of Robin Hood
    - "The Tournament" - Archery Tournament

    Commentary - Alexander Nevsky
    Sergei Prokofiev - "Battle on the Ice" from Alexander Nevsky (1938)
    Bernard Hermann - Psycho (1960)

    Ennio Morricone - Il Buono, Il Brutto, Il Cattivo (1966)

    Commentary - In the Year 2001…
    Gyorgi Ligeti -"Jupiter Beyond the Infinite" from 2001 A Space Odyssey (1968)
    Kishore Kumar - "Dil Aaj Shair Hai" from Gambler (1970)

    Featured Ethnomusic: Selections from the African Continent (PDF)

    Southern Africa: Zulu
    - Emalomeni - Song accompanied by makhweyana (musical bow)
    - Edel Nkosi (Chief Song)
    Ethiopia: Beta Israel
    - Prayer for Passover
    - Prayer for New Year
    Saharan Africa: Tuareg
    - Chikishikishin - Love song accompanied by the imzhad
    - Tohimo Dance
    Central Africa: Mbuti
    - Bachelor duet accompanied by the lukembi
    - Elephant Hunt

    Closing Appendix (PDF)

    Virtue and Happiness in Boethius and David Foster Wallace

    In 2005, novelist David Foster Wallace, delivered what many have hailed as one of the greatest Commencement Addresses of all time.  Speaking at the graduation ceremony at Kenyon, he closes his address with: 

    If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough …. Worship your body and beauty… you will always feel ugly…Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out.

    But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is…they are default settings…They're the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that's what you're doing
    And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom.
    The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving.....
    …The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day. That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.

    Full transcript of his address is found here

    Wallace the Classical Philosopher
    While many regard Wallace's words as insightful advice, his themes are anything but original. For anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of Classical Philosophy knows all to well the familiar strains of Virtue Ethics promoted by Aristotle.(384-322 BCE) nearly 2,400 years ago.  The greatest influence of these ideals was spread by the late Roman statesman, Boethius (c. 480-524 CE). For nearly 1,000 years the works of Boethius, shaped Western thought.  While warriors 'bickered and argued about who killed who' in their battles to win wealth, power and fame, Scholars continued the Great Conversation by inquiring into the workings of Nature and its intersection with Ethics in their efforts to seek - Harmonia. [*Warriors played chess to defeat an opponent, Scholars played Rithmomachia to achieve harmonious victory with their opponent]
    While Boethius' works dominated the core texts of the Quadrivium (Arithmetic, Geometry, Music, and Astronomy) of Schools and Universities from the Carolingian Renaissance through the Scientific Revolution (ca. 11th-17th centuries) His Consolation of Philosophy was one of the most widely read texts by scholars and laymen alike.

    In this context we look again to David Foster Wallace's speech above, we look to Book III section ii in one of Boethius many English translations, Here the voice of Lady Philosophia warns:

    All mortal creatures in those anxious aims which find employment in so many varied pursuits, though they take many paths, yet strive to reach one goal—the goal of happiness. Now, the good is that which, when a man hath got, he can lack nothing further. This it is which is the supreme good of all, containing within itself all particular good; so that if anything is still wanting thereto, this cannot be the supreme good, since something would be left outside which might be desired. 

    'Tis clear, then, that happiness is a state perfected by the assembling together of all good things. To this state, as we have said, all men try to attain, but by different paths. For the desire of the 
    true good is naturally implanted in the minds of men; only error leads them aside out of the way in pursuit of the false.   
    Some, deeming it the highest good to want for nothing,
    spare no pains to attain affluence; others, judging the good to be that to which respect is most worthily paid, strive to win the reverence of their fellow-citizens by the attainment of official dignity. Some there are who fix the chief good in supreme power; these either wish themselves to enjoy sovereignty, or try to attach themselves to those who have it. Those, again, who think renown to be something of supreme excellence are in haste to spread abroad the glory of their name either through the arts of war or of peace. A great many measure the attainment of good by joy and gladness of heart; these think it the height of happiness to give themselves over to pleasure. Others there are, again, who interchange the ends and means one with the other in their aims; for instance, some want riches for the sake of pleasure and power, some covet power either for the sake of money or in order to bring renown to their name. 

