return to nē49


MUSICAL EDUCATION IN BARCELONA

There has never been a fuller season for classical music in Barcelona. With the inauguration of the Auditori and the Liceu the number of concerts has surged, from 281 to 403, in the space of a year, raising the question of whether this proliferation will be accompanied by a corresponding increase in demand and focussing attention on the musical awareness of the city's inhabitants. What sort of musical education is available in Barcelona? Does music have a sufficiently high profile in schools? Are the audiences of tomorrow receiving the proper training? Jordi Roch, president of the Spanish Youth Orchestra, the composer Josep M. Mestres Quadreny and Lluís Cabrera, director of The Musicians' Workshop, give their answers to these questions.


MAKING UP FOR LOST TIME

by Josep M. Mestres Quadreny
Composer

The chaos reigning at present in the musical education of the people of Barcelona, as in the rest of Spain, is only comprehensible if we take into account the fact that our authorities had never passed any laws on the subject until 1990. Musical studies were conspicuously absent from university and general education programmes for centuries and only professional studies were regulated, under a series of antiquated and clearly ineffectual rules. As a result, we are a backward country and must import music and musicians. The Education Act (LOGSE) passed in 1990 was the first law in the history of Spain to deal with and regulate musical education at all levels. 1990 therefore marked a turning point for musical education and we are now in a period of transition. This law will now have to be applied properly if we are to make up for lost time, which we ought to be able to do, since we have an excellent pool of musical talent.

Barcelona has two "higher" conservatories, the Municipal Conservatory and the Liceu Conservatory, which were formerly the repositories and agents of the inadequate and inoperative existing standards. As it stands, the musicians now graduating from these conservatories are not sufficiently accomplished to audition successfully for the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra and those who want to compose must complete their training through private tuition. (...)

This deficiency is further aggravated by the total absence of university-trained theoreticians, since universities have never offered courses in musical studies, with the result that the subject is disdained by intellectuals in general, who, even though they are meant to be universally knowledgeable, are capable of admitting publicly and without blushing that they know nothing about music.

Meanwhile, the private sector has actively compensated for the failings of official education since the middle of the 19th century. This is not the place to go into greater detail on the multitude of music schools and academies that, applying their own methods and ignoring official dictates, have attained acceptable and in some cases exceptional results. Some of them have become highly prestigious and I will mention here only the most emblematic one, the Escolania de Montserrat, Europe's oldest school of music and one that has successfully maintained high standards and kept its training methods up to date. In reality, it is these schools that have kept music alive in Barcelona.

Musical education must be completely overhauled under the new law. Plans call for the two existing conservatories to be converted into professional schools offering undergraduate degrees and for creation of the Catalonia Higher School of Music at the university level, controlled by the Catalan Autonomous Government.
The new Education Act has only been applied to conservatories now for five years and the results will not be seen for some time yet. In any case, the new approach must not be limited merely to a redistribution of levels. We must stop using 19th century methods if today's students are to be able to work in the 21st century. Training must be in accordance with the reality of current musical practices and musicians must be properly trained to be good professionals in whatever speciality they choose, whether as members of a symphony orchestra, a brass band, a traditional Catalan orchestra, a dance band or a pop group. Training must include the new technologies that are now so totally predominant in the music being made for the theatre, the cinema and advertising. (...)

As for music at the graduate level, the creation of the Catalonia Higher School of Music, free of any historical baggage, constitutes a magnificent opportunity to build an institution with a modern approach to teaching the different subjects involved, one that is truly on a level with universities and produces top-quality musicians in all specialities. There is much at stake here and courses must be painstakingly designed and professors chosen carefully. (...)

This now leaves the musical education of the population at large to be considered. The traditional neglect of this area has been a subject for concern and worry among active musical circles in this country, who have long cried in the wilderness. As might be expected, the private sector has also taken the initiative here with actions that are as varied as they are well intentioned, although lacking any clear and common aim. For example, a number of primary schools added music to their curriculum at their own discretion although it was not compulsory; the Barcelona Youth Orchestra began offering pupils concerts with commentaries almost twenty-five years ago; the School for Music Teachers was formed in 1973 to train specialists, applying the methods developed by Irineu Segarra for teaching music to young children; and lastly, choirs, and particularly the formation of children's choirs, with the efficient co-ordination of the Catalan Department of Children's Choirs have played an outstanding role. (...)

Here too, application of the Education Act offers the opportunity to solve the problem. (...) In my opinion, it is abundantly clear that what we need to do is create an appreciation for music rather than creating pseudo-musicians, and the basic aim therefore should be to teach people how to listen. (...) In reality, the only defect suffered by music lovers at present is that they are content to hear, rather than actually listening, owing to the fact that they have not been properly educated. We must therefore teach the music lovers of the 21st century how to listen. (...).

 

TEACHING THROUGH MUSIC
by Jordi Roch
president of the spanish youth orchestra
and honorary president of the international youth orchestra

In my capacity as an administrator of the Youth Orchestra and, as such, involved in the propagation of music in the widest sense of the term, I should begin by stating that the situation of musical education and training in Barcelona and, logically, Catalonia, has improved substantially. Much has been accomplished, but much remains to be done.(...)

The question of musical education for children has long been a concern in Catalonia. It is precisely in the area of musical education in schools that teachers such as Joan Llongueres, from Terrassa, following the Jacques Dalcroze method, and, more recently, Father Ireneu Segarra, founder of the School for Music Teachers, to name just two, have made substantial contributions that will be of great help in applying the Education Act (LOGSE) of 1990, on the basis of very valuable experience.

