This academic wants Conservatoires to teach hip hop

You may remember Ethan Hein.

He’s the Doctoral fellow in music education at NYU who regards classical music teaching as a symptom of white supremacism.

Now he has written another carefully considered paper:

Music education is in a ”crisis of irrelevancy” (Reimer 2009, 398). Enrollment in school music has declined precipitously for the past few decades. Budget cuts alone can not explain this decline (Kratus, 2007). School music teaches the competencies of European-descended classical music: performing acoustic instruments in ensembles, reading notation, and following a conductor. Youth culture, meanwhile, values recorded music descending from the vernacular traditions of the African diaspora, substantially produced using computers. Hip-hop is the most popular genre of music in the United States (Nielsen 2018), and by some measures, in the world (Hooton 2015). Yet it is vanishingly unusual for hip-hop to be addressed in an American music classroom. Even when educators want to do so, they rarely have the necessary experience or knowledge….

Why is it so important that music education embrace hip-hop when students are already immersed in it outside of school? There are three main reasons. First, if music educators wish to foster students’ own musical creativity, then students must be free to create in the styles that are meaningful to them. Second, while many young people enjoy listening to hip-hop, few know how to produce it. Third, and most important, music is a site where social and political values are contested, symbolically or directly. The Eurocentrism of school music sends a clear message about whose cultural expression we value. While the white mainstream loves hip-hop, America showers the people who created it with contempt (Perry 2004, 27), and sometimes violence. By affording Afrodiasporic musics the respect they deserve, we will teach students to similarly value the creators of those musics….

Read on here.

 

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  • Allen says:

    Somebody mentioned arty fruit loops here recently.

    There you go.

  • Mike Schachter says:

    Music schools in Europe seem to be doing rather well. Perhaps they are not blessed with “academics” like this.

    • Ethan Hein says:

      Europe is decades ahead of the United States in popular music pedagogy, particularly in Scandinavia. The work of British music educators like Lucy Green and Philip Tagg are guiding lights for my research.

      • Pianofortissimo says:

        The best overall school results in Scandinavia (and in Europe) are those by Finnish students, and it is believed that the main reason is that there is no pedagogy Department in any Finnish university.

        • Dr Robert Davidson says:

          There are many leading figures in music pedagogy who work in the Finnish school setting. I meet them at music education conferences and read their work. They most definitely are using EDM and hip hop.

  • John Borstlap says:

    With all due respect, but the bottomless stupidity of this ‘paper’ does not deserve serious opposition. But there is another aspect to it: it is not merely a matter of having, or not having, some musical taste or udnerstanding, but primarily a matter of cultural identity. To which civilization do we want to belong? The exclusion of many African-Americas has resulted into a subculture which offers an alternative to cultural symbols which are perceived as signifying white oppressors. When the white youth embraces this subculture and prefers it to classical music, it is simply mob influence and taking the easy route. Elevating the subculture to educational levels is an entirely political gesture and has nothing to do with music whatsoever…… it is legitimizing primitivism, and a gesture of identification with the right of not belonging to the West and its history, with the ‘liberation’ from the incentive to know about things that are better, to grow up to become a mature adult. There is an expression in such phenomenae of being tired of the notion of ‘civilization’, of controlling primitive instincts, and a deep longing for the primitive jungle of unthinking and unfeeling, as can also be noticed in the spreading fashion of setting tattoos, wearing piercings (sometimes through lips, noses and eye brows, and unprintable places): a longing for the animalistic existence without burdens, while in the same time pampered by the conveniences of modernity.

    • Ethan Hein says:

      The civilization that we belong to has included African-Americans for centuries, and they have driven all of the substantial innovations in our music for a hundred years now. This is in the face of relentless opposition from cultural authorities every step of the way. Resisting the authority of your music teachers is not the easy route, it takes substantial courage and self-confidence. Equating black culture with “primitivism”, the “jungle” and “animalistic existence” is emblematic of the atavistic racial attitudes that my colleagues and I are struggling against.

      • boringfileclerk says:

        Your paper is written in English. The English language is a symptom of white supremacy, and should not be taught in our schools and university. Please re-write your paper in emojis and GIFs. Otherwise, your thesis has no merit.

      • John Borstlap says:

        It is patronizing to think that African-Americans should cultivate hiphop and the like to make them part of Western civilization. The best way of compensating for / fighting against racial discrimination, which cannot be encouraged enough, is to make the best of the culture to which they belong (i.e. Western civilization!) available to them. To see in Western cultural products only political symbols of suppresion is missing the point entirely.

        I must say, I fully understand the need to counter discrimination of all kinds, and for that reason have the most sympathy for any attempt to support anti-discrimination efforts, but the artistic and aesthetic level of hiphop (which is by no means restricted to African-Americans) one would not like to see it considered as a cultural signifyer, because it signifies the worst possible cultural type of expression. So, turning hiphop into a symbol of liberation, is effecting the opposite.

        Please, do think it through…. and compare hiphop with the aspirational works of the Western classical tradition which offer so much more to the development of people feeling discriminiated against. Your motivation is laudable but misdirected.

    • Alvaro says:

      How ironic: the only animalistic, primitive and regressive ideas from the jungle here are those expressed by the failed composer Borstlap.

      Granted he’s defending his “turf” – very much like a primitive animal unyielding to change – by making the broad assumption that the only music that is representative of the weat is that which was championed in courts – nevermind that slaves have been in the americas for 400 years!!! No, their expression doesnt matter nor their voices, according to you, as they dont fit your criteria of “western”.

      Further, just on practical terms it makes sense to educate people on genres that have a market. I’m sick and tired of seeing a violist or a basoonist play in Indie Rock bands because the rest of the world literally does not give two **ts about these instruments otherwise, and their only chance otherwise is to teach.

      Ironically, again, the idiotic efforts to try to impose classical music as the “end-all-be-all” of music education is precisely what is destroying this artform.

      I would much rather have 1/10th of the “classical conservatories” and have people study popular music than to see cellists playing Michael Jackson or Bob Marley to “make it” – see 2Cellos and Sheku.

      Your very arrogance is what has destroyed the artform, because you are trying to bite more than you can chew. Much rather have a smaller/healthier classical music world that actually does classical music, rather than to try to shove it in people’s mouths. As with any imposition, at the end of the day the prevailing culture will always win: basoonists, violinists and cellists playing in “indie” bands. Thats what your worldview has created.

      As for Hip-Hop in higher education? Its already here, and nobody can stop it. I hope it spreads out and allows people to further explore the artform. Hamilton has showed the cultural relevance and artistic depth of the medium, while making it wildly, wildly successful.

      Now if anything you’ve ever written had 1/1000th of the cultural relevance of Hamilton, or 1/1000th of the craft, you’d be one to talk. Sadly its not the case.

      • John Borstlap says:

        The sad thing is not only that you are apparently entirely ignorant of what I am doing – it is always better to be silent about what one does not know let alone what one does not understand – but, especially your absurd ‘defense’ of the indefensible as you so carelessly revealed in your comment. It is the usual philistine attitude towards culture: we expect the best when we are ill in the hospital, or lay in the dentist chair, or when we are wading through the waters after a flooding and hope for the plumber, but as soon as ‘culture’ is the subject, anything remotely pointing towards the available quality store of cultural products or artefacts is immediately treated with suspicion and scorn, and by lack of arguments it is the ad hominum attacks that are quickly taken from the cupboard of clichées.

        If in music education young people are being acquainted with classical music, this does not mean that this is an attempt to ‘try to shove it in people’s mouths’. All you say about the subject is so embarrassingly besides the point, that I will spare you the humiliation to correct it, also that would be pointless given the nonsense with which you thought to contribute to this blog.

        Once a teenager came home, angry, and upon his mother’s question what was going-on, he exclaimed: ‘This crazy teacher wanted to tell us about math – who does he think he is??!!’

      • Andrew Balio says:

        It has often been observed that higher-ed humanities departments in the United States have been engineering their own bubble to be burst since the 1960’s through the many varieties of cultural relativism, aethetic included. By failing to recognize that its role was to continue to transmit the best ideas rather than adopting the most fashionable and politically correct, humanities has become increasingly bizarre and irrelevant to life among normal earthlings, while wildly succeeding at fueling resentment in the culture wars.
        Gender studies is one such fake academic subject among numerous others, so, Hip-Hop studies ought to fit right in to that world. But it really is more a language and poetry movement than a musical evolution. Take away all the talking and what’s left?

    • Dr Robert Davidson says:

      John clearly needs a huge dose of education before he can begin to understand hip-hop.

      • John Borstlap says:

        This ‘academic’ should be treated with compassion…. just coming out of the wilderness and blinking in the sunlight and getting indignant that it appears to have been rather dark from where he came. Often such people can assimilate over time.

        The difficulty with such ‘academics’ is that they compensate for their lack of understanding any art form whatsoever with a rational apparatus which can only penetrate the most outward form, and the meaning of the art form – their ‘spirit’, or: in connection with ‘hophip’ and ‘rap’ and the like – what these forms actually SAY, and what they mean in the total of culture, completely escapes them. It’s like the gyneacologist who says that he finally understands love.

        • Dr Robert Davidson says:

          Are you enjoying parading your cultural illiteracy surrounding popular music and making baseless accusations and assumptions?

  • Will Duffay says:

    His logic is sound, up to a point. But he seems to be making some fundamental errors. First: hip-hop is doing very well without official academic approval.

    Second: hip-hop may in fact prefer to exist outside of formal music academia, it may not want the respect and validation of the white mainstream culture – youth cultures thrive on teen alienation and bringing hip-hop into the classroom might be seriously uncool.

    Third: hip-hop seems to be more a broadly cultural rather than musical phenomenon, and study of it from a musical perspective may not be quite right – it needs to be considered from a wider sociological perspective.

    Fourth: production might be difficult (no evidence that that’s holding it back, though) but that’s a technical not musical concern.

    Fifth: the job of education is to bring things to people who don’t know them, not simply to reflect back their own interests and concerns.

    I don’t mention the issue of cultural relativism, because that’s a thorny area. Suffice to say that rejecting a thousand years of western art music in favour of the current popular music trend seems unnecessary.

