Category Archives: Language

The Unanswered Question

Touching on the words phrase and sentence yesterday prompted me to revisit the origin of my interest in the parallels between music and language. It was more of a big-bang than a gradual dawning – namely Leonard Bernstein’s
Norton Lectures . The lectures were delivered at Harvard in 1973 and broadcast in 1976. They were repeated during the Christmas Holidays c. 1990 and this was when I saw them. With seasonal congruence, I still regard the experience as an epiphany.

What I drew from the lectures into my thoughts on teaching is Continue reading The Unanswered Question

Games 5

“Nothing you can’t spell will ever work.” Will Rogers (1879 – 1935)

Spelling Games – where pupils:

  1. spell out in notes a word you have specified
  2. identify a word after you have played it in notes


  • to underline that the musical alphabet is the same as the everyday alphabet (indispensable to making sense of musical grammar – more of which another day)
  • to strengthen links to language
  • to improve (active) listening and aural memory

The spelling option sounds like a very complicated activity to mark, with several pupils simultaneously spelling out the same word with varying degrees of speed and accuracy. In reality, Continue reading Games 5

Is This The Way To Andantino?

“If a composer could say what he had to say in words he would not bother trying to say it in music.” Gustav Mahler (1860 – 1911)

Marks of Expression (leading on, for the last time – honest – from
Spot The Difference )

Marks of expression, aka performance directions, are inserted when composers feel the need to reinforce with ordinary language, hints implicit within the musical code. In the main, Continue reading Is This The Way To Andantino?

Confucian Counting

“Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I will learn. Involve me and I will understand.”
Confucius (551 BC – 479 BC); Chinese philosopher & reformer.

Any playing in a group lesson has to be “counted in” to ensure that everyone begins at the same time and at the right speed. Pupils don’t always focus with all their might and a restart can take up limited time. One way to reel them in is to Continue reading Confucian Counting