Beethoven dedicated his 3rd symphony to Napoleon because Napoleon was associated with the French Revolution which Beethoven believed to be about radical hope, about altering the previous power structures. But upon hearing Napoleon ordained himself Emperor, Beethoven changed the dedication to “In Memory of a Great Man”. Since Napoleon decided he should be known as a king, Beethoven concluded the man he admired was dead. Like 200 years before the Sex Pistols wrote EMI.
Got to the class a little early and found one of the guys practising Make You Feel My Love, he’s maybe 22 yrs. old. Don’t know any of these people well but my sense of this particular guy was that he would have thought Adele wrote the Dylan song.
“Do you know who wrote that song?” I asked eager to surprise him.
“Bob Dylan.” he answered
“That’s right.” I said disappointed at not getting to prove my teacher cred. “Do you know much of Bob Dylan’s music?”
“I know he’s written lots he doesn’t get any credit for, it’s a real shame.”
“You think so? Like what?”
“All Along The Watchtower.” he replied.
People sometimes don’t speak English well and certain people think the way to respond to that is to speak English back louder! Even more distressing when the fluent English speaker displays that behaviour in foreign countries.
Couldn’t understand time signatures when a teenager, nobody explained it efficiently despite my ability to play fast or complex. Could imitate what I put my mind to. Other kids already musically trained tried giving me the low down on time signatures. They heard whatever rhythm I played tried to explain it, they would start with 1/4 notes – what the hell they were talking about? Boom I was lost.
What does it mean to say a note is a 1/4 note? Isn’t it an entire note? Shouldn’t that be a whole note? Didn’t we just play it? Why then call it a 1/4 note? They would say there were four 1/4 notes. What does that mean? Exactly where are these four 1/4 notes and why aren’t they 100% a note never mind being 25% of a note.
Once I got to music school the idea was explained again. Finally understood; like given the key to a sports car. They meant how many beats repeat and you could even manipulate that. Pow – I was in 5, 7, 3, 9 or 4. I wrote a song later called Bhopal trying to play a blues form in 5 just because now it was possible to imagine time signatures. Made a new song from the rhythm of Train in Vain by the Clash because I loved that rhythm now could manipulate it. Pow pow pow.
Teachers have to love trying to find a way in to the mind of the student, have to have the humility to reconsider how they themselves talk about things that is if they get something special out of teaching. Otherwise they should stick to tried and true methods of yelling meaningless equations.