Krishnamurti… and also John Dewey

Thank you Liam Noble for alerting me to this video…

Consider the notion of embracing difference in learners, an absence of comparison and the centrality of experience.
Krishnamurti’s profound philosophy of education is in direct opposition to the current industrial model of education than not only works against differences in learners/people but has also systematically removed the philosophical aspect of the training of teachers themselves. Teachers used to be educated themselves to integrate a values such as “difference” within every lesson plan, programme of work and curriculum.Today they no longer have time to devise child/student-centred curricula and are instead shackled to the sick paradigm in the name of so-called quality and accountability. Krishnamurti is a voice in the wilderness but a reminder of the true purpose of education.

The great American educational philosopher John Dewey wrote in the early 20th century that “self-realisation is the goal” of education, “creating desire for continued growth”, not the mere acquisition of knowledge and information. This used to be central to teacher-education but chillingly these values have been and continue to be unpopular with government officials, including the highly influential Chris Woodhead (Chief Inspector of Schools in England from 1994 until 2000) who stated that “the words of John Dewey ought to be banned from all teacher-training institutions” (Daily Telegraph, 25 April 1999). Sadly, Head Teachers, Curriculum Designers and teachers themselves are generally corralled into compliance while at the same time the general educational culture is vulgarised by low-level and inexpert discourse in the press and even parents and learners themselves forget the authentic purpose of education and its and humane philosophical themes.

Education, from the latin Educare – to draw out that which lies within.

American jazz educator Charlie Banacos – quotes and more

I was surfing the website of David Valdez and came across the tributes to and Ph.D about the American jazz educator Charlie Banacos. This man was a very significant figure and worth investigating if like me, you are unaware of his work (see CasaValdez for more information)… Just for starters some of the saying attributed to him:
“If you play with your fingers, you’re dead”
“The fingers are passive”
“The body doesn’t want to stop”
“The body doesn’t like angles”
“Row the boat”
“You feel like a diver by the side of a pool, ready to jump”
“Play with your arms, not your fingers”
“Of course it’s difficult; that’s why they call it an etude”
“Ear training—it’s Zen, not Aristotelian”
“Gain purchase”
“Don’t measure” (as you practice ear training—hear it all at once)
“Piano technique—it’s Aristotelian, not Zen”
“Each note has its own shape as it goes by, like you’re driving by the planets”
“Keep your fingers near the keys, and don’t be afraid to raise your wrist”
“Don’t change the exercises”
“It’s a coordination problem”
“Just because you don’t speak like MLK doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk”
“Think of the numbers, not hand positions”
“Circles, Squares, Triangles -separate them” i.e. one idea after the next, not on top”
“Plan your practicing, or you will be overwhelmed”
“Use all the tensions on the lines; use all the figurations for each voicing”
“It doesn’t matter what finger you use”
“Think like a drummer, using space and range”
“Close your eyes and sit in the audience watching and listening”
“Re: sight reading—it’s a craft, not an art”
“Oh, and do it in all twelve keys.” Kill!
“Divisive rhythm/additive rhythm”
“Elephant with a stick in his trunk” (using it as a guide as you walk/play).
“He’s [insert name here e.g. Mingus, Jerry B. etc.] whacked, but he can play”
“Deep into the keys” (toward the center of the earth and toward the fallboard)

Apparently, he also would stress the following…
“It’s not technique, its timing” —Oscar Peterson
“Practice without accents” —Oscar Peterson
“The body is a rock; the arms are snakes” —Claudio Arrau
“All notes are ‘up’ notes” —Martha Argerich
“Feel the Ground” —Anton Rubinstein
“It’s all about circles” —Chick Corea
“Think of elephants, giraffes and hippos as you play” —Bill Evans
“C fingerings in all keys” —Franz Liszt
“Giant Steps solo in all keys” —George Coleman
“Music is Technique”—Nadia Boulanger
“Practice for the performance” —Chick Corea
“You must be a good draftsman before you can be a great painter” —Bill Evans
“Practicing is pushing a wall—you wake up the next day the wall has moved” —Bill Evans
“Don’t force the keys” —Art Tatum (to Red Garland)
“Each time is different”—Artur Schnabel, upon practicing the same phrase 200 times
“Three hours before breakfast” —Mike Stern
“Enslavement to the notation” —Craig Taubman
“Nothing difficult about it—just hit the right keys at the right time” —J.S. Bach
“You can’t be unhappy and be learning something new at the same time” —Merlin

If Music be the Food of Love…

If Music be the Food of Love, a response to Phil’s Robson’s FaceBook post.

