Tag Archives: english

she sighed, she cried, she damn near died.

for those of you who don’t know, Benjamin Britten is kind of my thing. i really discovered Britten when i was, of all things, writing a paper on Ligeti. i was writing an analytical paper on Ligeti’s Horn Trio and i took out a random assortment of horn chamber music from the library. That included, among the Ligeti, the Brahms Horn Trio and Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings. i figured, why not listen to the piece? two things happened as a result: i fell in love with Ian Bostridge and Benjamin Britten. so i got recordings of everything i could get my hands on, starting with anything Bostridge sang of Britten’s. as i did this, i started to read about Britten’s life and i was totally transfixed. something about his work, his life resonated with me. i was totally hooked. i bought my first biography from the Juilliard bookstore for $5 and read it in a day.

the deal was sealed.

so here i am, 3 1/2 years later, writing my master’s thesis on the role of gender in Britten’s chamber operas, specifically The Turn of the Screw and The Rape of Lucretia. i’ve been to Aldeburgh and to my Mecca — the Red House. i’m in touch with the librarian at the Britten-Pears Foundation and, well, the honeymoon is still going strong.

so happy birthday Edward Benjamin Britten. your mother called you “the fourth B” but to my friends and i, you’re just benny b.

a few things to leave you with on this day:

the sign for the new Young Britten exhibition at the Red House (August 2009)

me at Britten's grave (which is right beside Peter Pears)

and of course…

Peter Pears singing “O Waly, Waly” with Britten accompanying (if you like this, check out the Decca DVD of their perfomances of the Folksongs and Schubert’s Winterreise)

*to see more pictures from my trip to the Suffolk coast check out my flickr and facebook albums

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Der Fall Englisch (The Case of English)

the english language is a curse.

at least in my line of work. but this isn’t about the need to be multilinugal for scholarship’s sake. this is grounded a little more in reality (and practicality). when i became a graduate assistant, my first class was graduate history review. it was exactly like it sounds: if you did not score well enough on your master’s history entrance exam, you were placed in this class before you were allowed to take any musicology seminars. my class was moderately sized, about 35 people, and the majority of them were non-english speakers. well teaching worked pretty well and so did answering their questions. then one day, one of my students wanted to do a one on one midterm review session. “great!”, i thought. the opportunity to really help someone. but as soon as we sat down, i realized this would be a challenge. yes, the student did not have the greatest grasp on english but that wasn’t the main problem. the problem was with me. i had to explain pythagoras, music of the spheres, and the Latin Mass. i realized this was all way out of my purview. how do i break it down? how do i make it accessible? at that point i had no idea and i felt like a failure. i felt like i had let someone down who came to me for help.

fast forward a year. a few days ago, one of my students sent me her discussion posting to look over and give comments. she’s been doing this for a while now with marked success. i’ve tried to make my comments reflect her content and not her writing ability because i’ve never felt like that’s been my place. as long as she understands the concepts, right? well not only was this recent discussion posting been riddled with grammatical mistakes but content mistakes as well. i got a little frustrated, moved past it and responded to her email. was i helping her? or was i, again, at a loss in how to do so?

in my community involvement class, this discussion arose; what happens when a large part of your community doesn’t communicate in quite the same way? as much as we’d like to believe, music is not a universal language, especially where history is concerned. how do we, as teachers, communicate the more complex (and less musical) ideas?

this is not a referendum on english in america, in conservatories or anywhere else. my main concern is reaching everyone as best as possible. that may not be possible. sometimes, you have students who are just not all there (no matter what language they speak), sometimes, you have students who try their best and still fail. maybe this falls into one of those subcategories that has to be dealt with on a case by case basis.

or maybe this bothers me too much, who knows.

all i know is, i’ve yet to find an answer that satisfies, well, anything. and maybe that’s another part of my journey that i will come to understand more in time.

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