Tag Archives: Course Customization

Glenn Gould and Course Customization

Glenn+Gould+gould02Canadian Pianist Glenn Gould surely ranks as “great” because he is so passionately loved by much of the serious music listening community while so passionately hated by the rest. (I’m on the passionately love side for what it is worth.) He is also, as far as I know, the first classical pianist to write extensively on the recording process.

In his article titled “The Prospects of Recording” from 1966 Gould speaks of a “new kind of listener.” One who is “more participant in the musical experience.” He supposes the listener will become even more participant in the future and envisions a new kind of product from the recording industry. He imagines a packaging of a work, say Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, that includes many different performances and the ability for the listener to cut and splice the parts of each performance  together such that in the end he has his own performance of the 5th with all his favorite interpretations in one piece. (For instance, you may enjoy Bernstein’s exposition, but  Solti’s development, and Barenboim’s recapitulation.)

I forget when I first read Gould’s article, but I do remember that CDs were relatively new and most of my music was on cassette tapes. Over the decades, as far as I can tell, Gould’s vision has not materialized even though I’m quite sure the technology to achieve it has been available for some time. Sadly (because I would love to have it), I now think it will probably never happen. Why not?

Quite simply, I think people just aren’t that interested. They are not interested in being such an active participant in their musical experience. They just don’t love the music to the point that they wish to pay that kind of minute attention to its production. After all, that is spending a lot of highly focused time with Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.

Where I teach we use a curriculum software package, Odysseyware, that has wonderful customization features. The teacher can easily click and drag lessons from other courses or units to build a better course, and more importantly, the teacher can write his own lessons within the platform and easily format them so that they flow with the rest of the course. This second feature I’ve used repeatedly such that now in my 5th year, over half of the lessons my students experience (roughly 600) are written by me specially for them.

The benefits to this kind of system are obvious. The teacher is much more participant in the educational process. He can better make the course fit the needs of his students. His personality is stamped on the course, making it a unique experience for the student that the teacher can stand behind 100% because it is the manifestation of the teacher’s vision of what the educational experience should be.

And yet, I’m repeatedly told that I’m the exception when it comes to taking advantage of this technological feature, other teachers using course customization tools rarely if at all.  Why so? At the risk of becoming extremely unpopular with other teachers, I think the reason is the same reason Gould’s music customization idea never took hold. That kind of active participation, that kind of responsibility for the educational experience, that kind of passion for the end product being a part of your soul, just isn’t wanted enough.