Kate Williams is right in her comments on Phil Robson’s original post, it is definitely a political issue. It is a matter of values, and as artists we are in the “values business”. We assign so much of our energy and intention towards an ideal, a version or subtle representation of life so clearly at odds with the value system of the corporate world and the mass collective narcissistic neurosis of celebrity.

I have thought for many years that as human beings we possess a primal impulse towards creativity, artfulness and spirituality, as much our need for shelter, relationship and sexuality. Indeed, the signs of the collective creative and expressive impulse are ubiquitous, humanity’s need to create constantly revealing itself all around us.

Creativity and artfulness are natural states. When suppressed people become ill. When suppressed for long enough, communities and society becomes ill (read the research). The Spanish philosopher Jose Arguelles wrote: “When a man is deprived of the power of expression, he will express himself in a drive for power.” It is counter to our natural state and emotional health that hoards of artists are not only unknown but under-employed, while the need for more creativity in schools is obvious for all to see (not just in art and music but in the license afforded to creative teaching across the curriculum). And then there is the workplace and popular culture… The crime is that creative talent is as common as sand yet the dominant economic, social and political paradigm would have us believe that it is as scarce as gold. Actually, it is expedient in the post-capitalist world. (American theologian Matthew Fox had contributed insights on the subject during the 1980s.)

Phil’s points about Spotify are straightforward. Free or dirt-cheap listening makes music a “free-gift disposable consumable” that can be discarded in favour of another quick/free fix. Notwithstanding the argument about free access to great music, Music is now commoditised to such an extent and consumed as automatically as junk food, listening habits and purchasing behaviours vulnerable to extensive manipulation the market. I prefer to see quality music in the same way as quality food in that:
• It can take longer to prepare.
• It can require an investment in time and commitment on behalf of both performer and listener.
• It might take longer to digest!
• It can be (generally is) better for you (food for the soul). There is much research about creative activity and improved psychological well-being, reduction in mental illness, improved immune-systems etc.

I admire Phil for taking a stand on these matters and wish that the musical community had the confidence to support and actively promote the discussion. Couldn’t we take a more collective position on behalf of music? The irony is that very few musicians make a lot of money from music in any case, and the argument that free downloads promote the sale of merchandise at large scale or stadium gigs is hardly relevant for improvising musicians. Perhaps we have nothing to lose by reflecting and proposing some alternative practices – together. It won’t work otherwise.

There’s more comment here… www.facebook.com/simon.purcell.313

Thelonious Monk on How to Play Jazz

Everybody has their opinion about how to play the music. Monk was a one-off, a totally individual and realised artist, but he thought about it, in his own way too. This manuscript is freely available on the web (I found it at Sean Driscoll’s excellent blog – check it out). Makes a change from chords and scales…

  • Just because you’re not a drummer, doesn’t mean you don’t have to keep time.
  • Pat your foot and sing the melody in your head, when you play.
  • Stop playing all those weird notes (that bullshit), play the melody!
  • Make the drummer sound good.
  • Discrimination is important.
  • You’ve got to dig it to dig it, you dig?
  • ALL REET!
  • Always know….(MONK)
  • It must be always night, otherwise they wouldn’t need the lights.
  • Let’s lift the band stand!!
  • I want to avoid the hecklers.
  • Don’t play the piano part, I’m playing that. Don’t listen to me. I’m supposed to be accompanying you!
  • The inside of the tune (the bridge) is the part that makes the outside sound good.
  • Don’t play everything (or every time); let some things go by. Some music just imagined. What you don’t play can be more important that what you do.
  •  A note can be small as a pin or as big as the world, it depends on your imagination.
  • Stay in shape! Sometimes a musician waits for a gig, and when it comes, he’s out of shape and can’t make it.
  • When you’re swinging, swing some more.
  • (What should we wear tonight? Sharp as possible!)
  • Always leave them wanting more.
  • Don’t sound anybody for a gig, just be on the scene. These pieces were written so as to have something to play and get cats interested enough to come to rehearsal.
  • You’ve got it! If you don’t want to play, tell a joke or dance, but in any case, you got it! (To a drummer who didn’t want to solo)
  • Whatever you think can’t be done, somebody will come along and do it. A genius is the one most like himself.
  • They tried to get me to hate white people, but someone would always come along and spoil it.

