20. What Sort of Epiphany Could Save Music?
Of course, among the musicians of the past, there were some advocates for music enlightenment. In 1862, a Free Music School (FMS) was opened in St. Petersburgh. It was founded by two prominent composers named Gavril Lomakin and Miliy Balakirev. The FMS existed for a good, long time. It granted a preliminary music education to all that wanted it and held a wide range of concert activities. For several years, it was headed by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and under his guidance the school became the center of the performance of new Russian music.
Russian advocacy for reform went even further. In 1906, under the initiative of the composer Taneev and other figures of Russian culture, The People’s Conservatory was organized in Moscow. It was intended to spread music education among the population, to teach the art of choral singing and to bring out talented people so that they could learn to play music instruments privately.
From then on, choir singing has been considered the single best way to spread music literacy. It’s not hard to understand why; study in a choir has long been the only affordable and accessible form of music activity for the masses. Yet, as has been explained, choir singing greatly restricts the music skills, and thus cannot provide a proper music education.
At the beginning of the 20th century, three composer-professionals developed the ideas of public music education. They worked out their own original systems in public schools. Zoltan Kodai (1882-1967), a famous Hungarian composer and pedagogue, suggested a method that developed the music ear and voice. Karl Orf (1895-1982), a prominent German figure, introduced people to music through their sense of rhythm. Soviet composer Dimitri Kabalevski (1904-1983) made the understanding of musical genres and styles more accessible. The achievement of these prominent advocates is unquestionable, and their contributions in introducing people to music are huge. Unfortunately, not one of these new systems has solved the main problem of music education: the problem of universal music literacy.
Alas, neither singing in a choir to Kodai’s hand symbols, nor participation in Orf’s sound orchestras, nor the ability to differentiate a waltz from a march under Kabalevski’s system can improve a child’s ability to read, write, and think in the music language.
The teaching methods of the past conformed to what was possible at the time. Until the very end of the 20th century, there couldn’t be a single thought that it was possible to teach an entire class to play the piano at once, or that reading notes could be taught with a simple computer program. Nowadays, these old views have no use, and only bring harm. It is time for us to examine our habits: the world has long since changed, and we have a store of new possibilities in our hands!
Let’s acknowledge some obvious facts once and for all. Music education has already become unfashionable. Public choirs, bands and orchestras aren’t changing this situation. Without educated listeners, the art of music is continuing to decline.
An education in music shouldn’t be just a use of inborn music talents, but a conscious creation of them from nothing. At the age of 4-5, any child is capable of grasping the music language and playing on the piano without difficulties. All that is needed is a corresponding method of education. Such a method already exists, and I am offering it to all that want it.