Thursday, May 4, 2023

How To Take The Fun Out Of Music

Oh, where to start.

I found this while I was going through my Long and McQuades Feed (yes, I still get RSS feeds).  Anyways, this shows up: Realizing Diversity (An Equity Framework for Music Education).  Here's the description:

Author: Karen Howard
Format: Book
Version: Text Book

Questions abound about diversity in music education. How can we engage with diverse populations, repertoire, and identities while upholding integrity and achieving equity? What are cultural appropriation, othering, tokenizing, and essentializing? How can we avoid bias in our teaching and repertoire selection? How do we create a more socially just music education?

These are critical questions with accessible answers. But if we are to become better music educators, we must reflect on these questions, our own identities, and our relationships with the music and people of the world.

Realizing Diversity by Karen Howard is a ground-breaking and practical resource for crafting diverse and anti-bias music education in classrooms, ensembles, and studios at all levels -- from preschool to university and community settings.

At the book's core is an Anti-Bias Framework intended to help music educators gain confidence and comfort in designing music curricula that are just, equitable, and make participants feel safe and welcome. Structured around the four social justice domains of identity, diversity, justice, and action, this framework explores topics of anti-racism, gender and sexual identity, power and privilege, disabilities, economic realities, empathy, and critical consciousness.

Dr. Howard also includes discussion of educational movements in United States history, the challenging "world music" label and related authenticity, the hyper-prevalence of Western Eurocentric music, inclusive repertoire selection, as well as appendices with critical practices for educators and a sample curriculum.

An indispensable book for pre-service, beginning, and veteran music teachers of toddlers through adults, Realizing Diversity considers the many separate but deeply interrelated questions related to creating a more socially just music education.

Karen Howard is a frequent presenter working with teachers and presenting research related to creating a more socially just world of music education. She is Associate Professor of Music at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses related to children's music, sociology of education, research methods, ethnomusicology, and matters of diversity.

All for $41.50

I like when books have to prove their own existence.  "Questions abound about diversity in music education."  Personally, I didn't have any questions but Question One was "How can we engage with diverse populations, repertoire, and identities while upholding integrity and achieving equity?"  I'll answer that.  Achieving equity happens when you throw out integrity.  Next.  "What are cultural appropriation, othering, tokenizing, and essentializing?"  In a musical context, I think "appropriation" is a nasty way of saying "influence".  I would say my playing and songs are influenced by Blues because I like Blues a lot, but dim people would say I'm appropriating black music.  I don't get mad that Hip Hop for the last 20 years has been produced by Swedes and probably explains why it doesn't have soul, but I wouldn't say blacks are appropriating white European dance music.  And I can't be bothered to know what she means by Essentializing.  I think Dave Brubeck with Paul Desmond is essential listening, but who knows what Karen means.

"How can we avoid bias in our teaching and repertoire selection?"  Easy, don't read your biases into everything you do.  It's music, Dummy.  If something's good and worth learning, then it's good and worth learning.  Pretty easy.  I would say keep it simple at first if you're trying to teach kids.  "How do we create a more socially just music education?"  Sometimes you just can't answer a question that doesn't make any sense.  I would be thankful that there are schools that still have a music program.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that no matter what you look like, or what your cultural beliefs and backgrounds are, 440 hz is always going to be an A.  There.  I just taught Karen a lesson.  Who would have thought that a dumb guitar player like myself could be smarter than an Associate Professor of Music and only needed 1 sentence to prove it.  I just saved you, the reader, forty one dollars.

I'm not sure which lacks more credibility, this book or her bio.  Ethnomusicology?  I had to look that up.  It's basically how to stereotype other culture's music.  That's not cool, Karen.  I hope she learns that as a civilization progresses, so does its arts.  If the Western world, namely North America, didn't progress in the early 1900s, I'd be stuck playing a non-electric banjo.  Perish the thought.  When a culture stops progressing, so does its music and going by that, I'm glad I'll be checking out relatively soon.

"At the book's core is an Anti-Bias Framework intended to help music educators gain confidence and comfort in designing music curricula that are just, equitable, and make participants feel safe and welcome. Structured around the four social justice domains of identity, diversity, justice, and action, this framework explores topics of anti-racism, gender and sexual identity, power and privilege, disabilities, economic realities, empathy, and critical consciousness."

Karen, what the hell does that have to do with music?  ProTip, Karen: Diversity in music means different genres.  Music isn't structured around "identity, diversity, justice, and action".  It's structured around melody, harmony, counter point, rhythm, etc.  Music has nothing to do with sex, empathy or critical consciousness.  Privilege maybe.  Kids can learn how someone so mediocre like Taylor Swift, Kid Rock or Drake can achieve a music career.  Spoiler Alert: rich parents.  But that's the Music Business and a book on Equity in the Music Business wouldn't sell.

This book could never be "indispensable" or a "ground-breaking and practical resource".  She couldn't even put an instrument on the cover of the book. It's a tree with clich√© terms written on it.  But, you know, why try when there's equity?

For you starting musicians out there in your early/mid teens, pretend people like Karen Howard don't exist and I'll give you the Coles Notes version of what it's like to be a musician in a working/playing band and why getting better is the complete opposite of Equity.

Equity isn't something to strive for because it takes striving out of the equation.  When I was learning, all I wanted to do was get better by learning, and even though I'm not that competitive, I secretly wanted to be better than my peers (can't get the gig if you're not better than the other guy).  It doesn't hurt to try and be good at something for its own sake either.  And I kept practicing.  Soon enough, I was playing with better players and that made me better.  While I was playing with better players, I was still practicing even though 1 gig is worth 10 practices.  I was lucky enough that the better people asked me to play with them and then all of a sudden, I'm in a group of excellent players.  That, in short, is called progress.

Equity is the opposite of that progress.  Equity is when the best person doesn't get the gig.  So why strive?  Why try and be a better player when it's up to who has a certain appearance?  It fundamentally doesn't make sense and not all excellent musicians look alike.  I find that people who are pro-equity are all under-achievers that want the rewards but don't want to do the work.  You can spot them when they try to dress the part; they look like their stereotype of a musician from the early 2000s.

Unfortunately, what happens all the time now is the most qualified person doesn't get the job.  The last place this needs to happen is in music, and last time I looked, you need ears to listen to music, not your eyes.  Unless that changed too.

This book doesn't need to exist.  A Vegan microwave cookbook would be more useful.  It's trash and Dr Howard sounds like she's been hanging around Dr Fine too long.  Don't be a Karen.

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