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Re: [xmca] Vygotsky, Suzuki, and Carl Orff
First of all, I agree completely that we need to look at the Kodaly method. From what I've heard of it, it is even more promising than Carl Orff. The Orff method is what I would call an activity oriented method (for example, the children are taught to think of the body as an instrument). Kodaly, from what little I know of it, is much closer to LSV than to ANL. Kodaly, for example, favors a Davydov style concept-based curriculum.
I was thinking about this the other day, because we have the constant problem here in Korea of introducing English words for Korean concepts and having the child simply relabel a Korean concept with an English sound. For example, in Korean "feeling" is really a NOUN and not a PROCESS, so Korean English speakers tend to say "How's your feeling" instead of "How do you feel?" In this instance, the child has a strong tendency to simply forget the English concept and even the English word.
What is interesting is that when we proceed the OTHER WAY, by introducing a concept in English BEFORE the child has it in Korean, the child has no obvious difficulty with the Korean form, either in understanding or in forgetting. My feeling is that this is not only the way that immersion works, but also the way that good science teaching works.
A lot of our science teaching involves relabelling everyday concepts (e.g. "smoke", "man/woman", "north/south pole") with science words (e.g. "greenhouse gases", "male/female", "latitude/longitude"). The kids inevitably exert pressure on the classroom discourse in the direction of everyday concepts, and sometimes leave the classroom with the false notion that "greenhouse gas" is just another word for "smoke", a "male" is another word for "man" and "longitude" is a fancy word for North Pole.
So what happens when we proceed the other way around? We start with the science concept and we relabel it with an everyday word. For example, we have this game of Rock Paper Scissors called "Rabbit, Grass, Soil". The rabbit eats the grass and wins. The grass "eats" the soil and wins. And then the soil "eats" the dead body and dung of the rabbit and wins.
Now, as the game progresses, the pressure of the science concept (roughly, "absorb") on the everyday term ("eats") gets progressively greater, and eventually the child feels the need for a scientific term:
The rabbit's body absorbs the grass.
The grass absorbs (nutrients) from the soil.
The soil absorbs (nutrients) from the rabbit.
Now, it seems to me that the Kodaly method is a LOT closer to what we are doing with this game than either Orff or Suzuki. With Kodaly the child starts out with musical CONCEPTS and then only later learns the notation; the word is ready when the concept is rather than the other way around.
Now, be patient with me--I have a big mouth, and I am not infrequently (in the context of this list) first with the wrong answer. It's always best to take what I say with a block, even a mine, of salt. I think of Suzuki as a methodologist, not a theoretician. That means he created practical ways of teaching, and did not actually have his own theory of what music is and what learning music constitutes. So I think to understand his view on what music is and what learning and teaching music are made of, we need to look at the method.
We find a method that is widely known, even within the music teaching profession, as the "Mommy Method", because it demands constant participation from doting parents (for example, they have to be present during lessons, and they are supposed to sit and listen while the child practices). This is completely consistent with his language acquisition model, of course. But it's quite a contrast to Vygotsky, who in his later work (including Chapter Six of Thinking and Speech, and the work which became Chapter Eight of Mind in Society) is arguing for a more social and less domestic approach, more conscious and volitional and less spontaneous and involuntary, even in preschools.
I'm afraid I don't have ANY quotations from Suzuki himself, and my own research on music education is years old. Even then most of what I know is from teacher trainers (ugh) who had an interest in "gifted" children (double ugh). Now, in this literature, Suzuki shines! He has a real and strong belief that differential "inherent musicality" is a myth, and that all children are equally musical. The empirical work I've seen on this (including work by talent scouts for, e.g., the Berklee school of music) supports this: so-called "inherent musicality" just consists of the ability to sit and practice for very long periods of time when other children are out playing baseball.
Obviously, this is not necessarily inherent; one can think of any number of reasons for doing it that are no more intrinsic to the child than a love or hate for baseball. And of course the reasons why a child keeps doing it may have nothing to do with his or her reasons for starting to do it. I think the problem with Suzuki's insistence on parental and teacher involvement is that it tends to the very personal and it can be (at least here in Korea) intensely competitive, atomizing children in families rather than associating them to communities of musical practice, and this can present a barrier to development somehwere in the transition from other mediation to self mediation.
Two anecdotes spring to mind. The first is from a fourteen year old girl who won a national Chopin competition by practicing the same set of etudes for four years. When asked (very perceptively) how she managed to do this without becoming obviously BORED with the piece, she gave a beautiful potted history of growing up in America in the 21st century. She first imagined the right hand as Tom the cat and the left hand as Jerry the mouse, and when that grew stale she synthesized left and right hand into a kind of composite Yu-ki-o/Pokemon character, etc. Finally, she began to think about Chopin himself, and now she really thinks about nothing but timeless placeless faceless form. From this we can imagine that self-mediation is no less dialogic and no less dynamic (and no less real crisis prone) than more social forms of play.
The second is an interview with Leonard Bernstein's father. The interviewer, steeped in the belief that genius is somehow intrinsic, inherent, inborn with certain people, asked in an incredulous tone of voice if it was really true that he had forbidden little Lenny to practice the piano all day and ordered him to go out and play baseball like a normal kid. Yeah, the old man shrugged; he didn't remember too clearly, but if Lenny said that, it was probably true. "Why on earth?", the interviewer demanded--now quite unable to keep the tone of reproach out of his voice. "Look, buddy," the old man said. "How was I supposed to know he was gonna grow up to be Leonard Bernstein?"
Seoul National University of Education
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