Popular Music Education… #apme

Advocating for Popular Music Education – where do we go from here?

Steve Holley, Music educator

Steve begins with an overview of US music education generally, including high schools and universities, asking ‘why adapt now?’ and describing a necessary journey toward curricular adaptation. He takes us back to the mid-20thC innovators (USC, Miami, Berklee) who ‘took a chance on jazz’, and observes that the music education community thought they were crazy. Within 50 years of those early adopters, jazz in music schools had become mainstream. Steve believes that popular music education today is where jazz music education was in the 1950s, and predicts a similar trickle-down effect in future years, giving examples of schools where this is already starting to happen.

(Some of these ideas are explored in Steve’s recent NafME blog posts.

Steve’s overview of PME elements – a kind of manifesto for the opportunities he suggests institutions now have.

[Read more…]

The Art of Listening To Songs #apme2018

Randy Klein, songwriter and SongU coach.

Randy introduces himself and talks briefly about his work in music education, including his publications, talks, and his experience of listening to other songwriters’ work over many years. Today he’s sharing with us the structure of his 16-week songwriting course, and he begins with the philosophy of definition i.e. the question ‘what is a song?’. He suggests that most technical descriptions of a song fall short of the mark of describing its subjective effects on listeners, noting how difficult this intangible would be to achieve. He provides a traditional melody-lyric-harmony definition of a song (i.e. omitting the Sound Recording or arrangement), and then asks the potential student question “If [a song is too intangible to hold], then how can I learn about it?”.

To the great amusement of the audience, Randy now talks us (literally, talks us) through the whole of the lyric to James Brown’s ‘I Got You’, demonstrating that it’s clearly a love song. He now separates the [love] song from the arrangement, describing the horn lick and Brown’s vocal as ‘ear candy’, building on the core lyric’s emotional intent.

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Designing a BA in Popular Music #apme2018

Evan Tobias, Arizona State University

Evan begins by describing the program beginning with a ‘chicken and egg’ situation in his institution. A committee was formed to figure out how to launch a popular music degree – but no-one on the committee had a popular music background. The committee pushed ahead, based on the institutional promise from ASU that faculty would be hired when the decision had been made to launch.

[Read more…]

Teaching Song Production Analysis #apme2018

Misty Jones, Middle Tennessee State University

Practical Production Analysis: Helping Students Produce Competitive Songs

Misty opens by describing her particular students as ‘in the box’ producers – that is to say, they create the entire sound recording in a Digital Audio Workstation. The problem she’s trying to solve is this: the students’ recordings are just not ready yet [for the commercial marketplace]. So today, she will be sharing her approach to helping students to make their song recordings competitive, in the genre they want to produce in.

The approach starts with the assumption that students ‘have their chops down’ – that is, they can write melodies & lyrics, understand harmony, and can program beats. With this out of the way, the students are asked to work on these four areas:

  • Form/Arrangement
  • Instrumentation
  • Texture Variation
  • Production Techniques

[Read more…]

Musicality and Creativity in Curriculum

‘Keeping Musicality and Creativity at the Heart of Curriculum and Assessment’

Presenter: Matthew Cossey (ICA Nexus / University of West London)

Matthew opens with a discussion of the role of curriculum in popular music education, noting that the skills musicians gain in Higher Ed are arguably much more important than the qualification. Like the industry, he says, we must be ruthless in prioritizing meaningful musical career skills, rather than focusing on those elements that are the easiest to teach, or have heavily established pedagogies. [Read more…]

Association for Popular Music Education #apme #songwriting

Conference roomI’m in Nashville, at the #apme conference, hosted by Middle Tennessee State University. Popular Music Education is still a relatively young field, at least in terms of having its own conference (launched ~10 years ago) and journal (launched last year). More about AMPE at popularmusiceducation.org. Conference schedule here.

Coming from Berklee, perhaps I’ve become too comfortable with the idea that everyone talks about popular music pedagogy all the time. A lot of colleagues here are from institutions that have a long history of classical music education, but have only recently launched popular music programs. They are often seen as mavericks in their schools, and are viewed with some suspicion by more traditional teachers and departments. So there’s a palpable sense of community here, and even during this first morning of day 1 I’ve frequently overheard the phrase: “I’ve finally found my people!”.

[Read more…]

Eurovision 2018 – live music analysis blog #eurovision

 

Final results

[voting results entered at ~11.30pm GMT / 6.30pm ET on May 12th 2018. My predictions shown in brackets]

  1. Israel ‘TOY’ (2)
  2. Cyprus ‘Fuego’ (1)
  3. Austria ‘Nobody But You’ (x)
  4. Germany ‘You Let Me Walk Alone’ (4)
  5. Italy ‘Non Mi Avete Fatto Niente’ (x)

My predictions (actual placing shown in brackets):

  1. Cyprus ‘Fuego’ (2)
  2. Israel ‘TOY’ (1)
  3. Ireland ‘Together’ (16)
  4. Germany ‘You Let Me Walk Alone’ (4)
  5. France ‘Mercy’ (13)

So I missed Austria and Italy completely, but got the first two (albeit reversed) and predicted three of the top four.

Of the soft predictions:

  • The Danes’ ‘Higher Ground’ (my personal favourite) will do well, but won’t win.
    CORRECT. Denmark came 9th (of 26)
  • Finland’s ‘Monsters’ will be in the top half of the voting.
    WRONG. Finland were 25th out of 26!
  • The Netherlands’ competent and enjoyable US country-rock ‘Outlaw in ‘Em’ will get some votes but will be in the bottom half.
    CORRECT. 18th of 26.
  • The Estonian operatics won’t do well.
    WRONG. Estonia were 8th of 26.
  • The Hungarian metalheads will get crucified. Which will probably suit them just fine.
    CORRECT. Hungary were 21st out of 26.

Predictions

[Written at at 10:19pm GMT (5:19pm ET) on May 12th 2018, before voting begins]. As always, I’ll leave the predictions here permanently, and post the real results when the voting is complete.

  1. Cyprus ‘Fuego’
  2. Israel ‘TOY’
  3. Ireland ‘Together’
  4. Germany ‘You Let Me Walk Alone’
  5. France ‘Mercy’

Soft predictions:

  • The Danes’ ‘Higher Ground’ (my personal favourite) will do well, but won’t win.
  • Finland’s ‘Monsters’ will be in the top half of the voting.
  • The Netherlands’ competent and enjoyable US country-rock ‘Outlaw in ‘Em’ will get some votes but will be in the bottom half.
  • The Estonian operatics won’t do well.
  • The Hungarian metalheads will get crucified. Which will probably suit them just fine.

Intro

Screenshot 2018-05-12 14.56.41Welcome to the 2018 Eurovision live musicology blog, now in its eighth year. This site has provided live music analysis of the ESC final every year since 2011, previously during the UK live broadcast. Since 2016, the text has been written from Boston USA, 5 hours behind UK time and, this year, also the Altice Arena in Lisbon, Portugal, where the live show takes place. [Read more…]