    And she closes Book III section vii with 
    ...It is beyond doubt, then, that these paths do not lead to happiness; they cannot guide anyone to the promised goal. 

    For an overview of the Consolatio,  visit: 
    Full Text of Consolatio begin on page 225 for Book III

    At this point would like to turn to the field of education and set forth a statement which I have all to often heard from my students: 

    "I want to get good grades / test scores so I can get into a reputable school so that I can get a diploma so that I can get a good paying job so that I can be happy and do what I want."

    It seems reasonable, but given what we have read above, it is necessary to evaluate what the statement actually proposes.

    Do the Goods of Fortune bestow Virtue and Lead to Happiness?

    The Goods of Fortune do not bestow Virtue and Happiness.  Left unchecked by philosophy, pursuing them alone leads humans to vice.  Vice is dependent upon our ignorance of Nature, and our lack of will and ability to peel away their superficial trinkets. 

    It is the philosopher, with the understanding of Harmonia who has the will and ability. Without the Good of Philosophy, the soul is prone to act with vice, not virtue making those Goods of Fortune not only worthless but downright destructive to the soul.

    If Wealth leads to happiness, value is measured by market success. If you spend your energy trying to accumulate wealth and protect your wealth, and hire people to aid you in your wealth, are you really secure?

    David Foster Wallace: "If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life,   then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough."

    BoethiusWherefore, if wealth cannot get rid of want, and makes new wants of its own, how can ye believe that it bestows independence? Book III.iii

    Questions for the Great Conversation: If I am starting a business because I want to make money, does it matter what I offer? Is it ethical to sell a product I know is bad?  So then is 'starting a business to make money' really what I am seeking? Is there something more essential or is money itself my aim?

    David Foster Wallace: "Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need 
    ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear…"

    Boethius asks, Do you think the man powerful who is more afraid of others than they are of him? Book III.V

    If one accumulates power, then must one always be on guard to protect themselves from those who would take it away.  Even those you keep around you, can never be fully trusted. You may as well spend your time hiding away in some secret bunker, shut off from the world.

    Questions for the Great Conversation: If power is what I need to be happy, to be free, assess the following statement, "It is the strength of our military that gives us Freedom."  If this is the case, does that mean that a strong military anywhere ensures freedom?  So North Korea, China, Nazi Germany all ensure freedom because they have strong military's?  Or is freedom something else?

    Does Fame make one virtuous?  Sure you are famous, but for what? Are you famous because of your Virtue.  Do you feel good that your exploits are broadcast to the world?

    Boethius For many have won a great name through the mistaken beliefs of the multitude—and what can be imagined more shameful than that? Nay, they who are praised falsely must needs themselves blush at their own praises! Book

    Question for the Great Conversation: If you act in Virtue, does Fame really matter?

    Do you respect the Rank or the Man? Book III.iv
    Does being honored make one Virtuous and Happy?

    Question for the Great Conversation: Does being granted a high office, rank make the person Virtuous?
    Think about how these Goods of Fortune intersect and surround us.  They dominate our daily lives and lure our passions through advertisement, marketing. propaganda to play on our fears.

    Test for yourself can any one of these lesser goods be considered the Ultimate Good, goal to Happiness and Virtue?

    Lets Evaluate the statement, "I want to get good grades / test scores so I can get into a reputable school so that I can get a diploma so that I can get a good paying job so that I can be happy and do what I want."

    - Do the test scores determine what you have learned? Perhaps to some degree, but is all learning measurable are there other factors which contribute to your knowledge and capabilities?
    - Do reputable schools excel because they are reputable? What are the factors which go into making that reputation?
    - Does the diploma measure what you have learned; of what your are capable? Or is there some sort of portfolio of your work; a track record which indicates the value of that piece of paper?
    - If a good paying job is how you measure success, does it matter what that job is? Does that job actually make you happy?
    - What does "doing what I want" actually entail?  What do these last factors indicate about responsibility to the community and the world?

