Singing Gesualdo: Rules of Engagement in the Music History Classroom
In our music history classrooms we all want to find ways to make musics of the past relevant and alive. One of these ways is to sing and play our way through the canon of music history. For music majors this can be both daunting and pleasurable at the same time. Depending on the strengths of aural training and the performance areas of the students, these experiences are rewarding in varying degrees. Placing a performance demand on students in a history-based course, however, is tricky, for to put a grade to their work is usually not appropriate or fair, since performance is not one of the learning objectives of the course. We all know, however, that students are driven by grades and need to see how their classroom activities will be rewarded. This paper explores three areas related to the teaching problem presented above. First of all, I seek to present the pedagogy of live engagement and encounters with the content under study. What is the degree of learning that occurs by performing music live? Can that be an improvement on reliable textbook learning, class discussion, and reliable professional recordings? What if the music is too hard to perform and the experiment fails? Second, I will discuss assessment methods for live performance components in traditionally non-performance courses. Third, I will present some of my experiments in the classroom; the good, the bad, and even an ugly one—singing Gesualdo.
Music history pedagogy; scholarship of teaching and learning; learning objectives; active learning