    • Ethan Hein says:

      Hi Will. Hip-hop is indeed doing well commercially. However, I believe that it has significant room for growth in amateur participation. America is severely impoverished in amateur music participation generally, and hip-hop is an obvious solution. Schools are doing a fine job of identifying future professionals but a poor job of fostering a broad base of everyday music-making.

      There is no law of nature that says that youth culture and school have to be in opposition to each other. Youth cultures are alienated from adult authority only when that authority doesn’t serve their needs. When I was young, I rejected authority that was clueless and non-educative, but I was thirsty for adults who could see and recognize me, and who could teach me what I wanted and needed to learn. As an educator, I find that my students are similarly happy to bring their musical selves into the classroom when they know those selves are going to be valued.

      Hip-hop is both a social and musical phenomenon, like all musics (including Western classical.) I am a middle-aged upper-middle-class white person, and I am very much not a part of “hip-hop culture.” One hundred percent of my interest is musical. I don’t think there’s a more creative form of music in the world right now. The social justice benefits of teaching it are a side benefit.

      There is no meaningful distinction between the technical and creative aspects of recorded electronic musics. It’s like making a separation between the “technical” and “creative” aspects of playing the bassoon, you can’t have one without the other.

      I believe that the job of music educators is to turn consumers into producers, and to do that, we need to start where students live. Broadening the kids’ horizons is an admirable goal, but it is one that the music education field is substantially failing at right now, if the greying audiences at the symphony are any indication. My own experience as a musician is that I became open to unfamiliar musics after I was validated in my own identity as a musician, not before.

      Finally, I do not say that we need to stop teaching western art music. But we do need to rebalance the training of music educators so that they have some basic competencies in the creative processes driving the musical culture of which they are a part.

      • Been Here Before says:

        Mr. Hein, just a quick question – as an educator, how would you approach misogyny and glorification of violence prevalent in the lyrics of many hip-hop songs?

        • Ethan Hein says:

          The same way we approach the misogyny and glorification of violence in Shakespeare, opera, and the rest of the Western canon: carefully and thoughtfully.

          • Tamino says:

            But why promote an art form, that is exceptionally misogynistic and promoting violence *today*, while the misogyny in Shakespeare’s work, in opera etc., was in historic context mainstream culture?

          • Ethan Hein says:

            I believe that rap lyrics are merely reflective of the misogyny pervading the rest of the culture, rather than causal of it. In an era when the president brags about grabbing women by the pussy, it’s better to confront and address this aspect of our culture than to pretend it doesn’t exist.

          • boringfileclerk says:

            So, you’re in favor of continuing to popularize misogyny and violence? Please explain.

          • Ethan Hein says:

            Yes, educators need to address misogyny and violence in a critical way, whether it occurs in a rap song, a classic Western, a Wagner opera, a Greek tragedy, or anywhere else. Violence and domination pervade every form of human expression.

  • Tamino says:

    ‘Stupid is who stupid says’. Music education is in a crisis, mostly due to the irrelevance of culture and the predominance of commerce.
    Yes, budget cuts alone can not explain the crisis. The crisis explains the budget cuts though. Duh.

    And do we really need to explain to an ‘academic’ the difference between something popular and something intrinsically culturally valuable?

    Hip Hop for music education? And porno for film studies then? McDonalds for cooking classes?

    • Ethan Hein says:

      Popularity and cultural value are orthogonal to each other. Mozart and Verdi were popular and commercially successful in their time and place, that doesn’t invalidate their quality. Hip-hop has the same venal-to-sublime ratio as every other art form, including classical music.

      • Tamino says:

        No it doesn’t. Rap is much more primitive, has less complexity in rhythmical, harmonical, polyphonic etc. parameters. It’s relative success (in the US) is sociologically determined, not musically.

        • Ethan Hein says:

          Complexity and quality are not coextensive, otherwise Elliott Carter would be a better composer than Bach or Beethoven. But rap has greater musical complexity than you would think. Examples:

          http://www.ethanhein.com/wp/2018/this-is-america/

          http://www.ethanhein.com/wp/2016/why-hip-hop-is-interesting/

          http://www.ethanhein.com/wp/2016/visualizing-hip-hop-melodies/

          • John Borstlap says:

            These examples are entirely self-defeating. it is not only the case that complexity does not automatically create quality (the complexity of a turd is only interesting to oncologists), but it is the spirit of what is conveyed that is crucial. To talk about these utterly disgusting products as a serious art form, i.e. a form of expression which has something of artistic / aesthetic qualities, only reveals a complete lack of understanding what art is. There are two meanings of the term ‘culture’: 1) the artistic products of a civilization, representing the best this civilization is capable of; 2) the way people live, so: culture in a much wider sense. Only in this 2nd sense are these examples items of culture and what kind of culture? It is aggressive, nihilistic, celebrating the worst of what the human being is capable of: the underworld of subhuman life. And that the musicians make use of musical tropes, albeit of the most primitive kind, does not make it better. The quasi-academic bla-bla around these examples is merely embarrassing.

            These videos are thoroughly racist, created by the people who apparently consider themselves victims of racism, but all they do is reinforcing the worst racist prejudices.

          • Grüffalo says:

            Now, even though it’s perfectly obvious that everything you know about Elliott Carter could be written on the back of a postage stamp, the main mistake you’re making here is to confuse complexity with sophistication. Once we untangle that knot, your silly little nonargument disappears.

            Also, I can’t help myself here: Carter was an excellent composer and it makes me kinda sick to see him being sneered at by the likes of you. His music is vastly more interesting (by every musical metric) than ANYTHING produced by ANY hip hop artist EVER. Even after his hundredth birthday, the man was writing brilliant, uncompromising pieces… many of which, whilst characteristically rigorous and sophisticated, were far less complex than his most famous music in terms of surface detail.

            Trouble is, surface detail is all people like you understand.

      • Adrienne says:

        “Hip-hop has the same venal-to-sublime ratio as every other art form, including classical music.”

        I think you need to support that with examples. I’ve read some of the lyrics and the sublime bits seem to have eluded me. All I’ve seen is cheap, simple doggerel, a significant proportion of which is vile and degenerate. And musically, there’s nothing there. It is primitive and sounds as if it should have been consigned to the dustbin aeons ago.

    • Alex says:

      “Intrinsically culturally” is an oxymoron.

      • Tamino says:

        Not necessarily. There is also a universal, physical nature, aspect, as well as an archetypical aspect, to culture. It’s not all acquired in a life time. Particularly music evokes neurological reactions that are ‘hard wired’. Hence why good music can make us feel in harmony with the universe. Hip hop rarely does that for me though…

  • Tamino says:

    But if Rap becomes mainstream, it looses its point.
    Rap is as much a sociological expression, an attribute of a certain subgroup, than it is ‘music’.
    Leave the rap to those who own it.
    Rap is very specific. Classical ‘European’ music is MUCH more universal, historically, phenomenologically…

    • Ethan Hein says:

      All musics are sociological expressions and attributes of certain subgroups. Classical music is no exception.

      • Tamino says:

        I disagree. Classical music (in its broadest definition) is sophisticated in its structure and yet very universal. It – apparently – speaks to large parts of mankind, not only those who ‘invented’ it, on all perceptional levels, from the deep subconscious to the enlightened conscious. No faux antagonisms shall be created. It’s not one form against the other. But it’s also intellectually lazy, to declare everything equal to anything else, in value and sophistication. With higher skills come higher artistic rewards and gratifications for the perceiving mind.

        Have you ever been to a rave, Techno ‘music’ party? It’s extremely primitive. Primal.
        And I use those words without judgment. Purely observational.
        It’s a very popular ‘music’ in Europe. But why teach it? It is no cultural achievement. It’s more like an acoustical equivalent to a drug.

        • Ethan Hein says:

          I have been to some raves. It mostly is not my scene, but I do appreciate being in a room full of people who are dancing. I believe that you do not get a full experience of music sitting in a chair. You need to involve your entire body. Western art music has impoverished itself by denying the body from the neck down. I’m amazed by how unhappy Americans are in spite of world-historically unprecedented material wealth, and I think that a lack of social dance is a major culprit. Techno isn’t my preferred dance music, but it is better than not having people dance at all.

        • Adrienne says:

          “But it’s also intellectually lazy, to declare everything equal to anything else, in value and sophistication.”

          It’s also an unlikely outcome. Very few things end up equal, why would they? In a horse race do all the horses reach the finishing line together? It’s not only lazy, but cowardly as well. A cop out.

        • John Borstlap says:

          Don’t waste efforts on mr Hein…. he believes in the egalitarian society where distinction and aspiration has been deleted to make place for the celebrations of low life.

  • Music ed says:

    Your paper is interesting and worth considering. I wonder though, where do Asian musicians fit into all this? Are we “students of color”?

    • Ethan Hein says:

      This is an excellent question. I know a lot of Asian music educators and students, but I haven’t done any research or substantive thinking about their experience, so I can’t really speak to it. I’d be interested to hear what you think.

    • John Borstlap says:

      You must be crazy. Maybe suffering from the side-effects of over-education? Some people long for a big mac after months of 5 star restaurants, as some husbands who have married an angel relax in brothels now and then.

      • Alvaro says:

        Speaking from personal experience much? (sic!)

        You still have not provided any substantial evidence that classica music is “better” in any measurable sense than any other type of music other than your own expert account.

        The problem of music and the arts is that such bold statements cannot be proven or disproven by mere empirical examination because the cause-effect relationship between the subject matter and the recepient is an individual, unique experience.

        Math or Sciences are not good benchmarks because knowing Math is of practical use and its demonstrable the same regardless of its social context (2+2=4 in every country in the world).

        On the other hand, we have had 400 years of cultural impositions from the west and now we outcry the failure of opera houses and orchestras in the midwest: what possible relationship could someone from Montana have with 19th century vienna and its customs? Its aberrant in itself and its no surprise that orchestras nowadays survive by buying Star Wars customes for all its violinists and a Darth Vader suit for the conductor. Is that what you like, Borstlap?

        Classical music as a concept carries value, and yes, it reflects the best we as a society can achieve but in a single dimension. To favor it over other genres would be like saying “only poetry reflects the most artful way of using words, so Magical Realism must be aberrant and vulgar”. Nobody in academia would make such absolute dominance.

        You would be more believable if you were defending something you do not yourself partake in, but given that according to your website you are “pioneering a rennaisance of tonal and classical traditions” (Jaja!!) this all seems to be good old self serving behavior. What a coincidence that YOU consider that the music that YOU compose is above all others. Mhhhh coincidences, coincidences….

