Pedagogy of Composition

Sorry for not posting last night. got a little tied up, and died relatively early. Only made it to about 10:00 before i was bed bound with a book.

Last night was the first meeting of Pedagogy of Composition. When i saw the class, i HAD to sign up. I hadn't really seen a pedagogy of comp class before. Seen ped of theory, ped of history, ped of [insert instrument] but not composition. And, as a composer and a teacher, i was all about it.

turns out there are only a couple classes in the NATION. and i had seen a lot of "how to compose" books [Brindle-Smith, Cope, Schoenberg, Composition for Dummies, etc] it never seemed like there was a complete methodology. and there's the philosophical question of "how does one teach a creative subject?"

I have missed ed classes. I jumped right in, both feet first, and never stopped. i definitely pegged myself as someone with a strong music ed background. i did 7/8 of the coursework, i've been an adjunct, read the trade magazines, still keep up with MENC [should renew my membership...keep forgetting]...I felt more at home in this element than Advanced Analysis [at which i'll do alright] or even composition lessons. I've always viewed myself as educator 1st, composer 2nd. Mostly its a confidence thing; i know i'm a pretty good teacher. i've heard it from students, from evaluators, from random people walking by and seeing me getting my whole class dancing to Justin Timberlake [college students, mind you]. Composition, yeah, not so much...i'm still new to it. I hear amazing works, like one of the guys in my composition workshop, Greg Gagnon. Reminds me a lot of Whitney George, for some reason, as far as writing styles. Enough where i might do some comparative study for my Analysis class. yeah, he's a new MM student and the piece i heard of his was amazing. some great lines, really interesting setting of the text...

so i lack confidence, because, as a DMA student, i don't feel like i'm "a cut above" the MM students. i entered late, yes...quite late compared to most of the composers. I take solace in the "if the faculty didn't see something there, i wouldn't be here"

Anyway, i digress...this is about pedagogy, for the second.

The class will be awesome. Some of the work i'll breeze through, the mechanical part: how to write a syllabus, how to put together a methodology, what kind of research is appropriate, creating assessment sheets. The mechanical side of those, i know, by heart. I've done many a syllabi, strung together a couple methodologies, and done assessment sheets

but not for composition.

it's funny, we got really out there for a bit in the lat 25 minutes, really getting into philosophy of education. The class was actually the brain child of a DMA student that one of the professors was all over in the "i always wanted to do that..." kind of way. They layout of the class, though, speaks to how much time the student and head professor put into designing the class. it's only been done once. they completely revamped it. self-critical analysis, a major tool for any teacher, and for any composer. perhaps that's why i've done alright as a composer, having that self-analysis bit drilled into me at 18 by Dr. Caroline Jetton.

As i grow older, i learn who to send letters of thanks...and apology for being a jerk. lol

Still, this class will be awesome. we kept talking about one role of the teacher was to "find out the students goals, help them toward those goals, but also expand the horizons of each and every student." and, at the end of class, it was "what do you want to get out of this class?", my cliche answer "to expand my horizons!"

but in seriousness, i have a good grounding in education, in pedagogy. i know how to teach. But how to teach composition? i've thought about it a great deal, wrote a philosophy of teaching revolving around composition [that's the one assignment missing that i want them to do...maybe i'll try and be the TA for this class next time. and by maybe, i mean i really want to!], but, it's all about more ideas. I've only really had lessons with 4 people to this point, and only 2 really formally. My time with James Beckel and Carlos Carrillo, while sometimes a part of class, wasn't in the formal format of "university composition major." it was "i want to do this, do you have time to work with me and show me a little?"

It was great fun. I've learned a lot. They were all different teachers. Beckel worked my mechanics a lot, the technique of composition. needed that as i hadn't really done any of it, beyond theory. Carlos worked a lot of "don't you hear where you're going?" "you need to set limits, you wander!" "try it...with pen and paper. at a piano if you wish, but no computer." Cohen would sit, and wait...till i asked something...and then ask me something in return. a normal conversation would be
C: mmhmm, mmhmm.
J: what do you think?
C: well...what do you think?
J: I'm not really satisfied with it
C: why?
J: well, [this] and [this] and [this]
C: what would make it better?
J: well, maybe [this] and [this]
C: have you read this book [or heard this piece]?

and so on

Brunner was...amazing. I don't know, but he and I really clicked as student and teacher. he understood that when came in and said "i don't have shit...not a damn thing to show you. sorry" it wasn't "I didn't try to write any music, i just sat around" it was "I sat, i looked, i sketched, i threw it in the trash, lather, rinse, repeat, for a week."

we talked about cooking, literature, painting, metal (the music), hardcore, gigs i've one, gigs he's done, recording techniques, family, friends, relationships, long drives across the country, good wines, the best scotch

i learned a lot from Skip...

from Beckel, i learned the basic techniques i never learned in theory and orchestration, from Carlos, i learned what it meant to be a composer, from Cohen, i learned how to be more assertive against myself, to see my own path, and from Skip...i learned to write music. funny saying it that way, but he was that last step for me. how do i take what these three guys gave me, and everything you gave me, and do SOMETHING with it.

I think an undergrad would fail miserably with Skip. lol. I really do, it'd be hard. he expects you know how to write music before you come in. He doesnt want to waste time explaining to you WHY this sounds the way it does. He expected me to know that. And i did, for the most part. occasionally i didn't, but usually i did. his job was finishing touches, making sure i knew exactly why everything was there. and if i was satisfied, he was satisfied, and it was time for talk of gigs from the weekend, and what new recipes we tried.

well, i've spent my morning here instead of showering and getting ready for class. lol. maybe i'll run through the drops really quickly. I was 20 minutes early yesterday leaving at 10 after. guess it takes around 25 minutes to walk there, depending on my pace...

Pedagogy is good. Perhaps this will end up being my "Composition Pedagogy Journal" as well as my composition journal. Or perhaps i should separate them? riiight, i couldn't handle two journals.

anyway, for me, they two are together: how i write music and how i would teach someone else to do it. Means the same thing to me

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