T & Q Merge in School of Music
February 22, 2016 Guilded
S.I. Discussing Technologies & Instructors for our School of Music
An annual axe gets raised above the proverbial necks of schools across America. We are constantly being told that “budget cuts will kill the music program.” At the local level or statewide, and depending on the moods and monies of the politicians involved – but it remains just as ridiculous year after year to set aside (or threaten to) that aspect of education that connects numbers with time, and develops so many academic skills, as music instruction.
“Music is not just a pastime for the hot bodies of MTV, nor is it academically just a question of the mathematics that determines a gold vs. platinum sales effort from a major record label,” says Aaron Bolinger of Sherman Institute. “We’re developing a School of Music for Sherman Institute, and public funding battles won’t effect it,” he says.
“Music is part of the classical Quadrivium of education, and every bit as important to shaping student academics as basic grammar and arithmetic. It is a higher-level skill set taken from those two, and then set on a time scale just to make it more interesting. It involves patterns of numbers, sounds, and organization. For music with lyrics, that involves poetry, rhyme, story-telling and allegorical writing strategies that are as much a part of higher-level English course work as they are part of the music. Quadrivium activities like this one stretch the mind in ways no other learning experience possibly can. Yet it seems an easy political target at budget time.
“In the modern setting, music instruction combines engineering and physics. Unleash complex patterns of sound waves around a room where part of the surfaces are reflective, and some absorb the sound. Move some at slower and some at higher speeds. P.A. systems set into motion short and long wave lengths. You want “great sound” in every corner of the room for the audience. Is there math involved yet, trying to accomplish the “great sound” goal? You bet!
But you would never know it when dealing with the average school music budget.
“Basic music instruction might be best remembered for the battles it caused in the home setting,” says Bolinger. “Do we buy him a guitar, or should Johnny join the marching band at school playing drums? The mere family budget concerns between clarinet and saxophone is one argument parents might remember forever thereafter. But whether Johnny gets the $200 flute or the $1200 guitar, it is very important that every capable student have the opportunity to delve into musical experiences in any of many possible formats.”
“In today’s world, the discussion is much different. Forget piano vs. violin for a moment. Today’s youth are talking about things like DAW vs. Hardware solutions – things few school administrators care to debate in the school budget battle.
Parents are equally lost for Johnny’s home studio ideas. Parents today should know how Johnny’s YouTube account is being used to market his indie production of techno-samples. He has serious keyboard talent. Parents should also know a DAW from ADAT. It’s a very-very different world.”
“A generation has historically been about 40 years. In the past 40 years, there have been perhaps a dozen generations of musical innovation, each pushing the previous further into antiquity. Evidence of the separation between even the 1980’s and today can be seen by how music is both made and marketed. A teen with a DAW & a YouTube account can record and master the next smash hit, distribute it globally, and be as recognizable as a celebrity as anything (or anyone) Hollywood can create in their studios.
“Record companies as they were in even the 1990’s are nearly as antiquated by current music standards as we might think of the Model T to the modern automobile,” says Bolinger.
“Sherman Institute has been, for the most part, Trivium-centric in our formative years,” Bolinger acknowledges. “And there are assorted reasons for that emphasis. But the time is now for us to roll out more Quadrivium-based academics, and there is no better place to start than modern music – which combines not only the instrumental and vocal aspects, but the physics, mathematics, computer sciences, video and other technologies that drive what is now being produced by both the artists and the plethora of support teams that work behind the scenes with them. Music production is a big deal, and is getting more so with every new edition of the buyer’s catalogs – from the instruments themselves to the specialized software and systems that record, amplify and/or broadcast it,” he added. “Plus it continues to draw from the Trivium foundation, so it all works together in a school system that recognizes and embraces the links.”
The first music-inspired course Sherman Institute established, as far back as 2012, was SC-110 Audio Science. That remains a good college-level introduction to the periphery of all music and sound – yet it remains outside the scope of the actual instruments (piano, guitar, etc.) and the modern software that can and does produce music. SC-110 focuses on the science in support of the musician – the electronics, hardware, speakers and physics behind how sound waves work in both studio situations and live performances. (It is on the schedule for our Spring Semester of 2016.)
But for later this year, we want to get much more “hands on” with other aspects. Our technical staff has been working on ways of involving technology with such things as long-distance collaborative recording projects, and creating more advanced courses on performing, recording and direct interaction with the music. In short, we want Sherman Institute on the knife’s edge of music in today’s environment.
“One of the bigger challenges goes back to the heart of building any scholastic program – finding instructors qualified in these special zones of knowledge. It is much easier to find good guitar instructors, for example, than those who know the finer details of advanced modern software recording products. The number of choices in just that area is dizzying when trying to sort through it, and make choices on standardizing technologies across the miles of an Internet-delivered academic environment.”
“We cannot rush into these products, just to see what happens next,” he says, “because both the cost and the learning curve for each are not conducive to outlandish experiments. We are consulting with an array of people – including musicians, experienced users of various products, and more, to come up with a real plan of attack for creating and delivering our program of music-related instruction.”
Sherman Institute recently teamed up with a FaceBook group, known as Local PA Musicians – to help with one small aspect of the groundwork. “We set up a database within Moodle (on our server) for generating a state-wide (using Pennsylvania as a test bed) collection of DB records involving buyers of entertainment. Through that,” Bolinger says, “friendships with musicians are being built that can carry on into other areas of this expansion.”
He says that Sherman Institute, “is still looking for people with various skills, and opinions on best plans for our forward progress. We need standards that will be right for both students and staff. Will we be using Sonar, Pro Tools, MOTU, Acoustica or one of the many other DAW backbones? From there, which mastering software will do the job at the best price point? What multi-track hardware options can be useful in this environment? Those are some of the questions (among dozens of others) that have to be answered as we get deeper into modern music technology,” he says. “And that isn’t even mentioning the video side of it all.”
“Live streaming video delivery of instructor lectures is now within our technical capacity,” says Bolinger. “Having the proper background technologies for collaborative recording, and then putting the right people in front of the web cams to instruct on both instruments and the technology, are the two trickier aspects of this.”
Those with experience in specialized recording or mastering software, exceptional talents in various other music or instrument instructional areas, or knowledge of analog and/or digital audio & video technologies, should contact firstname.lastname@example.org to be part of the dialog.
As usual with Sherman Institute, the “credential” is the knowledge, not necessarily an accreditation certificate. When a band is looking for a drummer, very rarely do they care that he graduated from a particular college. Can he keep a steady beat? We apply a similar principle here – do you know the product, and can you teach it – Ph.D. or Master’s degree not necessarily withstanding?