        • John Borstlap says:

          I know, it’s all very difficult, isn’t it? But keep trying….. you may get there in the end.

          ‘On the other hand, we have had 400 years of cultural impositions from the west and now we outcry the failure of opera houses and orchestras in the midwest: what possible relationship could someone from Montana have with 19th century vienna and its customs?’

          It may be a beginning of some cultural / historic understanding to remember that the USA is the creation of European immigrants and that one of their most intensive efforts was the import of what they considered the best of European culture. The reason? They thought (as so many Chinese think today) that this kind of music has so many universal humanist values that it is accessible to all, so they did not want to be deprived of it in a rather virginal continent, and in a country specifically created on democratic principles.

  • Pauline says:

    It’s not worthwhile to counter argue with someone who visibly has lost all common sense. This is one more example of mad cultural relativism. Ethan, let me make a statement that will send shivers down your spine: high culture is the only reason Western civilization has gotten to the societal and technological advances of today. High culture is elitist, you can’t democratize it without impoverishing it. Hope this makes you think a bit.

    • Ethan Hein says:

      The societal and technological advances of today are a mixed bag. I appreciate my cholera-free tap water, but I’m not overjoyed about living in the country with the biggest prison population in human history. I enjoy my laptop, but am not thrilled about climate change. Civilization is nice but it is a very long distance from being perfect.

      • Tamino says:

        But that’s a relativism again that is easy to voice from a 21st century armchair.
        As far as the US is concerned. Now that’s a special case of decadence. In cultural history, let’s say in a few hundred years from now, it will probably be described as one fatal cul-de-sac when elitist culture was fatally shot down by commercialism in a paradox collaboration of the capital with marxist egalitarianism.

  • Nelson says:

    So….we, as music students in conservatories, in general, don’t learn Jazz skills. I think we should be more conversant in this INFINITELY more important American musical art form, which one could argue, is rather marginalized culturally as well. Why hip hop? Because it SELLS more, or is more popular? So what. As a skill, it’s nonsensical to argue that it’s more important. What about the blues? Rock and roll? IF it’s important to learn hip hop, then how about some context and foundation to it. Do we all have to use auto-tune now too? I think you are trolling to get attention. I’m sure you’ll argue, I don’t give a crap what is popular. My job is to bring more people into the fold in terms of all great music of the world, to build audiences for the future of creative and historically important MUSICAL genres. Hip Hop is important in terms of the expression of political/social views through VERBAL expression. Musical ability or training has precious little to do with it. If you think we should study it as scholars, ok, fine. But to waste precious academic resources to compel this as an essential MUSICAL ability to learn….sorry can’t agree that it’s of any importance, unless you think winning a popularity contest is more important than learning important skills.

    • Ethan Hein says:

      Funny story. My own music background is in jazz. I grew up in New York City in the eighties, so I heard a lot of rap in the background, but I didn’t learn to take it seriously as an art form until I spent some serious time playing jazz. I started noticing that the rappers were doing a better job carrying the musical legacy of jazz forward into the present than the actual jazz musicians. When I was young, I actively resisted pop music, believing (like many of the readers of this web site) that everything favored by the marketplace must be dumb and shallow. I was won over to rap not because of its popularity, but in spite of it.

      Giving jazz greater prominence in formal music education would be a great idea. I think that all music school graduates should be expected to be able to improvise, to learn music aurally, to have mastery of Afro-Cuban rhythms, and to be conversant in a range of American vernacular styles. But most jazz musicians are missing core musical competencies too – lyric writing and vocal improvisation, recording, production, synthesis. I believe that we are currently wasting precious academic resources now, and that we could redirect them more constructively. Why does every music major learn to realize figured bass and harmonize chorales using eighteenth century voice-leading rules?

      • Nelson says:

        Would you say your training as a Jazz musician was essential then? Maybe that’s my take away. I think we are out of touch with improvisational skills in the standard curriculum at our conservatories. And I think that does include learning to realize figured bass. I think all keybordists should learn how to read chord charts. It’s interesting also to consider what our orchestras do when confronted with certain pop styles. The often dreadful arrangements that try to bring such styles into our concert halls (at “pop” concerts) do a disservice to the original and the orchestra itself, which is poorly utilized. I don’t think this makes new fans/adiences for anything. But this is a whole subject to itself, and I think one that must be addressed. I would argue that Jazz musicians are doing some great things these days. I love the genre bending inclusiveness of the repertory that The Bad Plus draws upon, for instance.

        • Ethan Hein says:

          My training as a jazz musician was invaluable, but we spent too much time on matching chords to scales and not enough time on the bigger picture. I didn’t really mature as a musician until I started producing. Then I had to think about the entire picture: melody, harmony and rhythm, but also timbre, space, arranging, and above all, the actual social context of the music.

          • Ethan Hein says:

            It’s great that the Bad Plus want to expand the repertoire for the traditional jazz ensemble, but for me the jazz musician who’s really doing culturally significant work right now is Herbie Hancock. I saw him perform a few months ago, and he was one of three people onstage singing through a vocoder. He has a young guy in the band who was one of Kendrick Lamar’s collaborators on To Pimp A Butterfly, who plays some alto sax and keyboards but is mostly there as a “producer,” creating ambient synth and vocoder timbres. It’s a fantastic idea. It’s no accident that Herbie is the only canonical jazz musician to play a key role in the development of hip-hop, and he’s one of the very few who has adapted his own music to keep pace with what’s happening in the world around him.

      • MAB says:

        Teaching figured bass, jazz chords, improvisation? That’s what I’ve tried to with my courses at a leading British conservatoire. I think these things are essential for any performer as, apart from anything else, they put one more in touch with the mind of the composer and give freedom to one’s technique, even if one does not manage to attain complete mastery of them.

      • Dr Robert Davidson says:

        I think that’s an excellent point about hip hop being the real way the jazz torch is being passed. Herbie Hancock was talking about this decades ago, and has carried it out in his work, as you note in another comment.

  • Andrew Balio says:

    Should someone be so devious, I couldn’t think of a more effective way to kill off Hip-Hop as a monetarily successful medium than to absorb it in to the conservatory. This worked great for jazz.

  • boringfileclerk says:

    Real question: Should twerking be taught in a university setting, and should ballet be banned as it is a product of “white supremacy”? What can one be expected to do with a BS degree in twerkology?

    • Ethan Hein says:

      If you read the paper, you will see that I specifically argue that we should continue to teach Western art music, but that we should recontextualize it as a culturally specific form rather than as a supposed human universal. I cite a study of a representative undergraduate music education program where students spend 93% of course time on the Western art music tradition and half a percent of course time on popular music. In other words, if we increased the pop music content of the curriculum by a factor of eighteen, the curriculum would still be nine tenths classical music. This is not quite the same thing as arguing in favor of banning ballet.

      • boringfileclerk says:

        You sidestepped the question. Should aspiring dance undergraduates be able to obtain a degree in twerking?

        • Ethan Hein says:

          I think that African-American vernacular dance styles are a rich and beautiful cultural tradition, and that it’s ignorant to dismiss them.

          • boringfileclerk says:

            Again, sidestepping the question. I can’t tell if you’re intentionally trying to be a troll. I’m taking your thesis to its logical consultations. Should EDM be taught at the university level, and should party drugs be administered during class so that they can experience the music the right way? Or should EDM be marginalized in the academy because of it’s European origins?

          • Ethan Hein says:

            I do teach EDM production at the university level. I don’t believe that party drugs are intrinsic to the experience. A lot of people need to bludgeon their inhibitions into submission with drugs before they’ll allow themselves to engage in the simple pleasure of dance, but I see that as symptomatic of atavistic Puritanism more than anything else. There’s also some resonance between club culture and the way that many traditional cultures combine psychedelics with ecstatic dance in religious contexts, but my knowledge of such traditions is shallow at best.

          • Alvaro says:

            I think the question is valid and it is precisely this conversation I find more useful:

            Are you actually a proponent of having a B.M./M.M. and DMA in “Hip Hop Performance” or do you suggest universities simply give it a more preponderant space within the general music courses?

            While I am not as recalcitrant as many here to believe Classical Music is the ultimate artform made into music, my appreciation for the more vernacular would place Hip Hop within the realm of Ethnomusicology for a very simple reason: the need for empirical rather than intellectual basis to achieve the craft.

            I say so because vernacular artforms – while valuable and popular – depend on specific socio-political-economic situations all but impossible to replicate in a classroom.

            Imagining you favor a Bachelors in Hip Hop performance, what would the curriculum be?
            – Partaking into a police shooting 101
            – a group activity to snort drugs in a club?
            – how about a semester paper on having your cousing killed by the police?

            Do YOU really envision students coming up with meaningful hip-hop from the confines of a university library whole wearing Khakies? It would be a horrible bastardization, almost as bad as having orchestras play the latest disney movie or a cellist playing bob marley.

            Hip/Hop requires a setting I highly doubt would be allowable on campus. You can study it and cherish it and try to understand it, but if you advocate PRODUCING it, you have to be delusional.

      • Grüffalo says:

        IF you were making a musical argument, you would have taken the obvious route into this discussion, citing the likes of Aphex Twin/Autechre etc. Those artists make music which genuinely does rival the sophistication of many contemporary composers. But your argument isn’t about music. Your argument is about black people. The artists you’re trying to push could fart through kazoos and you would still be there at the other end to inhale deeply and gratefully.

        And IF it was about music, you’d probably have mentioned Roots Manuva, an Englishman who–more than any of the examples you’ve cited–demonstrates extraordinary talent and imagination within the hugely restrictive medium of hiphop. But your area of interest is actually the social fabric of America, right? Just be honest about it. You don’t really know much about classical music, you don’t really like it, and you’re willing to sacrifice it. Well, you can piss off.

        • Alvaro says:

          Classical music was sacrificed by whoever retard came up with the idea that playing Bob Marley on the solo cello was even remotely a decent idea. Its a freaking disgrace, as is the countless accounts of orchestras dressing up as Star Wars characters to – very much like homeless people – beg to their patrons not to abandon them because classical music CAN also be trivial and simple and “fun”.

          No, Classical music was sacrificed long ago. A very small niche of serious artists still exists, and will likely remain that way in spite of the failed efforts of administrators over the past 30 years.