    For Educators: If the goal ensuring income to keep the school fiscally viable, then all decisions would seem to center around money. Are we in the field of Education for the sake of Money? What does that do to education when we begin to describe students and curriculum in market terms?  If we place high emphasis on the test scores, as an indicator of the effectiveness of our curriculum and teaching method (i.e. student as "product"), can we support it with follow up questions.  How do we ensure we are not structuring our curriculum to make good test takers? necessarily good scholars, independent thinkers? Does our curriculum and teaching method work for all students, if so, all students should do well in this environment.
    If it shows that our teaching method is ineffective for all students, for example students leave for other schools, or do not seem to do well by measured and timely scores - then we cannot say we offer the best method.  The measured & timely score also does not necessarily indicate what a student has learned.

    These are just some of the basic questions which ought always be raised when discussing Virtue Ethics in the context of Education.

    In closing, the Goods of Fortune are nice additions to life, they are not in and of themselves Virtuous. Unchecked they are the things which cater to our desires and wants…not to our soul.

    Regarding the Goods of Fortune Boethius writes  …there is plainly nothing to be truly desired, nothing of intrinsic excellence; for she neither always joins herself to the good, nor does she make good men of those to whom she is united. Book

    Concerning After School Instrumental Music Programs

    The following concerning the negative academic and devastating economic impact which results in moving curricular instrumental music lessons from curricular daytime to after school has on student academic success, affordability and the reduced ability they have in participating in extra-curricular activities.


    An objection often raised pertains the logistics of how and when lessons are taught during the school day.   This objectiion stems from the historically mistaken view that instrumental music is somehow inferior to "rigorous academic disciplines" [see my related articles linked below]. Nonetheless, schools have traditionally employed a system in which students attend a brief 15 minute lesson once per week, either from an assigned study hall time (preferred), or from a rotating class schedule (1st period week one, 2nd period week 2...etc).  While this might seem an inconvenience to teachers of other disciplines in disruption of class time, exams, quizzes, and other active participatory exercises, these minor issues can be planned ahead of time in cooperation with the instrumental music instructor. Furthermore if there is concern with the academic success of the student in that other discipline, keep in mind that most students are resilient and clever enough to catch up on the missed material in 5 minutes after school with their teacher.

    If a school decides to forgo this traditional system and opt instead for after school lessons, think for a moment how a school would have to  accommodate the large number of students already in the instrumental music program.  For example how would a school place just 16 students. If  doubling up students for 15 minute intervals per lesson slot beginning at 4:00, this averages about 8 students per hour with the last 2 lessons finishing at 6:00.  In a school with 200 students in a program, Lessons would have to be held every night of the week until 9:00 pm to accommodate them all. Keep in mind that as instrumental music is historically and cognitively recognized for its central role in academic success, we can expect many more students willing to participate.

    Even more pressing: What are the expectations for those students scheduled for a 5:45 after school lesson? Do they go home after school then come back for a 15 minute joint lesson?  Or can any school afford to keep the students on site and focused on homework or other extra curricular - where will that money come from?

    In the case of my family it takes about 20-25 minutes to drive to and from our school.  Would my child after returning home, do as much homework as possible, then get back into the car for another 20 minute ride back to school, 5-10 minutes to park and set up, take a 15 minute lesson, then head home in another 20 minutes? 

    Would s/he then be expected to settle him/herself in before finishing up homework, lessons, chores, practice, etc?  This would result in less free time and less sleep for the young scholar and negatively impact the health and mental preparation on assessments. In short, 15 minutes from class time vs. 60-75 minutes of study, practice time, does not seem a viable academic trade off.


    As Instrumental music programs are acknowledged as one of the best investments a school can provide for their students, a short sighted move in pushing these programs to after school raises yet another potential cost for the school and to families.  For the school which decides to save money by outsourcing instrumental music to a private organization,  There is an added expense:

    For example, one organization in the eastern metro which provides 15 minute lessons and a once per week 1/2 hour ensemble practice, charges nearly $700 per student for the entire school year.  For a school which already has 100 students involved in band or orchestra, that is about $70,000 paid to an outside source for about 20 total hours of ensemble practice and 10 total hours of lesson time for the school year.   

