Friday, January 25, 2008
The Consolation of Music
My semester begins next week, and I'll be teaching my writing class for music majors again, as well Introduction to Music, a 101-level class. My department offers twenty sections of Music 101, all of them taught by adjuncts; teaching 101 is a necessary rite of passage for anyone aspiring to the tenure track. As I prepare my syllabus, however, I feel daunted and overwhelmed. I've never taught a survey course to non-majors, and I wonder if I'll ever be able to find the right language to introduce Western classical music to students for whom it will be completely new. How do I explain to them how important the standard repertoire is to the soul and conscience of late-modern humanity, as I believe it is? How does one "eff" the ineffable? Those of us who work in and with music are, I think, incredibly fortunate: we hold a small but powerfully-honed tool that is capable of extending the consolation of beauty into an often bleak world. I hope with all my heart that, in some tiny way, I will be able to do this for my students this semester. I'll certainly be calling on all the musical saints for help.