Jazz Summer Schools

Yes, its about to start, another “silly season”, the Jazz Summer School season. Actually, many of us feel that this is a special and immensely valuable time for aspiring musicians to immerse themselves and experience the music in a concentrated fashion. It is my understanding that great British composers of the mid-twentieth century such as Vaughan-Williams and Finzi considered the summer school to be the most important learning experience of all.

Nowadays, jazz schools are businesses, but they also offer a transformative (and frequently healing) experience. The Barry Summer School changed my own life, making me determined to pursue a career having on the first night heard Tony Oxley, Alan Skidmore, Gordon Beck and Ron Matthewson. I was later privileged to co-diorect the course.

There are many such events, just click here for details (Jazz Services Education Database)
Or check out these summer-schools with which I have a close association (in alphabetical order):

Mediterranean Jazz Summer School (small course in the south of France with top UK jazz musicians Liane Carroll, Julian Siegel, Martin Hathaway, Geoff Gascoyne, Simon Purcell et al)  – click here

JAZZ’S COOL 2011 (a big event in Rome with International figures such as Dave Liebman, John Pattatucci, Daniello Perez, Sheila Jordan and a host of top European musicians and educators including me!) - click here

Trinity Jazz Summer School (the wonderful setting in Greenwich hosts the descendent of the historic Barry Summer School, featuring many of the top UK artists Bobby Wellins, Dave Hassell, Liam Noble, Pete Churchill, Dave Wickins, Nikki Iles et al) - click here

The Silly Season (not the football season)

This lucky person can afford music lessons!

Footballer X has refused a £50,000-a-week salary plus a bonus payment of £500,000.
Footballer Y is reputed to earn £250,000 a week.
The teaching budget for all Arts and Humanities subjects within the University Sector is cut by 100%.
I wonder who practices more, footballers or violinists, goalkeepers or pianists. No contest if England’s recent form is anything to go by!
10 per cent of the UK workforce earned less than £276 a week while in full-time employment (see http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=285).

Enough said…

Paul Desmond, a master mind and wit: some thoughts for a New Year

A poet of the music, Paul Desmond was both self-deprecating and deeply insightful. This medley of quotes might tickle and provoke us…
“I tried practicing for a few weeks and ended up playing too fast… I have won several prizes as the world’s slowest alto player, as well as a special award in 1961 for quietness”.
Regarding his tone:“I honestly don’t know! It has something to do with the fact that I play illegally.”
On why he changed his name: “Breitenfeld sounded too Irish.”

More seriously, Paul Desmond challenges students and teachers of the music: “Complexity can be a trap. You can have a ball developing a phrase, inverting it, playing it in different keys and times and all. But it’s really more introspective than communicative. Like a crossword puzzle compared to a poem.”
And most telling… “Writing is like jazz. It can be learned, but it can’t be taught.”
Sadly his perception about the jazz audience appears to remain pretty much spot on…”Our basic audience begins with creaking elderly types of twenty-three and above.”

For more Paul Desmond, click here:
www.jazzquotations.com/2010/05/paul-desmond-quotes_24.html
thinkexist.com/quotes/paul_desmond/
www.gandalfe.net/paul_desmond.htm

For a transcription of Paul Desmond’s solo on “Samba with some Bar-B-Q” click here

The Improvisational Brain – new article

Musicians and students are prone to a bit ranting as to how improvisation occurs and whether or not the analogy with language acquisition is appropriate. In supervising students’ (and their own) personal practice, teachers of improvisation can encounter blocks to progression and development, spending a lot of time untangling a student’s perception of their learning experience.

Those moments hit us all!

Those moments hit us all!