    If the school decides to pass along that expense to the families of students, rather than provide for a dedicated instrumental music teacher, That is more financial burden for the families, and diminishes their capacity or willingness to dedicate more donations to the school. Keep in mind families already have to cover the expense of a good quality student instrument.  Trial-purchase or rental programs (offered through such companies as Schmitt Music, Eckroth, Groth, Cadenza et al.) range between $25 - $75 per month making a possible additional cost to students $300-$900 per year. (a good quality beginner band / string instrument typically costs between $1,000 - $2,500 dollars new) Thus a a family with two (2) students in band can expect to pay about $2,000-$2,500 per year.  Many of these families are also involved in athletics and extra-curricular activities. But the initial expense makes the possibility of generating any new development funds from them difficult.


    Even if families could overcome the logistical issues, any school will be hard pressed to find qualified band and orchestra directors willing or able to participate in such a program.  First, as the established norm is for band, orchestra and lessons to be undertaken during the school day, professional music educators spend their evenings , when not with their own families, teaching private 1-on-1 lessons, attending rehearsals: choir, theater, church/synagogue, bands, orchestras etc.  in preparation for performances. 

    Evening and Weekend hours are a significant part of the band director lifestyle and already tenuous income.

    Rather than take an academic step backwards, any school would do best to take steps toward establishing an education model which incorporates an in-house band and orchestra program by hiring full-time directors, and proper rehearsal space.   Elementary band during recess is the norm. Jr. and High School should have a dedicated period during the day.  

    On the whole, the false promise that a school will save money and improve academic success by moving lessons and ensembles to before or after school, is ill-conceived.  Rather, the suggestion appears to be intended to kill off band and orchestra programs and diminish the recognized academic excellence these programs deliver.


    It is difficult to make a case for the importance of instrumental music in academics when the common view of music itself is a frivolous hobby suitable merely for entertainment whose ultimate value is measured in album and ticket sales.  

    When we direct our minds to how music is actually used in our world, the simplistic view that music is entertainment is revealed to be mistaken.  Think about it this way: Were music not important in western civilization, advertisers would not use music in commercials, movies would be devoid of soundtracks, there would be no worship music, no military or pep bands, no music to "psych one up" before a game or "relax" after a long days work, there would be no cheer leading, we would hear no chants at political rallies,  authors would make no mention if music in their literature, and many advances in science would have been missed.   Far from being a frivolity of entertainment, understanding music through instrumental music equips with one with a means to discover the nature of sounds and its effects on the human mind. These ideas lead Plato to promote the formal study of music in his Academy and as a necessary step in education before delving into the greater mysteries of Philosophy--i.e. the promotion of Discovery and Intellectual Curiosity.  Today we have the benefit of science research to find answers to those questions first raised by Plato.

    Unfortunately for the past 20+ years we are now witness to an a age where nearly two generations of public and charter school educated students have been raised with this mistaken belief that music is somehow inferior -- unworthy of study,and that music programs are a distraction from subjects like Math and Science or promote a purely business minded ethic.  This seems to be the impetus for the proposed elimination of school day lessons. 

    First lets look at what this statement does.  It divides and ranks the disciplines into categories of worthiness.  This worth is based upon the perceived market driven assertion that good scores in Math and Science will help one get a job.  Aside from the negligible effect of brief class time absence, One glaring problem is that decisions made from purely market driven principles are incompatible with the aims of Education. Those who maintain this belief demonstrates ignorance of 2,500 year academic tradition.

    K. Christian McGuire
    Saint Paul, MN

    Science Appreciation and the Study of Music

    Remember shows like Mr. Wizard, Beakman's World, Bill Nye the Science Guy? These were designed to inspire the young into the joys of science and inquiry, with the hopes that they would grow into scientifically literate adults who, if they did not happen to pursue a career in the sciences, would nonetheless know and understand enough to recognize its importance to humanity and the world.

    Today it is relatively easy to find such Science Appreciation demonstrations on video.  These range from hammering a nail with frozen banana, exploding hydrogen filled balloons to demonstrations of chain reactions with mousetraps and ping pong balls.

    Take a moment to watch the video below:

    Wasn't that cool!  Did it provoke an emotional response?  I mean really! All of those ping pong balls flying all over the place in such a cool explosion!  That was really entertaining.

    ...did you learn anything from the video?

