Albin Lohr-Jones transennae at gmail.com
Fri Mar 27 18:25:46 PDT 2009

Dear List,

Without intending to add undue complication to the issue of
teachers/artists, let me propose the following:

While I agree (as do a number of recent respondents to this
conversation)that successful composers (who may have little pedagogic skill)
can serve as effective teachers, I cannot do so without qualification.  Two
factors must be considered in this particular dynamic.

1.      On the one hand, the composer must be themselves capable of
articulating the myriad issues that configure the pre-compositional,
compositional and editing stages of crafting a work. This by no means
implies that this composer must be extraordinarily gifted at verbalizing the
technical details of her/his own processes, but s/he must be capable of
addressing (in a manner specific to the educational level of each student)
the issues relevant to the work of that student.  In the best of scenarios,
this teacher-composer would be able to align their commentary to the
specific language/style within which a given student works. In other words,
the success of this dynamic is dependent on the mental flexibility of the
teacher and demands much of this individual in terms of their dedication to
stepping beyond the fabric of those systems/styles that determine the
quality of their own work.  In short, it requires an extensive self
effacement (at least with regard to personal taste, aesthetic inclination

2.      On the other hand (but by no means less important), this dynamic
requires that the students be not only familiar with a broad range of
music(s), but that they possess the capacity to confront that with which
they are unfamiliar.  In essence, this requires a student who is capable of
(not “training” themselves) but learning! This is all too often a problem:
one can lay out all the rules, quiz, confirm proficiency in various
techniques; but one cannot teach a student to learn. Here (perhaps I’m old
fashioned) is where I draw a distinction between “musical training” and
education. While the pedagogic provides all manner of approaches as to how
we go about training the student, no method can instill that fundamental
curiosity that is a necessary condition of allowing the
“composer-as-teaching-model” approach to succeed.  This is as true of
composition as it is of all arts (and perhaps all creative fields in general
including mathematics).


Albin Lohr-Jones


Staten Island, New York

Losgelassenes kreist; und sind wir auch selten die Mitte
einem der Kreise: sie ziehn um uns die heile Figur.

-R. M. Rilke, “Für Hans Carossa” (1924)

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