My thoughts on Music

Issue 3
The myth of Creativity

When people speak of education reform, or "21st century education." invariably there comes at some point a reference to developing students' "creativity." The essence of the argument is that in order for students to find success, and for our country to remain dominant in the development of new technologies and such, students need to be taught to be "creative thinkers." No one would refute that, of course, and so we add "creativity" into the school curriculum.

Creativity is not simply the act of creating something, though. Neither is it simply some kind of magic. We aren't looking for future CEOs who can fingerpaint, or for rocket scientists who can just make us a bigger rocket. Creativity is something that is developed and honed.

Creativity is, as author Matthew Crawford puts it, the "by-product" of expertise that is "cultivated through long practice." Jazz musicians learn to improvise (create) effectively through years of pain-staking study and practice and knowledge of the structures of music. Composers become important not just because they are different, but because their knowledge of past and present compositional practices allows them to see new, untouched terrain.

If we, then, want children to be creative workers, creative leaders, creative inventors, what we are seeking is not just any creativity -- we seek good, or useful creativity. This true creativity, that of Mozart, of Einstein, of movers and shakers of our times, requires the discipline and sustained effort that leads to mastery of a subject.

When standardized tests require "creative writing" and nonsensical responses to "picture prompts", we are not engendering creativity. We are asking for formulaic creativity, for simplistic creativity, for anything in complete sentences. Consistency over quality is the mode in judging student achievement. Instead, we should be teaching more grammer, more math, more respect for disciplined learning -- more REQUIRED disciplined learning.

You can't be successfully creative without a foundation of knowledge from which to create.

Issue 2
How does it do that?

Music really affects me. I'm constantly bombarded by music around me as I go through each day.
I suppose I'm more sensitive to it, being that I've picked it as my career field and studied it
for a few years. Still, I hear music and my attitude and mindset is changed by what I hear.
Regardless of whether I hear rock, jazz, classical, pop, rap, or whatever -- I can't help but sense
that it is shaping the way I think, if not behave. You could say (in a school marm sort of tone):
"I knew that rap music was no good -- and rock'n roll too! It's evil, I tell you!"
No. Well, it's not that simple, at least. In fact, I can listen to pop all day long and not
really 'hear' a single word that was said. For me, lyrics have nothing to do with it.
It's all in the music itself. I guess that's why music is so special to us in the first place.
Apart from very personal things like love and family... nothing else affects us so greatly...
or at least so often.

Maybe this is too simple of a statement, but music brings me joy and pain and everything else.
I don't like being without it, but I have a hard time finding something that I want to listen to
(the old '150 channels but nothing to watch' dilemna). I'm a musician! Shouldn't this be easier!?

Well, sometimes I wish I could just write down and listen to the music that I'm feeling, instead of
trying to adapt someone else's music to fit my mood. I'm just not much of a composer. I'm a
musician, and there's nothing in the world I'd rather be, so until I discover the secret to dealing
with the barage of music we have in our lives, I'll either have to keep listening to whatever's on,
walk around singing like Sinatra all day long, or stick my fingers in my ears and hope I can just
'hear no evil'! I don't know. I can't decide.

Hear no music?

Issue 1
The Death of Mozart

One of the great mysteries of western music's long history is the death of it's greatest composer.
In December 1791, Mozart died of unknown causes, and the stories surrounding his illness,
the Requiem, and his death have gone in many different directions in the 214 years since then.
One of the tragic facts of his death is that he was buried not as a wealthy or powerful man,
but as a pauper, which in those days meant: Mass Graves. This sad fact is why there is no
"burial site" for Mozart, and no remains to speak of... Or are there?

A skull said to be that of Mozart's has been in the official museum in Salzburg for a century now,
but uncertainty over its authenticity has kept the museum from displaying it.
But now, in a day of DNA testing, we will soon know the truth of the skull.
The skull, and the bones of his parents and other close relatives, are being tested for
genetic similarity. This will definitively prove or disprove the skull's case.

Rumor has it that next January, which is Mozart's 250th Birthday, the results of their anylsis
will be revealed. Follow these links to bone up on the story more...

P.S. - I'm reading a book right now called "1791: Mozart's Last Year" by H.C. Robbins Landon.
It's very well researched and written. I really recommend it.

The Skull of Mozart by John Godl

Find A

Could it be Mozart's?