    It may be entertaining, but did this video provide us with any significant detail regarding the actual science, the history of methods which lead up to the ability to conduct the experiment and predict results, the weights, measures, formulae, the safety precautions etc..... In other words, did this video provide you with any value as to the NEED to study science as a curricular subject in school?

    Should we include the study of Language if all the students read are trashy novellas? Math if all they learn are mathematical parlor tricks? Medieval History if they simply watch "Game of Thrones?"

    From this perspective there seems little value teaching Science, Math,  History or English as a core requirement.  An observation of an exploding balloon makes for a fun extracurricular activity, but provides nothing which requires scholarly discipline.

    Appreciation or Study
    This is however exactly the all too familiar attitude faced by music educators on a daily basis. For just as the exploding balloon is to a Richard Feynman, Isaac Newton, or Albert Einstein; the pop song is to a J.S. Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, or Maurice Ravel.  In schools, we require all students to conduct lab experiments; to get inside the process of doing scientific experiments, but we routinely make instrumental music an elective.

    Pop songs, like the science video above, are appreciated as passive entertainment.  Classical music is at best merely deemed worthy of appreciation for its beauty.  This makes for a convenient excuse for the misinformed to disregard proposals for the reintegration of the curricular Music programs. For whatever we think of "appreciation" it is ultimately a condescending term.  Would we ever think to offer English as an "appreciation" course and forgo its study of grammar, syntax, interpretation?

    The fact of the matter is that the Study of Music is hard.  It ranks among the most difficult disciplines to understand and study as it does not simply involve just audible "music." Degree programs require a heavy dose of science, math, literature, foreign language and history.

    Forgive me if I sound a bit defensive in this side track here: be considered for a graduate program in Musicology,  Not only must students be able to audibly identify a minimum of 1,000 works, genres and composers, within specific historical, regional and philosophical traditions from the past 2,500 years (based upon either a 5-10 second audio clip or a fragment of a musical score), but they must also be able to dictate music by ear (that is identify pitches, rhythms, instrumentation and transcribe into notation), read and sing from a musical well as improvise a harmony by sight during a piano proficiency exam.
    When music has a text, one must be able to understand literary devices, religious and secular nuance and metaphysics -- how these concepts are set to music (if the music has a text).
    For a Masters program in musicology, A student must have reading proficiency in at least one Foreign language, but its more beneficial to learn the big three: German, French, and Italian.  Plus if, like me, you desire to study medieval music, you must also know Latin, (Ancient Greek helps too).
    Historical research methods, paleography etc., and deep understanding of Literature and interpretive methodologies is also required. In fact, many works of literature require musical knowledge to understand the full meaning a text.
    -- I have not even touched upon the requirements for the  Ethnomusicology and Linguistic expectations for the degree)
    Musicians must also have a basic understanding of room acoustics so that with the practiced technique of properly tuned fine motor skills, they are able to produce music with an appropriately informed musical performance practice. - For my electric bass performances, I routinely draw upon classical guitar and cello sources, but also the results of pedal technique used by professional organists.
    This brief clip, with dialog from the movie "Amadeus" demonstrates the expectation of what is required of a Music major.

    So when a musician speaks of the importance of music education, they are speaking from a much deeper and integrated understanding of music. This is quite a different perspective than one which thinks of music as the simply pop song, or the casual untrained person playing and singing in a weekend garage band -- who is almost certain to develop vocal cord nodes or tendinitis.

    Some relevant links:
    Music and the Brain
    The Music Instinct
    History of Music in Classical Education -

    To provide just a brief glimpse on how all of these disciplines intersect, take some time to peruse one of the three (3) study guides I wrote for the Minnesota High School Music Listening Contest.  This was written to condense some of these more heavy subjects for an 8th grade reading level:

    Music: Truth Beauty and Goodness in Augustine and Indiana Jones

    Music is the often neglected field of study in contemporary education.  Be it STEM or  Classical Education, Music is rarely mentioned. Standardized assessments do not include them and despite its proven benefits to cognitive development, the prevailing thought seems to be it is an added luxury or merely a skill building end in itself.  
    Music however, is so thoroughly intertwined in Western philosophical thought that reading any significant author without this fundamental knowledge (whether Plato, Shakespeare, Kepler) leads to an incomplete understanding of the Philosophy behind their works. 
    When I introduce this subject to my students, I liken the current view of Music (as consumable entertainment—a text driven medium accompanied by 3-4 chords ) the equivalent of reducing the history of Literature to James Patterson, and all Art to Thomas Kincaid. And all history to whatever talk show host happens to write a best selling (though unvetted “history” series.