UNESCO recently created an International Commission for Education in the 21st Century, chaired by Jacques Delors, on the premise that "better education is essential for improving the quality of life and promoting harmonious relations among the peoples of the world".

This Commission has resolved that the following principles must be disseminated: a) music is an essential element of the cultural identity of peoples and individuals; b) music is also a privileged means of communication between individuals and between cultures; c) music provides a unique experience that allows people of all ages to develop their identity and their talent, helping to heighten their sense of social responsibility.(...)

These are many of the reasons why education through music is now recommended, taking into account that teachers must also have sufficient skills to take part in other aspects of education in the schools where they work. Of course, once they have finished primary school, students must expand on the elementary concepts that they have learned, acquiring further knowledge of the language of music and, more importantly, assimilating the fundamentals of musical culture.

In this regard, the participation of the Youth Orchestra, both in Barcelona and a substantial part of Catalonia, has been particularly fruitful for over forty years, with their series of concerts entitled "Introduction to Music for Pupils" offering young students a source of information and enrichment of their musical culture, while at the same time being a very effective means of promoting awareness of music.

Along with an increase in the number of concerts given by the Youth Orchestra, a number of other well-directed initiatives, such as the series entitled "Schools and the Palau" and the programmes planned for the new Barcelona Auditorium, will help to meet the growing demand and, all in all, we will complement the work done by primary school teachers and the professors at the School of Music in the specific field of instruction, a task that is outside the scope of our responsibility. (...)

Schools have a genuine interest in putting the Education Act's provisions into practice and Catalonia was the first autonomous region to begin doing so. Many musicians are now combining their work as performers with work in the school system. However, the process is not turning out to be an easy one.

The first major obstacle is the lack of properly trained teachers. In Barcelona, and naturally in Catalonia, as I pointed out earlier, musical education has been based on a tradition of teaching that, in spite of the lack of a structured educational system in this field, allowed us to progress both in practical and experimental areas.

The widespread tradition of choral singing in Catalonia, involving ongoing contacts with international organisations that, through conferences and technical courses, promoted the training of amateur conductors who have, in the end, turned out to be excellent professionals, has made a very effective contribution to musical practice in schools and to keeping alive a popular musical heritage that constitutes children's first contact with music, in the home. (...)

When children start school, their education through music must continue and must allow them make music along with others. In addition, modern schools are the place where children should be exposed to the multicultural aspects of music, opening the doors of the world to them. Teachers must have a well-rounded knowledge of the subject and be able to make use of the audiovisual media available to us at present.
The School of Music is now aimed at more motivated or more talented students. These schools serve a double purpose, providing students with the opportunity to acquire musical training that will allow them to make music actively and well and, naturally, giving those students who decide to take up a career in music an excellent preparation. These students will progress from the School of Music to the Higher School, the one that we know as the Higher Conservatories.

Is Barcelona ready to move forward? I believe that we are making very satisfactory progress. The complaints raised by many teachers focus precisely on the impossibility of applying the Education Act more thoroughly because the necessary means are lacking. Full application of the new regulations is costly; we have to train more teachers and provide them with instruments that are, in many cases, elemental but often more expensive. (...).

 

OUT-OF-TUNE PIANOS
by Lluís Cabrera
director of the musicians' workshop

(...) It seems to me that, in the area of musical education in our city (and the rest of the country), there are far too many things that only just barely work, many others that work badly and more than a few that simply do not work at all. No matter how we look at it, the situation as a whole is unremittingly depressing. (...)

Under the heading of frankly negative aspects, I would include the consistent institutional neglect of everything connected with music, which is never seen as it is, as a highly complex and polymorphous cultural (and leisure) sphere, but rather as an activity that confers social status and is therefore fertile ground for political patronage. In this country we are still playing pianos with four keys only (Liceu, classical concert programmes, the National Orchestra and singer-songwriters) and, as if that were not enough, they are almost always out of tune. (...)

Another extremely negative factor, in my opinion, is the sop of including music on the compulsory curriculum under the terms of the current Education Act (LOGSE) and how this is now being applied. It is a total failure, an easy subject and mere filler to round off courses of study that, rather than awakening students' interest, encourages them to reject it. What good is it to anyone? As far as I can see, only as a lifesaver for graduates in any subject who are desperate for work and who can teach a handful of hastily learned and poorly understood clichés. (...)

Also very negative, because of its influence on consumers and collective tastes, is the disastrous approach, from a musical standpoint, to radio in Catalonia. (...) Any European city with a population even one fifth the size of the one found in the Barcelona metropolitan area has a musical radio offering ten times richer, more entertaining, more varied, more stimulating, more informative, and more universal than the one we are subjected to here. (...)

Among the major stumbling blocks, I believe that there are many that have a direct impact on the behaviour of Barcelona's citizens. Our audience demonstrates a deep-seated lack of curiosity and very poor judgement. Many of the most musically worthy and innovative concerts given in Barcelona are a disaster in terms of attendance. Even more unsettling is that this lack of interest and judgement is also evident in professional circles, among the city's musicians and music students. (...)

Nor do I find it in any way beneficial, but rather quite the contrary, to lie repeatedly about the quality of the artistic offering that we consume with the support of taxpayers' money. As far as music is concerned, the Grec summer festival is by no means on a level with the best to be found in Europe, (...) nor can we consider ourselves well off because there are plenty of classical concerts (...) and we now have the Liceu again, this time "for everyone", (...) nor will the Auditori (...) serve as a magic remedy and bridge the enormous gap separating us from the best of Europe, which is a bald-faced lie, one that we love to tell over and over again from the most unexpected angles, as if we were afflicted with an overweening narcissism.