Blue notes and false relations

Martin Fautley@DrFautley It’s official! according to @TTMLondon data the commonest topic taught in music at KS3 in London is the Blues!

Mark Phillips@EnglishCadence @Johnfinney8 @DrFautley @TTMLondon So much musical benefit in this topic: melody, harmony, rhythm, form, riffs. And provenances of course.

 Mark Phillips@EnglishCadence @Johnfinney8 @kpe123 @TTMLondon Listening to Purcell. Commonalities with 12BB: false relation/blue notes, ground bass/riff, harmonic cycles

Mark Phillips ‏@EnglishCadence @Johnfinney8 @kpe123 @TTMLondon @ANethsingha Purcell ‘O Lord God of Hosts’. … Expressive dissonance & false relation.

John finney@Johnfinney8@EnglishCadence @kpe123 @TTMLondon The conditions of the two practices incommensurable. ‘Sameing’ is the enemy of difference.

Mark Phillips@EnglishCadence@Johnfinney8 @kpe123 @TTMLondon No disagreement on the first point. But both use musical nuance powerfully to convey common human emotions.

Mark Phillips@EnglishCadence @Johnfinney8 @kpe123 @TTMLondon And much for pupils to discuss about how composers use music to express emotions in their different contexts.

John finney@Johnfinney8 @EnglishCadence @kpe123 @TTMLondon a lot of differences to explore.

Mark Phillips@EnglishCadence@Johnfinney8 Really important for pupils to experience & explore both traditions; to understand how musics express universal human emotions.

John finney@Johnfinney8@EnglishCadence Do musics express universal emotions? Not sure music expresses emotions?

Well, twitter only takes us so far in a discussion like this and there remains much here to discuss further, question and clarify.

Most obviously there are tensions between the tendency to ‘same’ and the tendency to ‘difference’.

The ‘sameing’ tendency is towards music thought of as a universal language of human expression emphasising commonalities while diminishing its political, social and cultural significance.

The ‘differencing’ tendency is towards music thought of as unique to time and place, and to the social, political and cultural conditions of its practice, thus exposing the hegemonic practice of ‘sameing’.

What if we taught on the basis of radical differencing? Each musical practice seen as strangely other, incommensurable, in a class of its own and resistant to the habit of mind that finds comfort in ‘sameing’.

Interrupting habitual ways of thinking challenge the dominant ideology of ‘sameing’? Could this be a way of thinking about progression and even lead to a learning revolution?

Perhaps it’s only when radical difference has been fully explored that a dialogue between ‘differencing’ and ‘sameing’ will be productive.

Martin Fautley@DrFautley It’s official! according to @TTMLondon data the commonest topic taught in music at KS3 in London is the Blues!

Keith Evans @kpe123 @DrFautley @TTMLondon But is it always taught well – meaning musically, and to what purpose? I despair of maps of the slave trade.

So why teach the Blues?

  • a harmonic progression can be introduced?
  • improvisational know how can be developed?
  • ‘Hanging in the breeze’ can be listened to, the music signalling everybody to stand up at the end of an evening at the New York Blues Club?
  • a Blues feel can be had?
  • the school’s most experienced Blues musician can lead the work?
  • riff stereotypes can be introduced
  • students can learn about Blue notes?
  • students can feel the Blues through their voice?
  • the stories of Blues men and women can be read as homework?
  • it is useful preparation for writing cadences?
  • a song can be written about people trafficking read about in the local newspaper?
  • Blues nuances can be compared with Purcell’s false relations?
  • as a contribution to Black History Month
  • Afro-american blue notes can be seen in opposition to Western European harmony?
  • students can learn to differentiate between melody, harmony and bass?
  • students can be led to read Paul Gilroy’s ‘The Black Atlantic’?
  • Blues bands can be formed
  • the Blues can be mashed into any other music?
  • the issue of compensation to slave owners can be discussed?
  • the topic provides an ideal ladder approach to assessment sorting out those who can and those who can’t
  • the guitar can be learnt?
  • a map of the slave trade can be the first slide in a powerpoint presentation?
  • whether music expresses emotion can be discussed?
  • to learn about how blues performers and their audience interact?
  • an architypal structure can be internalised
  • it’s what you do in year 8?
  • it’s the source of many other musical practices

Anyway, I thought this below was a promising approach to teaching the Blues. What do you think?


One thought on “Blue notes and false relations

  1. Pingback: Why Minimalism? – Music Education Now

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