        • Dr Robert Davidson says:

          Mate, with your attacks and failure to understand, it is you who should be taking your own advice.

  • DAVID says:

    I believe any kind of music should be judged on its merits, regardless of the particular sociological and historical conditions that brought it about. Personally, I find nothing rewarding about hip hop, but that is not to say that it cannot be enjoyed. However, to claim that “all musics are sociological expressions and attributes of certain subgroups” seems to me an incredibly reductive argument that ultimately undermines itself and misses the real point. Yes, all musics initially do reflect the particular circumstances surrounding their emergence — however that does not mean that they are reducible to said circumstances. In fact, the very opposite is true: despite the fact that much of classical music is now several centuries old, it still speaks to us today, and perhaps even more so than at the time of its original production, for it often takes time for the significance of a work to make its mark. We should really ask ourselves: how it is that centuries-old works can still speak to us today? This may well have something to do with the fact that these works possess a more universal dimension (which personally I doubt hip hop possesses). To claim that they are merely the reflection of a particular demographic subset is just too simplistic; furthermore it suggests that those who do not belong to such subset would not have any access to it by the sheer fact of who they are — which is simply not true. Oddly, such a view point reinforces the very criticisms it attempts to undermine by essentializing groups of people into rigid identities which, through some sort of determinism, would allegedly be incapable of expanding their horizons. That’s just not the case. In his paper the author states that “As an outsider to classical music culture, I have found its sense of itself as the holder of universally valid and transcendent truths to be off-puttingly arrogant.” I would grant to you that there is indeed much arrogance and snobbery in the world of classical music; however to judge the merits of a musical style based on some of the people who make up its community is not merely not fair; it’s also lacking in insight. There’s actually nothing wrong with the idea of a work having universal scope, and it’s just too convenient, as well as reductive, to equate the very idea of universality with those political agendas that are responsible for the many social injustices in our world today. Precisely the reward that comes with these universal works is that they offer us something new to learn each time and, most importantly, that they remain with us and still live within us. Hip-hop music, to me, seems more akin to a object to be consumed for temporary enjoyment which leaves absolutely no trace in the listener once the piece is over. That’s one of the main reasons I personally don’t find it appealing. Though that is indeed my own personal viewpoint, I would suspect many on this blog may be able to relate to it. Incidentally, this universal dimension is not exclusive to classical music: it also applies to much jazz as well as to much more popular styles — so it is not the exclusive domain of a privileged group.

  • Gabriel says:

    I think you are correct in that Rap deserves to be studied, but it should not be studied in music classrooms. Rather, Rap should be studied in English courses or graduate schools. The musical innovations in Rap or musical quality despite what you say is not very innovative and could be summed up in all of a week at most. Complexity and popularity aside, the creativity in the music of Wagner for example, creating the librettos for the Ring and then taking various leitmotifs and developing it for not just three minutes but nearly fifteen hours is astounding and Rap’s music can only pale in comparison to that. Even in pieces of comparable length such as Brahms’ Op.118 piano pieces, with the harmonic variety and brilliant manipulation of the opening motifs there is much more ingenuity than in the music of even the longest rap pieces. Where there are moments of great creativity at times, however, is in the lyrics of Rap. Rap at times can be poetic and describe serious struggles that the African American community faces or has faced, but to study that is the job of an English professor not a Music Professor.

    • Ethan Hein says:

      I respectfully disagree that the study of rap belongs in English class. To study the lyrics without the sound of them, without their rhythmic and pitch content, is to miss the main point of their existence. It would be like studying film by only listening to the soundtracks. The verbal content of rap is rich and interesting, but it’s not as significant as the music itself, which repays all of the attention you give it and then some.

      • Gabriel says:

        I am afraid I must challenge your assertion. I think this disagreement stems in large part from your earlier assertion that the point of music education at least at the graduate level is to turn consumers into producers. The Western Cannon in large part is studied through analysis and performance, but an important emphasis is also placed on what the composer was attempting to say and the message they were sending with sound. Mahler’s 9th Symphony comes to mind as a prime example. In Rap music, the message is rarely is ever found in the music itself; it is nearly always found in the text. “The point of their (the lyrics) existence” is not to be subservient to music, but rather it is the tone and the context of the lyrics that determine what sound can or will accompany them. Thus to study rap on primarily a musical plane would be to discard the meaning of the song. Take for for example Schubert Lieder, graduate programs will dissect the music to within an inch of its life, but as for the lyrics there is little attention paid to the rhyming scheme, the word choice, or the meter. This would be the fate of rap studied in a musical setting. Also, you assume that if studied in an English setting it would be isolated from its musical component, to that I say YouTube exists for a very good reason.

        • Ethan Hein says:

          My argument mostly concerns the education of music educators, not all music majors. If you’re studying composition or performance or whatever, you should specialize in whatever you want to specialize in. But if you’re preparing to be a music educator, then I believe you have a responsibility to be able to participate in the musical culture you are part of. For an American music educator in 2018 to be completely unfamiliar with the creative processes of hip-hop (as many are) is like an English teacher who has never used the internet, or a social studies teacher who doesn’t follow the news.

  • Brahms knows Best says:

    If Rap is to be taught, it should be in English graduate programs not Music ones. The musical analysis of Rap could be covered in all of one week, but the lyrics of it can offer valuable commentary on the situation of African Americans in America.

    • anonymous says:

      Leave Brahms out of it! He’s dead and probably wouldn’t want to be involved in public debates about musical value.

    • Dr Robert Davidson says:

      The notion that hip hop is simple and unsophisticated is shed within a very short time of actually doing the work of studying it properly.

      • norman lebrecht says:

        Are you maintaining that it is musically complex and sophisticated? That is all that concerns us here.

        • Dr Robert Davidson says:

          I certainly am maintaining that.

          • John Borstlap says:

            Sad, isn’t it? I think such things are a typical American problem – populism and social identity wars infesting the educational system.

          • Dr Robert Davidson says:

            Well, you have a lot of problems over there in Trumpland, but don’t tar me with your brush. It’s sad to embrace ignorance as you are suggesting and parading.

          • Grüffalo says:

            Oddly enough, you sound an awful lot like Trump. Every one of your arguments reads like a 3am tweet.

  • Ethan Hein says:

    Is Western classical music more “universal” than hip-hop? You might argue that the opposite is true. I’m a privileged old white guy descended from Germans and Poles, but the music of working-class teenagers in the Bronx reaches me emotionally in ways that the classical canon doesn’t. Rap fandom is substantially more ethnically diverse than the classical music audience.

    It is certainly true that classical music has a broad and deep reach, but the same is true for jazz, rock, electronic dance music and rap. Every city on the planet has a thriving local rap scene. In terms of absolute numbers of participants and listeners, there has probably never been a more consequential music in human history. Will people still be listening to it hundreds of years from now? I don’t know, and I also don’t much care. I’m concerned about the kids in my classrooms now, and next year, and the year after that. Let the music teachers of the 23rd century worry about the 23rd century.

    I do believe that we should be teaching kids about the Western classical tradition. But I want music educators to know something about other kinds of music too. The Wang and Humphries study I cite in the paper describes a typical undergraduate music education program in which students spend 93% of their course time on Western classical music and 0.54% of their time on all forms of popular music combined. I have met a lot of music educators who are shocking ignorance about the music of their own time and place. If anyone needs their horizons broadened, I don’t think it’s the kids.

    • Been Here Before says:

      I believe you may have good intentions, however, you just can’t make statements like this and be taken seriously:

      “Every city on the planet has a thriving local rap scene.”

      “In terms of absolute numbers of participants and listeners, there has probably never been a more consequential music in human history.”

      You simply can’t quantitatively validate these claims. In addition, your comparisons of hip-hop to Mozart and Wagner is pure nonsense. You just can’t put all of this in the same basket.

      You say that you care about kids — I don’t have any, but if I had, I would be deeply concerned about violent and misogynistic materials contained in hip-hop songs. As a son and brother, I am deeply offended by the hip-hop lyrics and find them unacceptable.

      • Ethan Hein says:

        For quantifiable evidence of hip-hop’s global popularity, see:

        Hooton, C. (2015). Hip-hop is the most listened to genre in the world, according to Spotify analysis of 20 billion tracks. Retrieved from http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/news/hip-hop-is-the-most-listened-to-genre-in-the-world-according-to-spotify-analysis-of-20-billion-10388091.html

        This is only a study of Spotify listeners, but they make for a good data source, because they track every individual listen. A cursory trip through YouTube will turn up amateur rap videos from everywhere on Earth. My own travels and social experiences give anecdotal support as well.

        I have two kids, a son and a daughter. I am not thrilled by the violent and misogynistic content of hip-hop, though I’m also dismayed by the violent and misogynistic content of pretty much every other form of culture both high and low. I don’t believe that the portrayal of antisocial attitudes is the same thing as endorsing them. I mean, my academic colleagues venerate the Ring Cycle, even though it portrays incest. My kids are small, so at home, I play rap songs without violence and misogyny, of which there are many. I’m sure they will start to hear songs with more unpleasant content when they get older, at which point we’ll have a conversation about anger, why people feel it, and what the appropriate responses to it are.

        • Been Here Before says:

          A friend of mine spent a month in a mid-size Eastern European city last year and complained about not being able to hear anything except local music – and he tried hard looking for other stuff.

          Can you indeed quantitatively prove that hip-hop is more consequential than the Beatles or Rolling Stones? Spotify has been around for only a couple of years and I don’t think it’s a good source to confirm that “In terms of absolute numbers of participants and listeners, there has probably never been a more consequential music in human history.”

          You constantly bring back Wagner and other classical composers. You simply can not compare a highly developed and sophisticated art form to something which is pretty basic and row. It’s like comparing French cousine to McDonalds.

          • Ethan Hein says:

            A group of data scientists did actually try to quantify the impact of different styles of music on pop as a whole:

            Mauch, M., MacCallum, R., Levy, M., & Leroi, A. (2015). The evolution of popular music: USA 1960–2010. Royal Society Open Science, 2(150081). Retrieved from http://rsos.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/2/5/150081

            They found the most significant turning point in popular music to be the rise of rap in the mainstream in 1991, bigger even than the British Invasion in the mid-1960s. We should take their methodologies and conclusions with a large grain of salt, but the broad thrust of their findings does align with my subjective experience.

