AN UNCOMMON THOUGHT

"The real trick to life is not to be in the know, but to be in the mystery."
-Fred Alan Wolf

13 July 2017

Judgment.


The addictive ear, dulled by repetition, is shut tight as a clam around its pointless treasures. But you can pry it open with musical instruments. Put a young person in a position to make music and not just to hear it and immediately the ear begins to recover from its lethargy. By teaching children to play musical instruments, we acquaint them with the roots of music in human life.

The next step is to introduce the idea of judgment. The belief that there is a difference between good and bad, meaningful and meaningless, profound and vapid, exciting and banal - this belief was once fundamental to musical education. But it offends against political correctness. Today there is only my taste and yours. The suggestion that my taste is better than yours is elitist, an offence against equality. But unless we teach children to judge, to discriminate, to recognise the difference between music of lasting value and mere ephemera, we give up on the task of education. Judgment is the precondition of true enjoyment, and the prelude to understanding art in all its forms.

The good news is that, in their hearts, people are aware of this. All who have had the experience of teaching music appreciation know it to be so. The first step is to introduce the precious commodity of silence, so that your students are listening with open ears to the cosmos, and are beginning to forget their addictive pleasures. Then you play to them the things that you love. They will be bewildered at first. After all, how can this old geezer sit still for 50 minutes listening to something that hasn't got a beat or a tune?

Roger Scruton

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