Saturday, January 22, 2005
re: are teachers important?
I've been told by a Canadian colleague that teaching is the highest form of learning. I'm heavily involved in Web-based education, although not at all in the area of music/composition. That said, I probably learned considerably more from listening to a lot of different music and studying the scores on my own time than I ever did with my composition teacher at Juilliard's Pre-College division in the late 70's. Not that there was anything objectionable about my teacher; he was a very nice guy in fact. But I'm just not sure that one can successfully teach composition. How does one teach composition anyway, other than providing some additional dimensions on basic music theory and counterpoint? Eventually, I got comfortable doing my own thing, and just stopped showing up to lessons altogether. My teacher was probably just as happy, since at that time I had found my voice, and I'm sure I probably frustrated him at times.
To paraphrase the (probably apocryphal) anecdote about Gershwin and Stravinsky, why be an inferior version of one's teacher when one can be a first-rate version of oneself? There are just some things that can't really be taught, in my opinion. You can't teach someone past childhood to have common sense and compassion. I can teach a monkey how to do surgery, but I can't teach the monkey good clinical judgment, so the monkey will forever be a terrible surgeon. Similarly, one can teach the "mechanics" of composition to anyone, but one cannot teach how to be creative. Thus, I don't think anyone can really, in all honesty, teach someone how to compose.