While Improvising is fun, once studied or practiced, it is my experience that inexperienced students and some seasoned musicians can mistake the sensations associated with play or the “flow state” with the slower and “creaky” mind that learns the initial stages of concrete skills. You  might say confusing the self-expressive state is confused with the learning state.

“Watching a musician in the throes of an improvisational solo can be like witnessing an act of divine intervention, but embedded memories and conspiring brain regions, scientists now believe, are the source of ad-hoc creativity” So suggests Amanda Rose Martinez see her article in SEED MAGAZINEclick here.

I suggest that our experiences as students of improvisation will be easier if we undertstand the learning process, so thank you Ms Rose… but now the community of jazz educators will be well advised to consider precisely how the research can be applied to enhance schemes of work, learning strategies and practice in general – and to be fair, the findings of this research have been alluded to for at least 30 years through applied (as distinct to cognitive) psychology. This is where the work of figures such as Guy Claxton et al, George Odam and the tried and tested Inner Game authors is useful.

What’s stopping us?

The Curriculum – all that is taught and learnt…

The Curriculum – all that is taught and learnt…
Core and hidden…
Planned and received…
Formal and informal…

 

Can we have an informed debate please?

We find ourselves in an historic time when education is about to the redefined by the course of political determination, we would be well advised to be mindful of the purpose of education and how teaching and learning occurs. While the nature and content of learning experiences have already changed due to the technological revolution, for whatever reason and whatever political persuasion suits you or I, the presence and provision for a range of subjects and learning processes are possibly about to change through a course of action that will be described as progressive, radical, essential, urgent… or reactive, dangerous and without educational rationale – depending upon your perspective.

Would it not be prudent to be informed? Even if a radical reassessment is necessary, all parties would be better served through deep consideration and evidence-based understanding of the core issues. Vic Kelly understood the curriculum and engages us in a thorough consideration of the psychological, philosophical, political and operational drivers that form the learning culture of schools and colleges. Derived form a latin word referring to a race track, perhaps we should prefer curriculum is less of a race to acquire information, and more a consideration of “all that is taught and learnt”, built upon values as much as operational mechanics and transient values.

A.V.Kelly’s “The Curriculum: Theory and Practice” – click here.

University College Union comment on national demonstration against education cuts

Commenting on the national demonstration against education cuts, UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: ‘The actions of a mindless and totally unrepresentative minority should not distract from today’s message. The overwhelming majority of staff and students on the march came here to send a clear and peaceful message to the politicians.’

Historic demonstration against Cuts in Higher Education

50,000 in stunning march against government cuts

An absolutely extraordinary 50,000 students and staff from UCU and NUS thronged the streets of central London on Wednesday in the biggest education march for generations. The massive turnout was a stinging rebuke to the Coalition government’s plans to cut to education funding and shift the burden of costs of universities firmly onto students. A big thank you to everyone who marched in defence of education.

At the rally outside Tate Britain, UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said, “it isn’t fair to make our public universities the most expensive in the world. It isn’t progressive to discourage young people from going to college. And it isn’t just to ask the next generation to pay for others’ mistakes. Over the next four years while college grants are cut and tuition fees triple, big business will get £8bn in tax giveaways from the government.”

TUC deputy general secretary Frances O’Grady slammed the coalition’s policies as creating “an American-style free market in higher education where the top universities are reserved for the privileged few and everybody else has to make do with second best”, while Aaron Porter, NUS president accused the government of “abdicating its responsibility to fund the education and skills provision we desperately need just as every other country is investing in its future.” It was an amazing turnout and a great march. You can see pictures from the day here: http://picasaweb.google.com/UCUcampaigns/FundOurFutureUCUNUSMarch10Nov10?feat=embedwebsite#

Sally Hunt’s statement on the Milbank protest
Of course, the news agenda on the day was completely captured by the incident at Millbank Tower, which distracted from the pressure being placed on the government by our magnificent march. UCU General Secretary Sally Hunt has written to all members on this and you can read her letter here: http://www.ucu.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=4779


Colleges could lose a third of their adult funding, says research
Further education colleges could face cuts of £2.5m each as a result of the government’s spending plans, according to independent research by the House of Commons Library. The research shows that a typical college, with approximately 20,000 students, could lose out on a third of its adult skills funding. Sally Hunt said: “Cuts of this size would have a devastating effect on local provision and put many colleges in dire financial straits. Institutions would be forced to charge students more in order to plug the funding gap.” Read more here: http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6063037

