\"\"
Piano Forum logo

Why teach obscure music? (Read 2412 times)

Offline bridgestudent

  • PS Silver Member
  • Newbie
  • ***
  • Posts: 2
Why teach obscure music?
« on: September 28, 2013, 04:45:03 AM »
I am currently researching the solo piano works of Frank Bridge for an upcoming lecture recital. My aim is to present a pedagogical approach for teaching selected pieces to advanced students. Personally, my passion and respect for his music grows the more time I spend with it. My teacher, playing the devil's advocate, asked, "If he sounds like Brahms and Ravel, why not assign Brahms and Ravel to students? Why bother with some unknown composer?" He preempted that any answer involving "It gets old hearing the same works over and over again" is unacceptable. So...if you had to convince a student or parent of the value of learning an obscure work, what would you say?

Offline ted

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3611
Re: Why teach obscure music?
«Reply #1 on: September 28, 2013, 05:17:29 AM »
Good for you ! Keep studying Bridge and ignore everybody, particularly teachers and academics. I have loved Bridge's music for many years. It is nothing like Brahms or Ravel, that is silly, but he exudes a strongly individual personality, full of nostalgia and deep sentiment. A unique voice. Do you have the three CDs of his complete piano music played by Peter Jacobs on the Continuum label ? Excellent ! Jacobs is a very underrated player. His complete Chaminade is just as good.

Well no, I wouldn't try to convince anybody of anything, but then I cannot be bothered with argument and debate at the best of times. Let him think what he likes and "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law."

Which ones are you going to play ?
"It gets old hearing the same works over and over again" is unacceptable.

Why is that unacceptable ? It's the truth isn't it ? I for one have been thoroughly sick of the immortals for years.

 
"When I was young they said, 'Ah, wait until you are old, then you'll see.' Well, now I am old, and I have seen nothing." - Erik Satie

Offline bridgestudent

  • PS Silver Member
  • Newbie
  • ***
  • Posts: 2
Re: Why teach obscure music?
«Reply #2 on: September 28, 2013, 05:29:21 AM »
I think his restriction was designed more to encourage compelling thought, and to preempt those teachers and performers who would roll their eyes at an unknown composer and go on teaching those pieces they themselves learned twenty years ago. The "it gets old" position doesn't really answer, say, "Why Bridge?" Instead, it answers, "Why not Brahms?"

Frankly, I find the relative dearth of information--published scores, biographies, analyses--of his music to be perplexing. It seems he's been due for some grand revival for the past three or four decades; it just hasn't happened yet.

As far as what I'll be playing, I'm limited to thirty minutes of actual music. Already it's proving next to impossible to trim away things. The four Characteristic Pieces will most likely make the cut, as will the first Capriccio. Pedagogically, the Fairy Tale suite is pretty invaluable as well, so we'll see.

Offline j_menz

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 10150
Re: Why teach obscure music?
«Reply #3 on: October 01, 2013, 03:41:41 AM »
I think his restriction was designed more to encourage compelling thought, and to preempt those teachers and performers who would roll their eyes at an unknown composer and go on teaching those pieces they themselves learned twenty years ago. The "it gets old" position doesn't really answer, say, "Why Bridge?" Instead, it answers, "Why not Brahms?"


Many people had many things to say in music. If they have something you believe is interesting, that is reason enough to play it, and to bring it to the attention of others.

And, frankly, unless you have something new and interesting to reveal about Brahms, say, (possible, but unlikely), why perform it?

I've sat through waaaaay to many performances that have nothing more to say than "this is how everyone plays this", or worse "look at me and how clever I am that I can play massacre this". If Bridge gives you something to say, say it - it will be a whole different level up, and will actually be worth listening to..
"What the world needs is more geniuses with humility. There are so few of us left" -- Oscar Levant

Offline gvans

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 403
Re: Why teach obscure music?
«Reply #4 on: November 15, 2013, 08:53:07 PM »
Frank Bridge also wrote some fine chamber music for piano trio and piano quartet. Great stuff, and highly recommended.

Offline polishookm

  • PS Silver Member
  • Jr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 60
Re: Why teach obscure music?
«Reply #5 on: November 20, 2013, 09:39:06 AM »
There are a lot of excellent reasons to play music by Frank Bridge.

First is for those who think it sounds like someone else's music it's good as a reality check. The point of the reality check is to show there is and was more diversity in the musical world than typically thought.

Second is the idea that there are great composers and nothing else is worth hearing is, well, it's preposterous. Hearing "less than great" composers - and I'm not saying FB is less than great - is a good way to understand what makes the special composers really "special." Because if there is a difference then it should be audible.

Third is there's a common tendency to believe great music comes from certain cultures. FB from Switzerland suggests there's something odd about that argument.

Fourth, a fabulous performance of music by a less-well known composer is often enough to convince an audience that that composer should be much more well known.

Fifth, the history of music is a history of composers like Bach and Mahler and others weren't appreciated in their own time as much as they were to be later.

Sixth, playing through just about anyone's music will show something about how that person understand the instrument for which they were writing. Playing FB will do the same. That understanding can help us to understand how and why the piano is as it is in our time.

Seventh, no composer writes music in isolation. FB is part of a tradition and understanding what he took from that tradition and what he added is another interesting piece of information that helps know more about what we're doing in music.

Eighth, if you're presenting a lecture/recital you've achieved some level of skill and accomplishment. The discouragement given by your teacher which has been presented as a sweeping generalisation, at least as described in your post, suggests that your teacher doesn't want to see students do anything unusual or outside of the ordinary.

Ninth, music is about more than "presenting the best and only the very best." If we look at it like it is about presenting the best and only the very best and then very few of us, your teacher included most likely, would be permitted to play in publich.

I've run out of steam after 9 reasons why your FB project should go ahead. But in the end what it all comes down to is thinking that we're only going to play music by great masters is a limited perspective and telling a student that "such and such an argument is out-of-bounds and not to be discussed" is the mark of either a great teacher who's trying to provoke discussion or, possibly, something far worse and much less helpful and well-meaning than a greater teacher ...

It may sound like some of what I'm saying is argumentative but it's not intended in that spirit. To the contrary, I'd say that you have an idea for lecture/recital. Why not follow it through and see what comes of it and then you're in a great position to decide what you learned from it and how to proceed and go forward.

Hope this helps ...

Mark Polishook

Offline echristensen

  • PS Silver Member
  • Newbie
  • ***
  • Posts: 10
Re: Why teach obscure music?
«Reply #6 on: November 26, 2013, 02:21:13 AM »
I have taught on my own for awhile but am currently working with www.musikalessons.com. Regardless of where I teach, I have always tried to uphold the same philosophy- teach what the student enjoys. Often times I have introduced more obscure music into my lessons including the works of Frank Bridge and have received mixed reactions. With many of my younger students' parents they want to here their child focus exclusively and the very well known composers, the Bachs and Mozarts, but as they get older they are more receptive.