The Harmonic Language of Ringtones

I’ve always been a Nokia phone user until now, the arrival of my new generation iPhone, and checking out the new ringtones in such close proximity to writing my Scales as Propaganda blog entry made me listen to my options with slightly different ears.  Each phone I’ve upgraded to has had improvements in the quality of sound used for the ringtone, but each new upgraded phone has also had a completely new suite of tiny compositions competing for my approval. How do these micro-musics reflect the pitch patterns of our day?  A quick analysis of my new iPhone options: To start with let’s subtract from the 25 standard ringtones the non-pitched or single-pitched options:  ‘Bark’, ‘Boing’, ‘Crickets’, ‘Duck’, ‘Motorcycle’, ‘Old Car Horn’, ‘Pinball’, ‘Robot’, and arguably ‘Digital’ which is pitched, but basically just use old-fashioned fax or dialup-style harmonics, ‘Alarm’ which is also a harmonic-derived sound which really only signifies ‘alarm’ in any sonic sense, ‘Timba’ which is a drumming

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Unconvincing arguments for music education

In the debates over the place of music in education a range of arguments are put forward as to why music education should be a mandatory component of every child’s schooling.  Most of these arguments are unpersuasive, as it turns out;  the proof of this bold assertion is in the fact that most children’s music education is cursory, peripheral, or non-existent in all but the very best-resourced schools. The first argument that really underpins most pleas for music education for all children is that music is good.  Not that it is good for you (that would be a utilitarian argument) but rather that it is good in and of itself, and by virtue of this all children should be educated in music.  [This is the educational equivalent of believing that music is not about anything, that it is about itself, or that it about nothing, and this was certainly the dominant view in academia for much of the second half

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Is music really all that important?

Back in 2004 the Australian federal government announced that it would fund a comprehensive survey of music education with a view to making recommendations for changes to benefit school children across the country. Unsurprisingly (to me, and I’m sure many other musician-educators) this comprehensive survey found that primary school children receive not too much music education throughout primary school, primary school teachers do not receive adequate training in music education, and specialist music teachers are no longer being recruited to primary schools.  Most schools have paltry resources with which to provide music education, and most children do not have access to instrumental tuition.  There are exceptions: Queensland has operated a strong instrumental tuition program in primary schools for years, some private schools are as well resourced as universities (possibly better than some). So now we know the facts. Should the elimination of music in a child’s primary education be a cause for concern?  On Monday Dick Letts, the head of

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Educational Piano Music

There’s so much of it in print, so little of it that you want to use. In this blog I’m planning to work my way through the contemporary (meaning somewhat recent, or at least, still in copyright) piano music I love and use, as well as reviewing new publications I am looking at in my quest for great new material. The shame of it seems to be that for many piano teachers Bartok’s Mikrokosmos drew a line in history, and they are reluctant to use anything very much that has been written since – unless it is just ‘for fun’.  Further, the profession’s collective propensity to start beginners on white notes with both thumbs moored on middle C makes some of the brilliant contemporary contributions to pedagogical repertoire to be (at first glance) far too advanced, when in fact these pieces are perfectly designed to celebrate what young fingers, wrists, arms and brains (belonging to beginners) can and do enjoy

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