MUSIC: THE CHAMELEON CATALYST
Oboe d'Amore specialist JENNIFER PAULL
reflects on education, linguistics and the muse
Music is a life force. Those of us who love it and try to serve its cause
know full well the impact it has upon our lives.
To love music and enjoy its mystery, its passion, and its hypnotic message,
it is not necessary to be a professional musician. In fact, being a professional
musician is not the aim of most who are touched by the structures of sound
sculpture we call 'music'.
Many people who make music a career in life limit their horizons of it
to one or two genres at most. This can be beyond their control, or by their
choosing. We are all very incomplete therefore as we try to place our fragment
of the jigsaw puzzle into its place in our individual landscape. None of
us can capture the complete picture of music's dimension. This is its magnetic
field and its mystery. No matter how much we learn and digest, music will
always be greater than our personal fragment of knowledge and understanding.
Many of us come to music because we were put before the Muse at an early
age. Far more reach out to it later in life when they have found their own
path towards the journey of discovery.
Of all the instruments, the doublereeds seem to enjoy many late starters.
So often I receive a letter from someone exclaiming, 'I heard that wonderful
sound and just knew I had to play it '. I used those very same words when
I first heard the oboe and later again, when I fell in love with the sound
of the oboe d'amore, my own personal path to what has become the diversity
of my career.
We have just as much right to approach music and music making at a later
stage in life when after all, mental dexterity can greatly compensate for
stiffer fingers. At least, in today's computerised world, many fingers are
exercising at keyboards. As I'm certain teachers everywhere have discovered,
dexterity on one keyboard will inevitably help and strengthen technique
So, let us brush away both the prejudices that still prevail: the taking
on of the late starter as a student, and the seeking out of a good teacher
when starting late. Being able to work with the adult beginner is one of
teaching's great joys. The satisfaction in awakening the mature mind to
the beauty of music is a tremendous reward in itself. The fact that music
is not going to be a career choice in no way minimises the delight and positive
influence it can bring to bear upon those who seek out this magnificent
chameleon in any of its forms at any stage of their lives.
I have recently been working with a class of 'Special Ed' children in
the United States. All these children had learning disorders of one sort
or another, and in many cases, there were additional factors and medical
conditions present. Music became the catalyst that triggered off better
reading and an improved memory for detail. In some cases, music was the
first thing to which they had reacted in a positive and interactive fashion
during the entire school year. Working together with their class teachers,
I was able to introduce a programme that took away stress and installed
The graph of music is very easy to follow. After all, its axis north-south
shows the pitch of notes, and its other the east-west, their relative length.
The simplest of explanations and a print out of a short melody will soon
bring results. I created human characters for each note and illustrated
them by simple poems that were easily learned by heart. Coloured crayons
identified the note on the staff. The satisfaction of being able to interpret
this new 'alphabet' became a positive force in mastering those elusive 26
letters. The children performed in front of each other, which helped to
install their new confidence, and further strengthen it.
I separated word syllables and wrote them under notes. Reassured by the
presence of the music, the child forgot his past failures at reading, and
focussed on finding the note on the keyboard and saying or singing the word
fragment at the same time.
Most of the children with whom I worked were in the 9-10 year bracket.
One boy was 11 and was still unable to read. I gave him individual piano
lessons. With the right hand, reading middle C and D and playing the notes
consecutively with thumb and index was easy. The litmus test is always how
to play from middle C down to B with the left-hand thumb and index. Going
down to the left is invariably much harder than going up to the right. Working
on this one problem of lack of co-ordination had the most amazing results.
Dyslexia, word blindness, lacks of concentration and memory -- all these
Copyright © 26 June 2001
Jennifer Paull, Vouvry, Switzerland
JENNIFER PAULL WRITES ABOUT CHARLES IVES
JENNIFER PAULL WRITES ABOUT THE OBOE D'AMORE
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