Sunday, December 18, 2011

Polymusic, Polyculture, and Polly Wolly Doodle All the Day

The more tools I have to look out into the world, the more I begin to understand that there is nothing about modern life that suggests anything like the "common practice" monoculture or set of monocultures that existed in the West before the days of mass communication. There are people who explore a different internet from the one I explore; and there are people who watch a different set of television channels, see different movies from the ones I watch, and read different books from the ones I read. There are people who eat totally different food from the food I eat, and English-speaking people who use entirely different groups of words to transmit reflections on the the world that I understand we share.

I am therefore not surprised when the responses that I get from my Community College students to a question on their final exam that asks them to list the pieces they liked most and least during the semester are all over the map. Some prefer the pieces that they heard later in the semester (when they finally figured out that they like listening to what we call "classical" music), and some chose music from very early on in the semester--music from the Middle Ages--as their favorite music. Some students really love opera, and some students really hate it. Some people slept through classes, and some people who slept early in the semester stopped sleeping and started paying attention. Some students respond to Wagner, and some respond to Stravinsky. Most people tend to like Mozart (what's not to like?), but some do not respond to Beethoven. Many students have an open mind when it comes to 20th and 21st-century music because they have heard serial music in horror movies and on "The Twilight Zone," and they have heard minimalism in movies and commercials. Some people are comfortable with electronically-generated sounds, and some people find Berlioz too wierd, too dissonant, and too chaotic.

There is no rhyme or reason to the choices students make when it comes to the 500 or so years of "classical music" we study. It all has to do with people's individual personalities. I think about how far we have come as a society when our young adults have the opportunity to make so many personal choices when it comes to music. When I think of my place in the world as a person who might open up doors to the wonders of the senses to unsuspecting people, both in class and in places where I play concerts (not to mention the people who happen by things I have written on this blog), makes me feel proud to be who I am and to do what I do.

1 comment:

marjorie kransberg talvi said...

It's so true about teaching. You never know which composition or suggestive comment will make something click. And our efforts may not take effect at the moment, but rather, need time to simmer. But it's so gratifying to reach an appreciative (and eager) learner!