“We need to produce situations in which children learn by themselves, in which children can take advantage of their own knowledge and resources autonomously, and in which we guarantee the intervention of the adult as little as possible.”
From the moment a conductor steps onto the stage and his lead player stands up, they have a vision about what the pieces being performed that night will sound like. The conductor raises their baton and the players respond. And while there is a relationship formed on the stage through performance — one might even say a mutual push and pull, co-creating relationship — the role of the conductor is definitely as the head of their orchestra.
But what of Malaguzzi’s call to let children be the authors and use their own knowledge and resources autonomously? How do I integrate that philosophy into a skill-based field (music) which is so based on the idea of the master musician and his apprentice (the learner).
The master-instrumentalist and his apprentice is a key theme running throughout music. The generations of music learning from one another: Louis Armstrong passing the baton to Miles Davis. Miles Davis passing the baton (or, actually, not wanting to pass it) to Wynton Marsalis. And all of these musicians in turn learning from master musicians one-on-one.
This is a community of learning, but (especially in more classical music like choir or the orchestra), the sense is always that there is a master and an apprentice.
As such, there IS an objective truth, one Parker Palmer is reluctant to acknowledge when he talks about the “myth” of the objective truth. There is only one “correct” way to play a trombone… other ways do not produce a good sound. There may be many things you can do with that trombone after you’ve learned the skill, from using your skills on the brass instrument to modify conch shells (a la Steve Turre) to extending the instrument to a modern computer-based loop vehicle like Christopher Bill — but all these people
were taught how to play the instrument in an objective fashion by a “master player” at some point. I’m not sure what the use of trying it a different way is.
Certainly there are some aspects of music that MUST be taught outside this model, that are by nature democratic. Improvisation is a good example. But there are also many aspects of music that don’t lend themselves to this, such as singing together as a choir or the vision of how a piece should sound.