I think it’s official: I am being haunted by Frances Clark, just in time for Halloween. Anyone who has visited the New School for Music Study might believe it’s the perfect place for a haunting. This building dates from the 1700’s, Frances Clark spent hours and hours here, and some report… incidents. Let’s just leave it at that.
My haunting is probably not the traditional kind, if such a thing can be traditional. I am haunted by her words, as I focus on a different quote each week. Yesterday, I was in the middle of a lesson, listening to measures 17 – 32 of the second movement of Lynes’ Sonatina, Op. 39, No. 1. This passage calls for dynamic contrast between p and mf. The moods of these dynamics are not dramatically different. How would I help this student with dynamic contrast? She is one who tends to memorize instantly, and ingrain habits. The quote of the week was on my mind:
“The art of teaching: Creating an environment in which a student wants nothing more than to learn, and having the right materials for the situation.”
– Frances Clark
Saying “I’d like you to listen for the differences between p and mf” wouldn’t quite do the job. Instantly, I knew to try something different and to ask some questions:
“We have two characters here. Who are they, male or female?” I learned that both characters were female.
“What is this character wearing?” was met with:
“How should I know?” and a little laugh. But I got an answer: “She’s wearing a ballerina outfit.”
We learned that the p was a girl, and the mf was a woman. A ballet dancer, and a ballroom dancer. This interaction better fit the criteria set forth by the quote, and helped the student to begin to make differences between these to subtly different characters.
The reader might believe that this is a happy haunting, inspiring me to do better. But this quote is not a happy little suggestion, it’s a call to action. And the interaction that I described doesn’t begin to do it justice.
The next post will invite reader participation. Are you ready to be “haunted,” too?