For A New Musical EducationLucio Leoni and Filippo Rea
The deepest joy of playing music is not the clapping, the money, the glory (or, not only) but learning to breathe with others, feel the silence that comes before and after every musical event, listen together with others. Once more we learn that without our body, without bodies it’s impossible to play music. But why should we be concerned about music? Is it really necessary? What for? How important is it to learn and teach music? And in Italy, the country of Bel canto, of the Opera, of singer-songwriters, Italy! The country of the recorder… oops! Here is the crunch: yes, because this is what we are offered when we speak of music: two hours a week scheduled in the timetable provided for middle school: those two hours a week for three years when all of us -more or less – played (very badly) the recorder.
Before and after, a void.
So let’s start over with the few questions above. In order to answer them well we have to begin with the lack of music currently surrounding us, both the educational and the performance one. An emptiness where, if you take away the recorder (or the melodica), the stage and the recorded music market, nothing is left. In Italy, even less. A country whose listening activities follow and imitate scenes, movements and sounds from other parts of the world, where the approach to the subject is very different. In the United States, for example, music is taught from what is known here as Infant school. The ability to familiarize with music and first of all develop an artistic and musical talent, and then learn how to play an instrument technically, is something which starts in the early school years and continues to the end of compulsory schooling. This not only because providing these abilities can open up possible professional outlets, but because, clearly, they are aware that music is an extraordinary means of communication and character building which can help relationships with no need of words. Music can narrate worlds, different and faraway cultures with no need of dictionaries, is a tool for mechanisms of the brain allowing one to open doors which would otherwise remain closed, and enhancing the ability to reason and imagine. However, apart from the benefits deriving from studying music, at the heart of an education guaranteed by institutions, we should have the opportunity of choosing, therefore the possibility of exploring, using a language both magical and universal, should be a key part of the structure of every curriculum.
We can imagine an innovative Musical Education that reaches beyond the school curriculum and passes through social structures and neighbourhoods. Even in Italy, in fact above all in Italy, something existed, it just needs to be restored. There used to be street bands, who as well as having taught generations of professionals, accompanied social events. There were places where people met to dance, or rather where one danced in order to meet other people. There were Songs in May, when farm workers challenged each other in rhyming couplets to welcome the arrival of spring. There were work songs to give dignity and sense to life’s toil and ancient and powerful cultural resilience. There were dances to heal unknown illnesses. There were games sung and recited by voices in courtyards, there were and still are, hidden in living rooms, musical instruments loved, embraced, blown into and shaken, sometimes just to feel happy and enjoy oneself, with no need of eyes or ears to clap, judge, pay.
We fancy a New Musical Education, not concerned with turning us into excellent musicians but foremost showing us how to bring music into our lives, our relationships, beginning from our sleepy and silent bodies. We fancy a New Musical Education because some of us may become professional musicians – we wish them the best of luck- and meanwhile all of us will sing, play, dance and listen with great joy, pleasure, awareness. Only then will we be able to acknowledge the vital importance of those who go on stage and light that fire that warms us and demand loudly for it to be protected and respected. But until we don’t have ears to listen with, hands to shake other hands, breath to sing, we won’t be ready to defend music and the people who make it.
MANIFESTO FOR A NEW MUSICAL EDUCATION
- If you don’t know who Beethoven is you cannot take the final high school exams.
- If you don’t know who Beyoncé Knowles is you cannot transfer from middle school to first year of high school.
- Make music a compulsory subject throughout school and increase the weekly timetable from two to six hours as well as adapt the school buildings by including an auditorium, a recording studio and the required equipment.
- Create “Music Houses” in various places in the neighbourhood, centres where to gather items, documents, instruments, culture, workshops and events (free). Other places where to meet, play, dance, listen, tell stories; free spaces where everybody’s story can be heard, with no obvious educational goals, places where to participate and share.
- Introduce a music test to the final high school exams: an oral test and a personal essay of the piece “Ho visto un re” – “I met a king” – (Jannacci, Fo, Ciarchi): a written or performed test. The development of any kind on any musical theme or a ballet.
- Six more hours a week of musical culture. In an ever more heterogenous and mixed race culture the overcoming of differences is achieved by studying different forms of communication: a study on cultural differences through sounds.
- All kinds of concert free for the students of compulsory school.
- Ask professional musicians, authors, players of musical instruments and composers to meet the pupils at school on a monthly basis.
- Start up school bands and organize competitions on an annual basis: each year the winner will write a new national anthem “to end the criticism on Mameli’s anthem”. Yes, we’ll change it every year.
- An annual bonfire of all the recorders and melodicas guilty of being the flagbearers of the dark times in which we live.
Filippo Rea was born in Rome on September 29, 1981. He is a school teacher in the State Infant School, part of the scholastic complex Octavia in Rome. For a long time, he has taught music in various Infant Schools and in the grassroots music school in Testaccio and in the experimental local school 0/6 in the central municipality of Rome. He cooperates with the magazine “Gli Asini-education and social intervention” under the direction of Goffredo Fofi. He is also a musician and collaborates in several music projects and is the founder of the music label Lapidarie Incisioni.
Lucio Leoni, born in Rome on March 30, 1981, is a writer, musician and music producer. He graduated in electro-acoustic composition at the Music Academy L. Refice and in Sciences of the Art at University La Sapienza in Rome, is a radio presenter and sound engineer. In 2020 he released his fourth album “Dove Sei pt.1/pt.2”. He has been artistic director of the live club “La Riunione di Condominio”, founder of the recording studio ” Monkey Studio” and of the music label “Lapidarie Incisioni”.