          • Adista says:

            Don’t waste your time with this guy, you can’t tell him anything, he will concede nothing, has an answer for everything and on top of that apparently already knows everything. I knew guys like this in college, most grew out of it, sadly it appears he hasn’t.

          • Christopher Culver says:

            I live in a mid-sized Eastern European city, and many public spaces will have hip hop playing. Often it is local music, local hip hop artists singing in the local language.

            My travels in the last few years have brought me all over South America, Africa, and Asia. I have been exposed to local hip-hop forms there, too. From my own experience, I can’t argue with this academic’s claim of hip-hop’s global reach.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Ethan writes: “Will people still be listening to it hundreds of years from now? I don’t know, and I also don’t much care. I’m concerned about the kids in my classrooms now, and next year, and the year after that.”

      I think this is the nub of the argument. I believe studying “classical music” is interesting since it has had a substantial audience for a long, long time. It has “stood the test of time”. Jazz and some other popular music has also “stood the test of time” (for example, we all know the music of the Beatles). Other once popular styles, like calypso (a “black musical style”), simply didn’t survive.

      Can we really be certain that contemporary music will still be performed and enjoyed by a mass audience next year or the year after? And do we know which examples of the musical style will be considered salient to the culture at some future date? (Cilla Black outsold the Beatles in the late 1960s, but most would consider the Beatles’ music to be more important or “better”, and it is the music which has survived).

      If we educate a music teacher, as you advocate, in something here and now, will this knowledge be redundant within their working lives (e.g. up to forty years later)? Is it not better to educate them in something we can be reasonably certain will still have an audience at the end of their working lives? This certainty can only arise from pieces that have maintained an audience and performance tradition over time.

      • Saxon Broken says:

        Oh. A bit of high level maths for you. The expected life length of something (absent any other information), is twice as long as it has existed up to now.

        So something that has been around for 5 years can only be expected to survive for 5 more years. Something that has survived for 50 years (the Beatles), can be expected to survive another 50. While something that has survived 200 years (Beethoven) can be expected to survive another 200 years.

        • Ethan Hein says:

          DJ Kool Herc was cutting up breakbeats in 1973, so that gives us a projected lifespan of 90 more years. This does not look like a passing fad to me.

          If we’re concerned about the redundancy of a music teacher’s training or the future audience for the music they’re equipped to teach, then that is all the more reason to take a hard critical look at what they currently study. Marching bands are not exactly culturally salient.

  • DAVID says:

    Universality is not to be conflated with popularity. Though universal works tend to have wide audiences, many of these works were far from meeting with universal responses when they were created and were in fact quite unpopular (The Rite of Spring as a perfect example). In fact, some of the composers we take for granted today as part of an established canon were completely shun in their own time, and it took the attention and perseverance of knowledgeable musicians to bring them to recognition. Instant popularity can also be an index of mediocrity. There are many composers who were famous in their time and who have now sunk into oblivion.

    I believe this debate is ultimately about a notion that may make some cringe — the notion of the value of a work of art. To say that all forms of expression are equally valuable would simply be disingenuous. Most of us would view the Mona Lisa as having greater artistic worth than a simple graffiti painted on a wall. Likewise, creating great art — whether in music, painting or literature — usually implies having achieved a certain level of proficiency in the relevant craft. A similar type of proficiency may in fact be required in order to appreciate certain works, which is precisely where education comes in. Taste is not something immediate, but something that needs to be educated and cultivated. It has nothing to do with adhering to a particular socio-political agenda; rather it is about enlarging one’s perspective and calling one’s self into question. Perhaps if we had a different education system that challenged students by offering them exposure to the unfamiliar, they might discover within themselves an actual appeal for works which an entire system seems to be telling them they can have no access to.

    • Ethan Hein says:

      The slowness with which the world came to appreciate Bach, Stravinsky and others has led to this mythology that says that everything popular in its own time must be shallow and bad. This, to me, is as simplistic as assuming that everything popular is good. Mozart and Beethoven were instant popular successes, that doesn’t make them any less profound. Meanwhile, I can point you to some underground rap artists who I think are geniuses who have no commercial following whatsoever. The music you hear on the radio is a small tip of a very large iceberg.

      I agree that works of art have value, but that value is irreducibly contextual. I find Wagner unbearable for the most part. Does that diminish his value for all the people here who think his music is sublime? It shouldn’t. I had a jazz teacher who I respect a lot, and who believed that pretty much all jazz since 1965 has been a mistake. He didn’t dissuade me from loving 1970s Miles Davis and 1980s Herbie Hancock. I can argue with you until the end of time about why Rakim Allah is as important an artist as Charlie Parker, and for many of the same reasons. You probably don’t care.

      It takes the same ten thousand hours to attain mastery as a rapper or producer as it does to attain mastery of anything else. Rap has a low barrier to entry, which makes it useful as a participatory form, but if you think it’s easy to do it well, I invite you to try for yourself. People used to think jazz was just mindless instinct too. We know better now.

      • John Borstlap says:

        But in comparison to the best of the classical repertoire, jazz IS mindless instinct. That is the best quality it has, if it has any quality at all. Jazz is the instinctively feeling around a restricted basis of simple structures to improvise upon and it is in these improvisatory forms in which it is the player, not the music, which is the most important thing – not a work written down but the instinct of a musical performer creating on the spot. The best performers achieve the most beautiful musical moments…. please let it be mindless instinct. There is also ordering and complexity in instinct.

        Ridiculous to compare it with art music.

        • Dr Robert Davidson says:

          Clearly you haven’t played jazz. It’s about as far from mindless as it’s possible to be.

          • John Borstlap says:

            We obviously differ in the interpretation of ‘mind’. I have had contacts with excellent jazz musicians – with successful careers.

      • Alvaro says:

        I think the question is valid and it is precisely this conversation I find more useful:

        Are you actually a proponent of having a B.M./M.M. and DMA in “Hip Hop Performance” or do you suggest universities simply give it a more preponderant space within the general music courses?

        While I am not as recalcitrant as many here to believe Classical Music is the ultimate artform made into music, my appreciation for the more vernacular would place Hip Hop within the realm of Ethnomusicology for a very simple reason: the need for empirical rather than intellectual basis to achieve the craft.

        I say so because vernacular artforms – while valuable and popular – depend on specific socio-political-economic situations all but impossible to replicate in a classroom.

        Imagining you favor a Bachelors in Hip Hop performance, what would the curriculum be?
        – Partaking into a police shooting 101
        – a group activity to snort drugs in a club?
        – how about a semester paper on having your cousing killed by the police?

        Do YOU really envision students coming up with meaningful hip-hop from the confines of a university library whole wearing Khakies? It would be a horrible bastardization, almost as bad as having orchestras play the latest disney movie or a cellist playing bob marley.

        Hip/Hop requires a setting I highly doubt would be allowable on campus. You can study it and cherish it and try to understand it, but if you advocate PRODUCING it, you have to be delusional.

  • Maria says:

    I can’t help feeling that if hip hop had originated in white, working class communities, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. It wouldn’t be taken seriously.

    • Ethan Hein says:

      The Beatles originated in a white working-class community and they have become academically quite respectable. My NYU colleague Thom MacFarlane wrote a wonderful book analyzing side two of Abbey Road. The white working class also makes up a substantial percentage of hip-hop fandom, and has produced some of its major talents, most notably Eminem.

      • Maria says:

        No comparison between hip hop and the music of the Beatles (and George Martin). In any case, the Beatles were not as working class as some liked to claim, and John Lennon certainly wasn’t.

        This elevation of hip hop to a status it doesn’t deserve is social work. Nothing more.

    • Barry Guerrero says:

      Do you take the Beastie Boys seriously? I don’t.

  • Malcolm says:

    I love hip-hop and music. I think all the people here and anywhere who feel the same should check this stuff out:

    https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.billboard.com/amp/articles/columns/pop/8263181/tom-misch-interview-geography

    https://www.ted.com/talks/charles_limb_your_brain_on_improv/up-next

    https://www.rapanalysis.com (Martin Connor is a composer/music teacher who analyzes rap)

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/act-four/wp/2018/04/18/what-the-classical-music-world-can-learn-from-kendrick-lamars-pulitzer-prize/

    I don’t disagree with hip-hop being in the classroom. However, I don’t think anyone should pay to study it. I can argue a lot more, but this should suffice for now.

    • John Borstlap says:

      ‘I love hip-hop and music.’ This comment makes a correct distinction.

      • Bobster says:

        Actually John, I think you’ll find the comment is accurate because, rather than distinguishing Hip Hop from music, it reflects how Hip Hop culture also includes dance and visual art.

        I hope this helps!

  • Cubs Fan says:

    This saddens me greatly; I used to think that universities would encourage students to aspire to higher things, to seek out mankind’s greatest achievements. This dumbing down of the music curriculum is just another nail in the coffin of western humanities. But this is nothing new. There’s a 1936 Merrie Melodies cartoon that took on this exact topic, with Owl Jolson. A gifted singer trained by an old-school teacher but who really wants to sing jazz and pop:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ytR7-wT0Qqw

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    Hip hop is fine for those who want it, but I don’t think it belongs in serious music departments at colleges/university where the tuitions are astronomical. I can see it as an elective class in two year colleges. Just an opinion.

  • Pauline says:

    I smell opportunism here. Let me say: “teach hip hop in the conservatories” so I can get attention. Maybe a book contract? May I suggest a title? Here it is: “Infusing Diversity in the Conservatory Curriculum. The intersection between Social Justice and Music”

    • Dr Robert Davidson says:

      I think his rationale is pretty clearly explained and very justified. Stop attacking the bloke and engage with the ideas.

      • Prof. Dr. J. Borstlap BA, MA, PhD, ARG, BAH (Cantab) says:

        Engaging with ideas is only worthwhile if the ideas themselves are worthwhile.

        • Dr Robert Davidson says:

          It’s up to you to demonstrate your assertion that his ideas are not worthwhile – until then, we just dismiss what you say with “haters gonna hate” – you need some argument or evidence.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    I also don’t think that the issue – or problem – is ‘classical music’, per se. Instead, the main issue is teaching the vocabulary and grammar of music in general: melody (what makes one, and why it isn’t easy to do well); harmony; rhythms; functional harmony; song form; more ‘esoteric’ concepts such as balance, dynamics and intonation (irrelevant with push button technologies, but not with acoustical instruments), simple sight singing, etc.

