Nigel Morgan n.morgan at netmatters.co.uk
Mon Mar 23 23:36:41 PDT 2009


Forgive me, but as you ask so many questions, this is only way to answer

On 24/3/09 03:13, "David Stephenson" <davidgstephenson at gmail.com> wrote:

> I appreciate all of your posts.  There's some great conversation going on.  I
> think Nigel has circumvented us to my original questions, and his response is
> very well written. 

In the UK a decision was made following the Government's Schools Council
recommendations that composing would become a part of our national
examinations from the early 1980s. Teachers (and educators) were trained in
composing by professional composers through a scheme facilitated by our Arts
Council. This is late 1970s. The scheme involved many (now) significant
names - Birtwistle, Maxwell-Davies to name but two. Many of these composers
have remained committed to working in and with education, mostly through the
broadcasting,  orchestral and opera communities. This goes on with most
commissioned work (let's say by orchestras) requiring (for funding purposes)
an education component - and this is usually a composing project of some
sort linked to a school or college. Here's an example of one of mine, linked
to a residency, of a music project with a cross art element:


> My original "I wonder" thought was whether composition teachers are trained in
> pedagogy regarding the music education sense of the word.  Are teaching
> techniques instilled by composition teachers to future teachers of
> composition?  Can they communicate the best ways to teach someone how to write
> a fugue? 

In the UK this sort of exercise would be part of analysis, historical
studies, musicianship - NOT composition. The fugue doesn't tend to figure in
much contemporary music these days . . . I'm trying hard to think of one.
Imitation yes, Tom Ades score for the Tempest is a good example.

> What are some creative ways to teach orchestration so composers can
> learn to associate different instruments/families with different timbres.

Students work with visiting instrumental staff, a regional orchestra or
visiting ensembles.

>  All 
> of these questions are, of course, hypothetical...to a point.  They are
> genuine compositional matters supported by theoretical concepts.  I truly
> believe one cannot separate the two.  Yet, I get some very creative (and
> logical) compositional material from my high school students who only have a
> limited amount of theoretical knowledge.

There are composers who become effective teachers, usually out of financial
necessity. They are welcomed by education who recognize 'they know how to do
it'. They are rarely tenured. It's the same practice in our art colleges
where we'd rather have practicing painters than educators. Where composer /
educators exist on music education courses then they are often extraordinary
and inspiring teachers: John Paynter I've mentioned before is the most
celebrated example. Most senior composers in the UK have an academic
position of some description and their 'research' (so important in the UK)
is their composition. Composers learn from other composers, usually,
although my most valuable mentor was an Early Music scholar. Remember some
of the great composition teachers of our time (Nadia Boulanger) were not
significant composers but simply consummate musicians. I learnt so much from
a friend who had studied with Boulanger - not about the composing act itself
but what I needed to know about music.

Teachers who are 'not' composers help their students by regularly bringing
into the classroom professional composers, songwriters and sound artists.
There are many local and national schemes that encourage this to happen.

So, David, most of your questions are answered by the (national) practice
(led originally by inspired educators) we have adopted. I certainly agree
with you about not separating composition matters from theoretical concepts
and my own experience would bare out your final sentence.
> In my opinion, more colleges need to include some form of composition pedagogy
> in their curricula.  This idea raises more questions: 
> 1. Who is responsible for teaching composers to teach composition--comp
> professors or music ed professors? 

Other composers. When Hindemith went to Yale to teach for the first time he
did his homework and spent a summer studying composition pedagogy.

> Comp professors can rightfully claim that
> it's their area of expertise. 

Why not?

>Music ed professors are trained to help future
> teachers learn how to teach. 

In education 'the composition teacher' per se is a rare animal. It's a
composer who teaches 'the art of composing' - in the UK we tend to use the
term composing to include improvisation.

> Does that include composition teachers?  Or,
> could it be a hybrid of both...a collaboration? 

Composers and educators often work together, and there are many examples of
this happening. I've done this myself with Norwegian teachers . . .

> 2. Who should take this course--theory/comp majors and/or music ed majors? 

In the UK every student practises composing, and because those who are comp.
Majors will have to include education work in their professional practice
(see above), then workshop techniques and communication skills,
improvisation, use of IT (for disseminating and recording student work) is
standard practice in colleges. The composer Peter Weigold is the arch
specialist in this area, and his course at the Guildhall School is the stuff
of legend and defined this practice - most of the education officers with
major orchestras (many now in the USA I may say) trained with Peter. Andrew
Burke CEO with the London Sinfonietta (our leading contemporary music band)
was a past student.

> 3. Because of the strain college music curricula face regarding total credit
> hours for graduation, how do we fit this course in? 

You have to - how could you ignore it IF your examination criteria requires
this component. We  have a responsibility as artists to lead students
towards the music of our time. This is one way to do it.

> Is it a separate course,

See above.

> or could it just be a unit in a class (e.g. Music Theory Pedagogy--which I
> know is a course commonly offered in most graduate programs)?

The activity of composing  can and should be integrated into most music
courses . . Imaginative teachers do this.
> Enough rambling on my part.  I welcome your discussion!

Nigel Morgan

Visiting Research Fellow
Plymouth University

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