Thursday, November 12, 2009

Teaching at the Speed of the Internet

I'm always trying to make music history come alive for my students, so when a colleague mentioned that she wanted to get some pianos tuned in historical temperaments for her advanced ear training class, I jumped at the chance to have my early music history students experience the temperaments for themselves. Our piano technician tuned three harpsichords for us, one in just intonation, one in meantone, and one in Kirnberger well temperament. He then took the time to explain to the students why these various temperaments existed and the types of music written for them (if you'd like to know more details, let me know in the comments). Once he was finished demonstrating, he invited the students to come and try out the harpsichords. One student came down and tried a bit of Scarlatti, another played a little Bach. Then, one of my jazz studies majors, decided to try a little improv on the Kirnberger and modulated all over the place. Now, all of these temperaments have keys that aren't fully in tune, though the well tempering does make all keys usable; just some are more usable than others. When he modulated, he was able to find all the bad keys and the result was amazing.

After the demonstration, we headed back up to the classroom and discussed the various instrumental genres that wrote in those temperaments. When I got back to my office after class, a student had e-mailed me the following video:

That's right, a friend of his videoed my jazz student and then posted it to youtube while we were walking back up to the classroom. My classroom is instantly expanded where the students can now go back and hear the temperaments whenever they want. Technology is truly changing teaching.

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