Cost of studying degree has increased by more than 300%, shows UCU study
The annual cost of studying for a degree has increased by 311.5% since 1988, according to research released by UCU this week. The study, which was released on the same day thousands of staff and students took to the streets of London, showed that a shopping basket of everyday household items rose by just 127.1% in the same period – between 1988 and 2010. UCU said that if Parliament allows tuition fees to rise to £9,000, students starting university in 2012 will face a bill for the first year of their degree (tuition and maintenance loans) 101% higher than their contemporaries who started this year. Read more about this story here: http://www.ucu.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=5109. The research was picked up by the Telegraph and the Daily Mail here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/universityeducation/8121707/Cost-of-a-degree-has-tripled-in-20-years.html and here: http://www.mailonsunday.co.uk/news/article-1328301/University-degree-costs-triple-decades.html.


Nick Clegg’s progressive arguments exposed
Nick Clegg’s attempts to paint the Liberal Democrats’ intervention on proposals for higher education as progressive suffered an embarrassing blow yesterday. Standing in at Prime Minister’s Questions, the deputy PM said the richest would pay most for university. However, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has found that the rich will be better off than they would have been if ministers had adopted Lord Browne’s recommendations. UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: “The Liberal Democrats’ argument that their intervention has made for a fairer system already looked ridiculous after they reneged on their pledge to campaign against a fees rise. The findings from the IFS are cause for further embarrassment.” Read more here: http://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/5354. The story was picked up by Channel 4 here: http://blogs.channel4.com/factcheck/tuition-fees-a-better-deal-for-the-rich/4960.

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Robert Duke – Why students don’t learn what we think we teach

I was fortunate enough to find this marvellous video at howtopractice.com (great resource) today. Robert Duke is Professor in Music and Human Learning at the University of Texas. This video/lecture could not be more important to all educators and all learners – click here if the video is not visible (and thank you to Cornell University for distributing their resources so freely).

Serious about practice? Do we really want to improve?

It seems that my work is mainly about helping students practice effectively. There’s not much to say except that if we are really serious, why not find out more about it!

Check out these indispensible web links for effective practice.
1) intentionalpractice.wordpress.com: Jonathan Harnum is a practicing musician (30+ years on trumpet, and others), and has published 3 previous music-related books. This site shares research from his current Ph.D research into practice.
2) www.howtopractice.com – website related to the above.
3) www.musiciansway.com/practice.shtml – excellent site about practice, related to the recent publication “The Musician’s Way”. See also this article about memorisation. musiciansway.com/blog/?p=2138

“Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe”. H. G. Wells

“Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe”, so said H. G. Wells.
Is Education no longer a human right, or a visible symptom of a mature society?

Do we want to see this?

In the face of impending and stringent cuts in education (as well as all public services), it is worth remembering that many people continue to believe that education is a human right, not a privilege:

“Education is a fundamental human right and essential for the exercise of all other human rights. It promotes individual freedom and empowerment and yields important development benefits. Yet millions of children and adults remain deprived of educational opportunities, many as a result of poverty... click here for more from the UNESCO website.

The UK Human Rights Act (1998) states:
Article 2
Right to education
“No person shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.”
For more from the Office of Public Sector Information, click here

For the galling face of corporate of education, see the Guardian on May 18th…click here

See the Guardian, May 18th 2010

If you are interested in the value that great minds have placed on education, see some of these excerpts on this very accessible site, click here

First, God created idiots. That was just for practice. Then He created school boards. Mark Twain

Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. John Dewey

I believe that education is the fundamental method of social progress and reform. John Dewey

Education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than you found it. Marion Wright Edelman

There is no greater crime than to stand between a man and his development; to take any law or institution and put it around him like a collar, and fasten it there, so that as he grows and enlarges, he presses against it till he suffocates and dies. Henry Ward Beecher

Remember that our nation’s first great leaders were also our first great scholars. John F Kennedy

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. Nelson Mandela

Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government. Thomas Jefferson

Education: a debt due from present to future generations. George Peabody

What are your favourite quotations about education?