Curiosity and the playful music teacher

They form a circle, and following introductions, the teacher creates a movement-sound sequence figuratively faithful to motives from Mahler’s Symphony No 5 first movement, the ‘Trauermarsch’.

The musical material transmitted is Mahler’s. There are 15 minutes of intensive working where the teacher gives and the pupils give back, where the teacher insists through repetition that all get it. The transaction is already playful and relational. Like catching balls moving fast between all within the circle, the pupils catch melodic fragments as well as rhythmic ones.

‘You really need to get hold of this material, this is very important’, says the teacher.

Now with a voice of enchantment and mystery the teacher reveals Mahler’s use of the song ‘Der Tambourg’sell’, a song about one of Mahler’s ill-fated ‘children’, a drummer boy condemned to execution and his long walk to death, the ‘trauermarsch’.

The pupils want to know what it is that the boy has done that deserves such a fate. However, this is to remain a mystery for the time being. The work proceeds until groups have created their own ‘trauermarschen’ using Mahler’s material.

In the minds of the pupils live the drummer boy and his fate and the musical ideas and feelings that in some sense are now theirs as well as Mahler’s. The pupils remain curious, continually asking questions of their teacher and each other.

  1. Why do teachers ask questions?
  2. Why are children expected to compose music without first experiencing a felt provocation to do so?
  3. Do such provocations lead to composing music that has stronger character and thicker meanings?
  4. Why does much music education have so little human interest?
  5. Why do music teachers teach musical skills without rich content?
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