    If students all well versed in the fundamentals of music – enough that they could go pick out tunes on a piano or guitar (or whatever) and give them a real basic harmonic accompaniment – then sure, let ’em take a Hip-Hop class if they like.

    Fundamentals first, electronics or other nonsense second. Again, just an opinion.

  • John Borstlap says:

    People being amazed about the increasing number of lethal shooting incidents in the US, should reflect upon the ‘cultural expressions’ which lower – for gullible youngsters – the treshold to use violence for real: violent video games, violent movies which are supposed to entertain but romanticise violent transgression, and hiphop and rap culture which appear to legitimize the worst excesses of primitive instincts.

    • Alvaro says:

      Yes Borstlap: It cannot possibly be that mass shootings are the product of the US having more guns than people. It is the music and the videogames….

      • John Borstlap says:

        Of course it’s both. If they had no guns, they would use kitchen utensils. The violent parts of the ‘culture’ are simply unlocking the instincts that are already there and give it some legitimization. That is not so difficult to see, it is connected.

  • Erwin says:

    When utter nitwit-amateur-musicians who know almost nothing about several centuries of Western classical music can somehow present themselves as influential academics and musical educators, you get these totally HEINOUS discussions.
    Look what a sublime, insightful video mr. Hein produced: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdOP7E8FFUs

    • Grüffalo says:

      That’s pretty insane. He really doesn’t know the fingering of a C major scale? Well that explains everything.

      Ethan, please just quit. Go do something else with your life. You are absolutely unsuited to a profession in music. All you’re doing is damaging an already vulnerable art form (classical music) with your stupidity and your resentment.

      • Adista says:

        “He really doesn’t know the fingering of a C major scale? Well that explains everything.”
        Saw that and thought the exact same thing.

      • Dr Robert Davidson says:

        Gruffalo, as a professional classical musician, I can see you’re full of it. Ethan is doing a great job, and those of us who actually know something about music and make our living from it can see right through you and see how great Ethan is.

        • Grüffalo says:

          I value the anonymity this platform offers, especially when discussing contentious and potentially career-ending issues such as this. However, to that I will just reply: “hah!”. I am a musician–in fact I’d almost have said “I do what you do”, but a quick google search informs me that I do it much better. Your music is anti-intellectual and amateurish in the extreme; it’s hardly surprising that you’d take this position.

          • Dr Robert Davidson says:

            No mate, you simply don’t get it – your insults only show further that you are in great need of education and serious dedication to music if you are to appreciate it.

          • Dr Robert Davidson says:

            Unless you were looking up one of the several other composers of my name. I make my living from composing, and it regularly receives great reviews from the toughest critics and is featured in the world’s leading festivals and venues, so not sure what you’re on about.

          • Dr Robert Davidson says:

            This is me. If you find my music inane, that’s your problem dude. Get a grip.

        • Grüffalo says:

          I do beg your pardon. Perhaps I jumped the gun! So you’re NOT the Dr. Robert Davidson at Queensland University? There I was about to lay some of the blame for the fact that all talented Australian composers have had to move abroad to get a quality education at your feet. I do apologise!

        • Grüffalo says:

          And I’m sorry for having missed you at Darmstadt, ISCM, Lucerne, Huddersfield and Donaueschingen. Unless you are that guy, in which case–of course you’re not programmed.

          • Dr Robert Davidson says:

            Yep, that’s me, teaching at UQ – your loss if you can’t cope with current music but are stuck in the 1950s. My students are doing great things. So yeah, reality check needed for you. Why do I suspect you’re Ian Shanahan?

    • boringfileclerk says:

      This makes perfect sense now. He went to the same fine arts conservatory as this famous painter. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvbL_5rH1QQ

  • George Anthill says:

    You can’t teach someone to be successful at popular music. At all. You can’t charge a kid $20000 in tuition and get the next Migos. You can teach someone how to play a violin concerto expertly. The point is that music exists in a culture. Music acedemias surfaced to fill a need: a style existed that prized careful reproduction, and a separation and communication between writer and performer. In the 19th century, if you wanted to be a folk musician, you didn’t enter the fucking Paris Conservartoire. You learned the tradition from someone who lived it. This idea is a sign of the times: that you can waste a bunch of money on college while some professor makes a living lying to you about what you can get out of your “education.” Do you want this guy teaching you about hip hop? Do you think loop-based music that is sampled requires study and multiple listens to comprehend? Throw tens of thousands of dollars at some upper middle class white failed trombone performance major who thinks he/she is above working at Starbucks to learn about hip hop. Just fucking listen to hip hop and write some rhymes.

    • Ethan Hein says:

      The argument is not that universities should be trying to create the next Migos. The argument is that music teachers should have at least some basic understanding of the creative processes of the most popular and influential music in the world.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    . . . sure, if you want to call the first half hour of day one of “Music Theory 1” sublime, be my guest. It’s a subjective opinion, so even just one note can be sublime (or even dead silence). However, a C-major scale and a few triads is hardly insightful, unless you’ve NEVER been exposed to any of that. ANY music theory teacher at any two or four year college will teach the same thing.

    If your point is that he can teach Music Theory 1, fine – he can teach Music Theory 1. It should be a requirement BEFORE his students take his Hip-hop class.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    Also, I’m tired of the over-use of this term, “irrelevancy”. If something isn’t terribly popular and is also financially challenged (what isn’t!), then it’s tossed to the scrap heap as being irrelevant. Classical and jazz – jazz is in the same exact position, by the way – will always appeal to only a small minority, but will never fully die because of the enthusiasm and/or dedication of those involved. In spite of the numbers, it would literally take outlawing classical or jazz to fully kill them off (then it would become popular, because it would be soooo ‘underground’).

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    I’m also having deep conversations with the Dean of Music at our local two-year (junior) college, in the hopes of establishing a curriculum for Easy Listening and Lounge. Emphasis will be placed on Montovani, Henry Mancini, Ferrante & Teicher, Korla Pandit, Liberace and Esquivel. We will study the lyrics of the Ray Conniff Singers, Squirrel Nut Zippers and Royal Crown Revue (which almost crosses into jazz!). The final exam will include multiple choice questions regarding The 101 Strings (with their almost crossovers into classical).

    Korla Pandit:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9ytSC8rz84

    Esquivel:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2NglD0H-cps&list=PLF08500874359A38B

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    I’m also having deep discussions with the Dean of Music at our local two-year (junior) college in the hopes of establishing a curriculum for Easy Listening and Lounge Music.
    Special emphasis will be placed on Montovani, Henry Mancini, Ferrante & Teicher, Korla Pandit, Liberace and Esquivel. We will examine the meaningful lyrics of the Ray Conniff Singers, Squirrel Nut Zippers and Royal Crown Revue (which almost crosses into jazz and rockabilly) The final exam will include multiple choice questions regarding The 101 Strings, both musically and biographically (they darn near cross into classical!).

    Korla Pandit:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9ytSC8rz84

    Esquivel:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2NglD0H-cps&list=PLF08500874359A38B

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    I don’t know how that got on there twice. My bad – it’s not THAT entertaining.

  • John Borstlap says:

    All that is completely self-defeating – it has nothing to do with classical music, and everything with the primitive jungle fever of ignorant, underdeveloepd people. Poor youngsters! They have no idea what they are doing or what they are missing, or how they are filling the ears and sould of listeners with filth.

  • Erwin says:

    “Everything of value is defenseless.” The great masterpieces of classical music used as commodities, to be raped and degraded by Mickey Mouse musicians. Another Heinous idea.

  • George says:

    The fundamental source of American pop music is White American mass-production and commercialization of African-American music, and it does African Americans an injustice to associate pop music entirely with them. The true product of Africans and African Americans is much more sophisticated than pop, which is fundamentally rooted in European harmony, instrumentation, and technology, and only represents a gross simplification of African music. African Americans only became associated with this music as a means of assimilation.

    Fundamentally, pop music is made entirely to be consumed by the masses, and the intellectual challenges of classical music runs contrary to the nature of pop, making attempts at musically interesting pop rather simplistic and gauche. Certainly, some of the creators are very talented poets, and the lyrics of a select few rap artists are ingenius, but this speaks nothing to the actual musical content, which is often a collection of cultural mannerisms which are objectively worthless. It is for that reason that pop “music”, and I stress the musical aspect, only has value as a cultural product but is completely worthless in and of itself. It is like money – only valuable in context. It is not intellectual property, but merely cultural property, and when taken out of its cultural context, it is meaningless, unlike intellectual property, which is absolute. In general, Pop has the appearance of having great meaning to its consumer because of its cultural association, however because of that, it is in reality a transient artistic product, not much more than a fad.

    Whereas Pop music exists only as a cultural product, Classical music exists as both a cultural and an individual one. It is an object with both intrinsic beauty and cultural implications – both to be heard and discussed. It is this intrinsic value – namely the unique intellectual persuit of the composer – that is absent from Pop music. It is likewise more rewarding than Pop music in that the musical content itself is stimulating rather than empty cultural baggage. Yes, Classical music has its own cultural baggage to be sure, and I believe such an association is a prerequisite for complex artistic creation. However the fundamental difference between Pop and Classical music is that the former is entirely reliant on this association, whereas the latter is dissociable from it and often violates it. Indeed, one often looks at the great composers in the context of how they subvert their cultural association in specific ways. One listens to haydn for instance not to hear the sonata-form, but to hear how he violates the sonata form. In Pop music, such intellectual subversiveness runs counter to its elements, and any sort of subversiveness, or perceived intellectual originality, is merely the result of manipulating very simple elements with cultural associations, often crossing one for the other. For instance, in Pop, a combination of the mannerisms (e.g. rhythm) of one culture with those of another, often passes for originality, despite being hardly a basis with enough intellectual stimulation to be of any worth as original music. In the Pop world, this might be considered a profound cultural statement of transcending barriers, however in Classical music, where quality and context are distinct from one another, such a “profound cultural statement” would pass for no more than the most trivial dated music.

