One of my favorite blogs is Greg Sandow on the Future of Classical Music. He always has a fresh look at classical music. He looks its problems in the eye and comes up with ways to deal with them. I like his post from 11-21-11 entitled “Not So Refined” about the Baroque era – what it was really like (he defends Rene Jacobs’ “rough and explosive” Handel recordings). You should of course read the original, but here’s a summary. The common stereotype of the Baroque era is one of refinement and elegance. Au contraire. If you were to watch, say, a Handel opera, you might find them anything but: “The nobility sat upstairs in the theater, their servants stood downstairs. Everybody talked, all through the performance; people shouted things at the stage. The emphasis was on… spectacle…. flying chariot pulled by fire-breathing dragons. Singers ornamented their music wildly. … The musicians in the orchestra improvised. Of the stage effects… didn’t quite work.” There’s more. Read it – it’s wonderful; you will imagine that era differently from now on. Does anyone know if there is a book that details concert life like this in the 17th-19th centuries?
Interesting article from the website Futurity: “Music before age 9 protects brain after 60.” You should read the original, but here’s a summary: Neuropsychologist researcher Brenda Hanna-Pladdy of Emory University has done studies that confirms that “musical activity preserves cognition as we age… A range of cognitive benefits, including memory was sustained for musicians between the ages of 60-80 if they played for at least 10 years throughout their life, confirming that maintenance of advantages is not reliant on continued activity.” So: you get the benefits even if you don’t keep it up, but it’s important that musical training begin before age 9 and go for at least 10 years; also “keep playing for as long as possible over the age of 60.”
It’s good to start early, but it’s never too late. The article finishes with this felicitous phrase:
“Musical training should be considered an alternative form of education.”
I would rephrase that to “Music is an indispensable part of education.”
Time for some summer beachcombing through some interesting music-related links:
Does music help you work better? Check out “The Power of Music, Tapped in a Cubicle“. “Melodious sounds help encourage the release of dopamine in the reward area of the brain, as would eating a delicacy, looking at something appealing or smelling a pleasant aroma.” “People’s minds tend to wander… [and] a wandering mind is unhappy.” Music helps improve your mood, which helps you make good decisions. “The older people are, the less time they spend listening to music at work.”
When Practicing Along Isn’t Enough, WSJ article by Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim about performance psychologist Noa Kageyama whose ProMind Coaching teaches all kinds of clients the principles of sports psychology. But Mr. Kageyama specializes in applying it to music; he has a blog called The Bulletproof Musician; he just joined the faculty of Juilliard. In days of old, everybody talked scales and arpeggios; nobody talked about performance anxiety. Music is finally catching up to the rest of the world in using the tools and exercises of sports psychology to deal with performance anxiety. U of Oklahoma performance psychologist Bill Moore has published a book called “Playing Your Best When It Counts”; Moore notes how athletes (who have used these techniques for years) differ from musicians. “Moore coaxes teachers and musicians to incorporate performancelike play time into each practice session and lesson. For teachers… the hardest part is learning to bite their tongues when their instinct is to correct.” Moore focuses on building up “mental skills needed in a performance, like courage, trust and … artistry and expression for musicians, strategy for athletes.”
I just noticed that my last posts are all just interesting videos that I have run across lately. Why videos? Usually I write. I like to write. The main reason for the videos is 1) it’s back to school time, and I am spending all my writing/thinking time preparing for the coming year. I’m also working on some big creative projects that involve a lot of writing (bad timing to do that during back to school time), so they are soaking up my writing energies and thoughts. But I like to keep giving you interesting stuff, so what to do? Answer: videos are quick and easy ways to give you something to watch, if not to read. Answer #2: videos are the wave of the future in education. This is the year I am going to learn how to make and upload videos as illustrations for my present and future books and other projects.
Ergo nunc video.