Exploring the Middle Ground: Visit #3

Next Wednesday will be our final visit of three to our Museum “classroom.”

In planning this visit, I involved the students more directly than before. After our second visit, we brainstormed some ideas for our third visit.  Those ideas included the compositional process (in our class, we wrestle with attributing intention to the composer when we really shouldn’t, but if we knew about the compositional process we could sometimes attribute intention to a composer), authenticity (viewing the “real” work as opposed to reproductions and what does that mean in music), and –more generally– picking favorite works in the museum to explore. The class showed the most interest in investigating the compositional process. I sent that idea back to the museum educators and they replied with various options for studying the process of creation. None were ideal, most were exciting to us, and here’s what we chose: Continue reading

Genres over time: Learning in the Museum

This week, my upper division class had our second session in the museum. I wrote about the planning and my hopes here. I’m not surprised to report that we learned, but not necessarily what I thought we would learn.

The class time went as planned, and the students had done a great job engaging with the digital image of their assigned self-portrait.  We didn’t have time to wrap up at the museum, but used about half of today’s class to talk about the effectiveness of the exercise, what we actually took from it, ways to tweak it next time, and ideas for our final visit. Continue reading

Exploring the Middle Ground: Visit #2

One idea that appealed to me about teaching classes in our wonderful museum was the notion of a middleground–a space/place where none of us were experts and thus we learned differently because the power structure was new.  This week, I’m taking my upper-division theory class to the museum for our second co-taught class. Unlike the first visit/class, I feel like more of an expert this time. I suspect two factors contribute to this feeling: (1) it’s our second visit [and, I assume we’ll all feel more like experts this time], and (2) we’re going to be exploring the concept of genre, something I have spent a lot of time thinking about in my own research [I’m not as sure that my students will feel like experts on musical genres or with the general topic of genre]. Since I feel more comfortable heading into this meeting, I also think I have better prepared students to learn from the experience. Continue reading

Podcasting, pt. 1 (reflection on past use)

Last semester, I used podcasts for the first time.  I tried it out in my Theory 4 class, which felt like a natural place to try it out. Many of the theoretical concepts in theory 4 are simple, requiring little nuance for a basic understanding of them.  It’s the application of those concepts that is key.

More than any 100- or 200-level class, I teach theory 4 as a piece-by-piece class. I know why I pick the pieces (modes, set classes, serialism, etc.), and I make sure the student has one take-away point that highlights why we got to study the piece even though most of the class is spent on a complete analysis of the piece (form, pitch, motive, broader context, etc.).  When class time starts, I want to hit the ground running in a musical space, which means that I want to dig into analysis immediately.  In other words, I don’t want to lecture about the modes and then dig into Debussy’s “Sunken Cathedral.”

In previous semesters, I achieved this goal by lecturing and woodsheding the necessary theoretical topics on Monday, then teaching one or two pieces over the week’s remaining two classes.  I thought this format worked pretty well.  But the idea of podcasting really opened up new realms of possibilities.  Here’s what I did:

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In the midst of the Middle Ground

Today, my Form and Analysis class visited our wonderful museum and received an introduction to visual analysis. Everyone attended, everyone spoke, and everyone was engaged (a 12-student class). I am curious to hear what they think they took from the visit when we meet again on Friday. I’m equally curious to see if, at the end of the semester, they find that they took more than expected from the visit. We engaged with four works, and I described some of my and the museum’s educators’ preparation in this post. Continue reading

Exploring the Middle Ground

No, [for you music theorists] this is not a post about Schenkerian analysis.  This is a post about an exciting opportunity I’m exploring with my Form and Analysis class next week.  We are going to our campus’s extraordinary art museum for our first of a series of three classes (spread out over the semester).

What has captured my pedagogical imagination the most is engaging with the idea of middle ground. I was introduced to this concept two weeks ago during a workshop about using our wonderfully equipped and staffed teaching museum.  It comes, as far as I can tell, from Richard White’s book, The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650–1815Led by a history professor, the workshop I attended touched on the change in power structure that occurs when I take my class to the museum. I am no longer an expert learner; I am now on the similar footing to my students. What a treat for me! I have been fascinated by the implications and simplicity of the idea for two weeks now and am excited about our first trip to the museum next Wednesday.

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