    The question of white male supremacy comes up, and I am not afraid to assert that the only great composers were white males prior to the 20th century. (Certainly there were many more admirable musicians of other backgrounds, such as the mulatto Georges St. Chevalier, concertmaster of the Loges Olympiques, who led the premiere of Haydn’s Paris Symphonies, and of course the great pianist Clara Schumann, but I am loathe to consider either of them any more than compentent as composers.) Rhis might seem like a rash statement, but that is only if one misunderstands the implicit hypocract of white supremacy. Whites assert themselves as supreme only because they culturally oppress others into positions of inequality. I am not afraid to acknowledge the lack of great classical composers of other cultural backgrounds, however I also acknowledge that this is a sad symptom of cultural oppression. Those who commit themselves to performing works by composers only because they are minorities certainly have the best of intentions, but what they are doing is not only intellectually worthless, but a refusal to acknowledge cultural oppression. Pretending these composers were great is to imply that everything was okay when they lived, and it is only a result of our own cultural bias that we ignore them. That is most certainly not the case. Everything was not okay. These composers were victims of cultural oppression. While this should not cause us to relent our standards, we should use this as a learning experience to activate for future change – not by promoting cultural diversity, which is gratuitous and ostracizing, but by facilitating it.

    • John Borstlap says:

      That a culture in general has been oppressive vis-a-vis other cultures (always? everywhere?), does not mean that composers who happened to be born in that culture were / are responsible for the effects of political / cultural oppression elsewhere, they were just lucky that they had no such particular obstacles, and had to deal ‘only’ with their own obstacles and frustrations (as we know from the biographical material). Talking about ‘suppression’, many of the best composers ‘being lucky’ to grow-up in a ‘white suprematist environment’ had to cope with quite some oppression themsevles, so making such generalizing connections is intellecutally lazy and fake.

  • Cubs Fan says:

    “..the only great composers were white males prior to the 20th century.”

    Seriously? You believe that? You should be afraid to assert this, because it’s completely wrong. Just to name a few: Debussy, Ravel, Elgar, Shostakovich, Prokofieff, Rachmaninoff…white males all, but wrote music the equal of anything by the 19th c masters. It was different, to be sure. And audiences today enjoy their work far more than the likes of Schubert, Mendelssohn, Schumann, et. al. I would write more, but brevity is a virtue and one that some posters should try. Besides, I have a nice Canadian whiskey waiting for me with a GREAT Vaughan Williams symphony cued up in the cd player.

    • George says:

      Weren’t they all white males? I was not excluding white males from the 20th century. I was only saying hat the 20th century is more diversified.

    • George says:

      And, it makes no difference which composers audiences like more. Besides, as far as I can tell, most people want to hear Brahms over Schoenberg.

  • Ethan Hein says:

    The threading on this forum is confusing, so I’ll respond to a comment by Alvaro here:

    My paper isn’t about music degree programs generally, it’s about the way that we teach future music educators. Here in the US, as in the UK, national arts standards have called for more creativity and multiculturalism in elementary and high school music for many years now. However, music teachers are not learning how to do anything except perform in large classical ensembles or marching bands. So even when a progressive-minded music teacher wants to do songwriting or production or whatever, they themselves have no idea how to approach it. Organizations like Little Kids Rock and Musical Futures do pop-oriented professional development, but you can’t exactly pick this stuff up in a two day workshop, you have to actually practice it.

    In most schools, the choice isn’t between kids participating in different kinds of music; it’s between their participating in band/choir/orchestra or nothing. The overwhelming majority choose nothing. Some kids (like me) find their way into making music that’s meaningful to them through self-teaching, but few are as obsessed or as privileged as I was. I would prefer to offer classical music as one specialty among many, not as the baseline music experience for everyone. Otherwise we’re going to continue to inadvertently convince huge numbers of kids that they aren’t musical at all.

    The idea that “musicology” and “ethnomusicology” are separate entities is an atavistic holdover from imperialism. Western classical music is as “ethnic” as every other kind of music. It doesn’t diminish the value of Bach to look at his cultural context. The idea that the musics studied by ethnomusicologists are “empirical rather than intellectual” is racist and untrue.

    You may be surprised to learn that rap is produced by people of every socioeconomic and cultural walk of life. Kanye West was raised in a middle class household by a college professor and wore literal khakis (and polo shirts.) But let’s just bracket the ignorant equation of hip-hop with drugs and violence, and say that people can only learn a music in the setting in which it originated. Should students learning Baroque music not be allowed to use electric lighting or indoor plumbing? Why don’t we make composition students cut their own quill pens and make their own ink?

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Ethan writes: “Will people still be listening to it hundreds of years from now? I don’t know, and I also don’t much care. I’m concerned about the kids in my classrooms now, and next year, and the year after that.”

      I think this is the nub of the argument. I believe studying “classical music” is interesting, not because it is better (whatever “better” means) but because it has had a substantial audience for a long, long time. It has “stood the test of time”. Jazz and some other popular musical styles have also “stood the test of time” (for example, we all know the music of the Beatles). Other once popular styles, like calypso (a “black” musical style), simply didn’t survive.

      Can we really be certain that a contemporary musical style, even if currently very popular, will still be performed and enjoyed by a mass audience next year or the year after, or in 10 years time? And do we know which examples of the musical style will be considered salient to the culture at some future date? (Cilla Black outsold the Beatles in the late 1960s, but most would consider the Beatles’ music to be more important or “better”, and it is the music which is still listened to).

      If we educate a music teacher, as you advocate, in something here and now, will this knowledge be redundant within their working lives (e.g. up to forty years later)? Is it not better to educate them in something we can be reasonably certain will still have an audience at the end of their working lives? This reasonable certainty can only arise from pieces that have maintained an audience and performance tradition over a substantial period of time.

  • Dr Robert Davidson says:

    Mate some of these comments remind me so much of how jazz was denigrated in the 1920s. Time for a lot of the commenters here to get a bit of a grip.

    • Erwin says:

      Jazz was denigrated in the 1920s?
      Jazz influenced a great deal of well-known classical composers in the 1920s, among them Antheil, Copeland, Gershwin, Honegger, Krenek, Martinu, Milhaud, Prokofiev, Ravel, Shostakovich, Stravinsky.
      The greatest names in Jazz started out with a classical education – that’s because good jazz musicians are also great instrumentalists.
      How does that in any way compare with hip hop and rap? The most famous names in the genre often lack any form of musical sophistication and musical education. The focus is not on playing an instrument, but centered around rhythmic chanting and DJs. It is popular worldwide and hiphop has a certain social & cultural impact for sure – and in some cases the lyrics have artistic value – but to take it seriously as a musical artform? As a whole, it’s too primitive and one-dimensional for that. It’s nonsensical to compare it with “classical music”, a term that actually includes many centuries of sophisticated art music, both religious and secular.

      • Ethan Hein says:

        Jazz was savagely denounced by the vast majority of white critics and educators in the 1920s. A respected music education journal called The Etude devoted an entire issue to “The Jazz Problem.” http://www.thepublicdomain.org/2009/08/09/the-jazz-problem/ Jazz was popular, and somewhat imitated by “legitimate” composers, but it was at best a guilty pleasure. Even when musicians and critics started to praise it as an art form, they did so in stunningly racist and condescending language. For example, read early criticism of Duke Ellington. http://www.ethanhein.com/wp/2017/duke-ellington-percy-grainger-and-the-status-of-jazz-in-the-academy/ The parallels between the official consensus on jazz in the 1920s and hip-hop now are painfully obvious.

        • Erwin says:

          Of course there was bias and prejudice as racism was widespread, much more than it is now. Main thing here is that Jazz was universally adopted by the greatest musical minds of the 20th Century because it had huge musical potential and musical value. The same can not be said of hip-hop/rap.

          • Ethan Hein says:

            Jazz was most certainly not “universally” adopted by anyone. It’s true that the really hip composers adopted it earlier, but to this day there are large numbers of composers who have not yet absorbed it – for evidence, look at how rare it is for a music school graduate to have ever tried improvising or playing the blues. The 1920s equivalent of the Slipped Disc readership denounced jazz in the strongest possible terms. I’m sure it’s comforting to imagine yourself having been able to buck the critical consensus of the 1920s and recognizing the musical potential of jazz, but seriously, go read that Etude issue on the Jazz Problem. If you did a find-and-replace and swapped the word “jazz” for “rap” it would read remarkably like Borstlap’s comments on this thread.

      • Dr Robert Davidson says:

        Spend some real effort on hip hop (including trying to make it), and you’ll very quickly be disabused of the mistaken notion that it’s primitive and unsophisticated musically.

        • Erwin says:

          As a professional musician I trust my ears and judgement. On the contrary it is YOU who should be able to convince ME that hip-hop is to be taken seriously as a sophisticated, advanced musical art form. So far none of your writings – or that of Ethan Hein – gave me compelling arguments.

          • Dr Robert Davidson says:

            The best route is not to read about it (and I haven’t written on the topic, so I’m not sure to which writing of mine you’re referring), but to try making some, and to actually listen with close attention. But there are many scholarly writings on hip hop, and it’s up to you to do the work if you are going to slag off at Pulitzer-winning music.

          • Ethan Hein says:

            If you are unwilling to entertain the idea that hip-hop has musical value, then nothing I can write will convince you. Let me pose this idea instead: either the millions of hip-hop fans around the world are all deluded or mistaken, or there is something in the music that you are not hearing. If you approach the music with a genuine interest in learning why it is the most popular genre in the world, you will have no trouble hearing it. You are certainly free to disdain it, of course, but that seems like a lonely position to choose, and it means depriving yourself of a major locus of musical creativity.

  • Felonious Montgomery says:

    Millions of people (over sixty million to be exact) follow Kim Kardashian on Twitter so I suggest that her opinions, thoughts and tweets have value, just like hip hop. If you disdain her, you are depriving yourself of a major locus of cultural and political brilliance and you’re just not seeing the brilliance that sixty million people crave. They are certainly not mistaken or deluded because…it’s Kim Kardashian.

  • Felonious Bunk says:

    If you are unwilling to entertain the idea that Kim Kardashian has cultural value, then nothing I can write will convince you. Let me pose this idea instead: either the millions and millions of Kim Kardashian fans around the world (including OVER SIXTY MILLION followers on Twitter) are all deluded or mistaken, or there is something in the way she moves that you are not seeing. If you approach the woman with a genuine interest in learning why she is one of the the most popular and interesting women in the world, you will have no trouble understanding why. You are certainly free to disdain her, of course, but that seems like a lonely position to choose, and it means you’re a misogynist depriving yourself of a major locus of social, political and entertainment creativity.

