The ‘Musical Ear’: What Is It? And Why Do We Need To Test It?

You’ll know from my other blogs on music education that I’m of the opinion that a lot of what is being examined in our young musicians (and mature ones, taking the dreaded graded exam journey) is outdated and irrelevent. The system has remained much the same for over 80 years, and shows no signs of changing anytime soon. Most exam systems we know have been changed several times of the years, so why have music exams (and I’m looking at you ABRSM) staunchly remained the same all of this time?

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Shakespeare On Screen: My Week With The Bard

I really try my best to avoid Shakespeare. Like the Beatles, it’s all so ingrained in our (western) culture that when you hear it you tend to switch off. But unlike the Fab Four you have to try hard to understand what’s going on. And if theatre really isn’t your thing then who has the time to revise the York notes before going to see a production? Well, this week I fell prey to this and agreed to go to a live screening of Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’ at the Cameo Cinema here in Edinburgh. Continue reading

Being A Polymath: Does All That Math Add Up To Anything?

I often think of people who have concentrated solely on one artistic career – the writer who only writes, the musician who only plays – and wonder if they ever get a hankering for doing something different. Trying a new form or genre?

I’ve met very few people in my time who like to try their hand at a different art form than the one they normally do. Of course, having the time to do other things is hard to find. Continue reading

The Death Of Progressive Rock: Addendum

Following my post 1979: The Death Of Progressive Rock & The Jazz/Folk/Acoustic Amalgam, I began to think more about what I’d written. Was I being too hard on the Prog scene by saying it was virtually dead in 1979? Surely there was some life in it yet? But then I thought, what does the sentimental side of me say about this? It said ‘no, you were not’. And my logical side, of course, agreed. Continue reading

Weighing Up The Scales: Does Your Left-hand Know What The Right-hand Is Doing?

So, a while back, I was teaching a bit of compositional theory (as you do) and I asked the students a seemingly outrageous question: “What is the purpose of the harmonic minor scale? Why is there a raised 7th in there?”

Blank looks.

But I was not deterred and thought I’d push them even further… “OK, what about the melodic minor scale? A raised 7th AND a raised 6th.”

Silence. Continue reading