Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Classical Music for all
Before you read further take the 20 minutes and watch this video.

Benjamin Zander is a conductor and described as a leading interpreter of Mahler and Beethoven, known for his charisma and unyielding energy -- and for his brilliant pre-concert talks.
He gives this talk at the T.E.D. conference (Technology, Entertainment, Design) “is an invitation-only event where the world's leading thinkers and doers gather to find inspiration”. He asks the question is classical music dead and through an anecdote he reveals that is depends on your interpretation. He then begins an experiment, sort of an experiment.
I will let the video give the rest of the description.


This video is not really music and the brain stuff in the strictest sense. However, since we have been talking about health I thought it was appropriate. The reasons I find this so enjoyable is that Zander talks first about how a young musicians go from a rudimentary interpretation of a piece (his example being the Chopin Prelude) to a more sophisticated sound. “One buttock playing” is essentially a rhythmic concept. I wonder what Takako at Baycrest would say about the beta waves going on here. This concept is the difference between focusing on every note and focusing on a phrase, recognizing the line, and the direction of a melody. His involvement of the audience helps them recognize the musical journey that is inherently in them.
At one point he says that nobody is tone deaf, and that is almost true if you discount injury or amusia. This is open to much discussion and I won’t get into that in this blog entry.
The focus of this video is not just that everyone can love and enjoy classical music but rather how Zander relates classical music to experiences of emotional healing. He does this by not only showing the audience how to move through the music but then he tells them about experiences with kids in Ireland and finally relates it to an Auschwitz survivor. Essentially, music as emotional healing.
So what is the main point of this very entertaining video? I think Zander is saying that enjoying classical music is not about understanding the little tiny nuances like what Mozart shoe size is, but rather that following a melody is about a voyage that can bring healing, emotion and connect people.
I don’t want to get all “touchy feely”, I just like to see good communicators reveal their knowledge and be proud that a musician is doing it.


s@bd said...

I'm reading his (and his wife's) book right now 'the art of possibility' and it's wonderful!

Glad you brought this video to my attention!

Danielle said...

This was an incredible talk, and I feel compelled to elaborate on it. The original comment brings it to the class’s attention, and I’m hoping my follow up can help elaborate on why Benjamin Zander’s 2008 TED presentation has everything to do with music and the brain, or even music and the human experience.

The first aspect of his talk that I felt was noteworthy is his use of humour and accessible anecdotes to relate concepts of music theory. I think this was an interesting point for musical pedagogy in that everyone in that room, irrespective of age, educational background, or interests could understand the concepts that he was introducing, and even enjoyed learning about them because they were presented so humourously. One is more likely to remember something, even if it is not immediately relevant, if it makes you laugh. As Dr. Bartel mentioned numerous times throughout the MUS 2122H course, music is most effectively learned when it is an enjoyable practice, and Mr. Zander’s presentation was an excellent example of how to make music education entertaining.

The other point Mr. Zander touched upon that was relevant to the course is music as psychological therapy. In this talk music as an aid in grief therapy was beautifully exemplified in Mr. Zander’s story about the Irish “street kid”, who was finally able to mourn his brother while listening to Chopin’s prelude. Music has an amazing therapeutic potential in addressing and confronting emotions such as grief, loss, love, and anger that few other experiences are capable of.

Lastly, Mr. Zander had several inspirational points about leadership in both the field of music and in general. He says a leader must always believe without question that the people they are leading can and will share their vision, and that success is measured by the number of people in whom you have helped awaken possibility for greatness. These last points, although relevant to his profession as a conductor, are also widely applicable to the human experience.