  • Erwin says:

    Yes, Pepsi-Cola and Champagne are both drinks and they both sparkle. Who gives a d*mn about the millions of hip-hop fans? There are also millions of people who DON’T like it. You are confusing quality with quantity.
    There’s something lazy, even cowardous in the reasoning of Ethan Hein and his “mate” Robert Davidson.
    Instead of taking up the challenge to try to objectively give criteria as to why for them hip-hop/rap music is sophisticated serious art-music that ought to be taught at Conservatoires, they hide about all sorts of smoke-screens: “Don’t write about it, just experience it, just listen.” “Millions enjoy it, it even won a prize so it must be great.” “It’s your loss if you don’t enjoy”. “It’s all a question of discrimination and racism, of white supremacy, just like with Jazz in the 1920.”
    Well, unlike Jazz, in 99% of the cases hip-hop/rap has no melodic or harmonic inventiveness/sophistication to offer. No great instrumentalism. Hardly any vocal quality. It’s just boring monotonous chanting plus artificially created beat/rhythm, it’s vulgar, simplistic, predictable, one-dimensional, intellectually not challenging. As music it has no deeper meaning, it’s just entertainment, it only gets more meaningful when it fuses with older existing genres, or when you see it in the whole social and cultural context of the genre, combined with visuals and lyrics.
    But one of the characteristics of art music is that is has great value and a timeless quality PURELY as music.

    • Erwin says:

      hide *behind*

      • Dr Robert Davidson says:

        Stop your whingeing and accusing mate and go and actually get off your arse and read some of the scholarly literature and stop pretending that those of us who work for a living are “smokescreening”. “Boring monotonous chanting” – yeah right. You are not convincing sorry dude, any more than those who say Mozart is boring. The lack is in your knowledge, not in the music.

    • Andrew Balio says:

      During a university student’s precious, limited, not to mention expensive formative years of study, a tremendous luxury, really, it is hoped that they would be able to take the time to absorb with at least a bit more depth, the greatest ideas, literature, art, music and discoveries of mankind, not to mention retaining a detailed timeline of history. With this inheritance, they can go off and specialize in a vocation as a thoroughly enriched and informed citizen, possibly as a Hip Hop promoter, if that’s their calling. As a priority in higher learning, Hip Hop simply doesn’t make the cut except as a detail in the story of what went wrong in the XX Century. Wishing it to be so doesn’t make it.
      I know, not a popular viewpoint, but time will tell. At this point, I am trying to imagine sociologists in 2000 years weighing Hip Hop against Motown as either an evolution or devolution.

      • Ethan Hein says:

        Even a cursory glance at the paper shows that I am not arguing in favor of dropping all study of the Western canon. I am arguing that the current band/choir/orchestra model of school music fails the large majority of students, and that music educators’ ignorance of the music that is meaningful to students is driving that failure. I am arguing that it is irresponsible to fail to prepare music teachers to be able to engage in the culture they and their students are a part of. Teachers do not need to study rap exclusively, but they do need to have at least some knowledge of it. Our present system is like preparing people to teach in India who are ignorant of Bollywood, or preparing them to teach in Puerto Rico without having them learn anything about salsa or merengue.

        • Erwin says:

          Music is not about culture – it’s about music.
          What is meaningful for kids is to be able to grasp the basics of great music. To learn to play an instrument.To be able to sing a beautiful melody. To understand the basics of harmony and rhythm. To learn reading notes and play all sort of scales with the right fingering (!!!) and apply them. To grasp the musical form and pattern of a piece of music. To analyse what makes a masterpiece a masterpiece. To understand how classical music, jazz and pop evolved and what are their basic characterics.
          THAT’s what stimultate their creativity – not putting some beat or sound effect under an already existing song, or turning classical pieces into midi-files.
          Though it’s popular at the moment, the *purely musical* value of hip-hop/rap is extremely limited. I think most music educator realize that.

          • Dr Robert Davidson says:

            Nope – I spend every day with fellow music educators at primary, secondary, tertiary and doctoral levels, and it’s widespread to be very aware and appreciative of the hugely sophisticated purely musical attributes of hip-hop, regardless of whether you have yet made the effort to understand. Those of us who make a living in understanding music have not had trouble seeing through the nonsense assertion that hip-hop is limited in musical interest. Philistinism is so boring.

            And it’s of course complete nonsense to argue that music is separate from culture. You will never understand Beethoven even slightly if you don’t understand the French revolution.

          • John Borstlap says:

            With all due respect, but this Davidson academic (if he is a real academic at all) is not a serious academic, but apparently someone with severe problems in both the cultural and psychological realm. I pity the youngsters on which this man is let loose. It is pointless to argue with such people because they do not have any aesthetic or cultural awareness.

          • Dr Robert Davidson says:

            Utter nonsense, John. I’m a very real academic, with a great deal of success in my graduates who are very grateful for what they’ve learned. Stop pretending – you’re not fooling anyone. As for your insults, I treat them with the contempt they deserve. If you are committed to the philistine position of dismissing hip hop, that’s your issue. I would prefer to be scholarly and intellectual, and I recommend such a course to you.

  • Erwin says:

    Is this the level of University lecturers and academics anno 2018? Quite shocking.

  • Erwin says:

    “Nope – I spend every day with fellow music educators at primary, secondary, tertiary and doctoral levels, and it’s widespread to be very aware and appreciative of the hugely sophisticated purely musical attributes of hip-hop, regardless of whether you have yet made the effort to understand. Those of us who make a living in understanding music have not had trouble seeing through the nonsense assertion that hip-hop is limited in musical interest. Philistinism is so boring.”

    You’re still avoiding the main issue here: WHY, according to you and some of your fellow music educators, it is musically sophisticated and complex, according to what definition it is serious art music, and worthy to be taught at conservatories.

    “And it’s of course complete nonsense to argue that music is separate from culture. You will never understand Beethoven even slightly if you don’t understand the French revolution.”

    What a ridiculous view. Music is always the product of its time but at the same the greatest music has a timeless quality. I can understand a Sonata of Beethoven perfectly by analysing its style, form and musical language, without knowing all the details of the political situation at the time it was composed. It is far more important to know about the personal life & background of the composer, and what were his aesthetics, philosophy and his musical influences. Also what instruments he used at the time.

    • Dr Robert Davidson says:

      Ok, I’m done with you and your baseless, base insults and philistine closed-mindedness. If you want to discuss seriously, go and read some material and inform yourself. Until then, you’ve lost me.

      • Erwin says:

        And I feel sorry for your students, Dr. Robert Davidson – except arrogance and conceitedness you have absolutely nothing to offer here.

        • Dr Robert Davidson says:

          Again, you embrace philistinism and ignorance. Instead of feeling sorry, and going into complete fantasy, you would do better to actually use your brain and ears, replacing anti-intellectual ranting with actual learning.

          • Erwinius says:

            Oh now you haf convinced me, Herr Doctor…I vill velcome your sophistication und intellectualism, I vill use my brain, und vrom now on, I will embrace…..hiphop, jaja! Und all my students vill do ze same!

  • Dr. James Gordon Melarkee says:

    I think the perfesser is mistaken. To me hip hop seems to be simply a technology fad where so few create anything musically original as most “songs” seem to be based on easily stolen and repurposed (“sampled”) melodies and low-brow rhyming lyrics. If by teaching hip-hop the perfesser means having students steal five bars of music from an existing song they like and using technology to add in a few vinyl-rub sounds to “make it your own” then – don’t signed me up

    No one is talking about hip hop lyrics. Boiled down, Hip hop lyrics frankly seem to comprise things Donald Trump could chant and could not chant. Could: “I fuck all the girls and I make ’em cry. I’m like a dog in heat, a freak without warnin’. I have an appetite for sex, ’cause me so horny.” (2LC)

    Lyrics Donald Trump couldn’t chant: “A fuck is a fuck, NIGGA! Yo, Marquis, kick that shit!“ (2LC)

    Finally, the perfesser tells not overlook hip hops popularity and urges us to substitute the word hip hop in early 20th century jazz reviews to understand how some are making the same mistake people made back in the day when evaluating jazz. I’d suggest rereading his writings and substituting “hip-hop” with “pornography”. I mean, it’s at least as popular as hip hop.

    (And yes, you’ll Tell me I picked the wrong hip hop lyrics/artists to make my point. With that line of reasoning, you’ll also have to tell me there are good pornographers and bad pornographers – it’s still porn, just like it’s all hip hop.)

    • Erwin says:

      Oh, Dr. Melarkee, you’re such an ignorant philistine, you miss any sophistication! Obvious you haven’t studied hiphop seriously!

      (Btw how could this comment be published with all the foul language that it contains?)

  • Ethan Hein says:

    Here’s a rap song about mitosis. https://www.facebook.com/MusicLifeUK/videos/941750182656209/UzpfSTEwMjAzMTM4OTk6MTAyMTM5MjQwODY1NDkxOTg/

    Here’s one about the importance of eating fresh fruits and vegetables. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTAhSJt_8x8

    Here’s one comprised entirely from Donald Trump sniffing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-w9c6zYLS0

  • Dr. James Gordon Melarkee says:

    Welp. After checking out the titles you directed us to, I was curious and created a hip-hop station on Pandora (I know right) and listened to some rap songs (do hip hoppers call them songs?)

    I gotta say I am swayed. The first piece I heard was a delightful and heartwarming rap song about a man who had a very kind, helpful and empathetic friend named Dick who was always popping up to remind the singer “what time it was”. It seemed that sometimes Dick could arise at the most inopportune times (for the mostly women nearby) but the rapper always paid attention to Dick and, in the end, seemed to be very satisfied that Dick came.

  • Shepler Sudha says:

    Nicki Minaj and Cardi B were involved in an altercation Friday night. Please do not let that affect your assessment of hip-hop, its artists, followers and advocates.

    They were just doing what comes naturally.

  • paul uriaz says:

    let us all return to cave drawings and or crayons to compose with, what poses as innovation in hip hop is ” a knee jerk ” style of juvenile musical semantics, that is adopted by a youth culture that cant think for itself, let alone realize that they are being made a fool of, one dollar at a time, …,

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