    I found that a great pop-culture metaphor in recognizing the intertwining of the Liberal Arts division of Trivium and Quadrivium is found in Raiders of the Lost Ark. 
     In particular the Headpiece of the Staff of Ra which provides the instructions in the map room for finding the Ark has two sides.

     If you recall, the self-serving empire builders only have one side of the headpiece,
    We might refer to as the Trivium (Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric) if taught in a skill building manner., It provides the warning not to disturb the Ark, but that it is to be placee on a staff that is 6 kadams high.

    These instructions do not require any thought on the part of the reader, or why we should not disturb the Ark.  It is dogmatic

    ...BUT in addition to the "Trivium" side, Indy and Sallah also have the side which deals with the Quadrivium: For it is concerned with measurement (ratio) as well as an ethical reasoning as to why one should that measurement is made:

    Take back one Kadam in honor of the Hebrew God whose Ark this is.

    – While the Nazis are lost in their oversized  Indy and Sallah thoughtfully and together use both sides to find that which brings them closer to understanding the Cosmos (the Ark)- 


    Likewise we have this visual representation of Harmonia with the “School of Athens” painting  The foundation is built with visual representations  the Quadrivium (Arithmetic, Music, Geometry, Astronomy) a view which lasted for nearly 2,000 years before Iohannes Kepler applied experimental methods to each of those disciplines in his Harmonices Mundi (we usually only refer to his Astronomy findings but Book III is all about music). – Nonetheless the foundational study of the Quadrivium is found in Plato’s Timaeus (which he is shown holding at the pinnacle – standing next to Aristotle who is holding the Nicomachean Ethics)

    So with that, I request that you take some time to read this recent 10-page article by John McInnis of Dordt College who provides what I believe to be one of the best introductions for Classical Education enthusiasts to gain a clearer understanding of this Classical tradition which intertwines Music Ethics and Science. (MacInnis does contextualize how Augustine was adapting Classical educaiton for a Christian audience, and MacInnis himself is teaching at a Christian school, but the essence of Classical Philosophy is still fundamental)
    Access his article here:
    Now MacInnis does mention Boethius who is the most influential author in shaping Western Classical Education, I am submitting a link to a response I gave to a pop musician- regarding Boethius famous division of the 3 types of Musician (I was trying to condense a lot while feeling a little indignant ... but....
    Finally I’d like to share this relevant podcast of Music Ethics & Cosmology from Krista Tippett’s “On Being” in which she interviews computer scientist Bernard Chazzelle who pretty much describes what I’ve just said here but with a little more mathematical precision.

    Along with that, when I teach students instrumental music – I make sure they work on being able to sing what they read and practice every day to identify the tuning note (“A” 440Hz ) of standard Equal Temperment.  Then just like learning to read letters of the alphabet to form words...I instruct them that the notes on the page are not the actual music, but the instructions for how to play the music.  each note with its unique rhythmic value and pitch combines with those around it to form motivs (i.e. “words”) these motivs are combined to create phrases, and sentences where they can be turned around inverted, fragmented, augmented, and layered sometimes with the same contour but in different ranges, so that the same motiv or phrase can hold multiple meanings at the same time (or change meaning throughout its development.)  Bach Fugues are perfect for this kind of exercise....Then things get really fun if someone decided to set text to music – (This is where we behold the true genius of Mozart)

    ANYWAY with that I will leave you with a late 1960s recording featuring Karl Richter playing the 1st movement of Bach’s 5th Brandenberg Concerto for Harpsichord, Flute, and Violin – After the presentation of the Ritornello theme (about the first 20 seconds) dig how the instruments chase each other around with fragments of that theme in the solo sections.

    But if you, like me, want to see what is going on, you can check out this convenient “scrolling score”