Revolution can bring about the overthrow of an established governing system. Another type of revolution can change models of thought or technology. The word "revolution" is used also to describe one orbit of a heavenly body around another. In other words, one complete revolution brings you back where you started. In most political revolutions, power changes hands, but the result is the same type of power in the hands of the new power holders. Most political revolutionaries view power as a "top-down" system. In contrast, empowerment of the individual was the important aspect of the American Revolution and its resulting constitution. That empowerment comes from the combination of freedom of thought and movement along with a social responsibility to provide oneself with an education. Education empowers students to survive in new market places. Educated, the students see the need to work with the tools of today's musical world. Realizing the potential of these tools, they acquire the necessary skills to communicate their musical ideas, using the forms and venues of the day.

But is academia providing education or obedience school? Are we training students in the cultural norms of our world or theirs? Have we so long associated high art with certain instruments in specific venues that we cannot change technologies for fear of losing high art in the pro cess?

The idea of a computer was first proposed by the British mathematician Charles Babbage (1792-1871). The first computer (ENIAC) was built at the University of Pennsylvania, during World War 11, using 18,000 electron tubes. Our present electronic technology revolution began in 1948 when a team of scientists at Bell Telephone Laboratories, led by William Shockley, produced the first semiconducting transistor. These semiconductor devices are much lighter, smaller, and more reliable than the former vacuum tubes.

The electronic revolution was embraced early by Americans. In 1948, researchers used computers for storing and sorting musicological data; 1956 was the year of the first important computer composition, Illiac Suite by Hiller and Isaacson. RCA Laboratories developed the first electronic synthesizer, and Bell Laboratories created the first programming language for music composition, Music IV.

In the early seventies, Control Data Corporation, in conjunction with universities in Delaware, Illinois, and Indiana, began the PLATO project. PLATO was to link U.S. universities via computers and telephone lines for instruction, administration, and research. A large, powerful, expensive computer system was developed. In 1977, the first microcomputers (another revolution) came on the market. Quite soon, several new software companies were established, and the first music instructional programs for the Apple 11 computer were developed by mu sic educators across the country. This started a revolution in small systems for music instruction and opened a new door of opportunity for academic publication.

Early revolutionaries, Luening and Ussachevsky, sought new sound sculpting methods of composition. They saw electronic music as a continuation of the Romantic search for increased power to produce new timbres and pitch combinations. They couched electronic music in a 19th-century aesthetic, They viewed it as an evolutionary step, as part of progress. Educators told their students, "The high-tech revolution is here for you! We'll free you from the limitations of the past and prepare you for the future. Sit down and do it our way."

The students had another aesthetic in mind. The Rock 'n' Rollers were more interested in the aesthetic tradition of a more distant past: "Tunefulness." Although distortion and high amplitude seemed to contradict the pleasant side of tunefulness, a recognizable melody and rhythm have always been an essential part of popular music. Electronic instruments were a part of this tunefulness aesthetic. This popular electronic music did not develop based on 19th-century norms and concert-hall etiquette.

Music educators rejected the electric guitar and lost millions of potential participants in their music pro grams. The academic establishment continued with its aesthetic model, firmly rooted in the recent past, and ignored other paths.

Who were the real revolutionaries? The academics based their actions on a tradition. They viewed electronics as the next logical step in a progression of musical ideas. The popular-music composers based their art on another tradition. Both groups took music in exciting new directions.

Other questions remain. Who caused the split? Who carried on the traditions of western music? Who took a turn off the wrong exit? Who will put it all together again? The general population and most students are happy to use electronic instruments for any good music, old or new. Many academics are willing to use electronic instruments for only new music, good or bad.

Young people are turning in greater numbers to electronically produced music. Most of them restrict their music making to CD players and DAT machines. Those truly dedicated to learning performance skills are largely self-taught. The effects of this move away from acoustical instruments toward electronics is reflected in CMS Report No. 7, Music in the Undergraduate Curriculum: A Reassessment. In all categories (private lessons, class lessons, small and large instrumental ensembles, small and large vocal ensembles), from 1982 to 1989 the number of non-music majors taking part has diminished by half. This shift is caused by students turning to low-tech folk instruments as well as to high-tech keyboards or no instruments at all. The result is that students no longer play instruments that fit into our established ensembles.

The authors of this CMS study list "What the music student needs to know. " In that list, familiarity with New Technology should probably be moved to # 1, not because technology is the most important musically, but because new technologies are the basis of our musical future. Musical technology has always changed. Improvements still occur. In electronics, we experience a major paradigm shift. The model for musical creation and production has changed. Every part of the musical process, from creator to listener, is now based on electronic technologies! Like it or not, the next mu sic classrooms and practice rooms are electronic. Resist it or not, today's music production facilities are electronic. No matter what we do to educate and train musicians, the majority of people in the world will be fascinated by and will learn to play electronic instruments. The paradigm has shifted, and the accompanying aesthetic thought -- tunefulness -- has been firmly established. Of course, people will continue to study acoustical instruments, but they will be fewer in number than those playing newer instruments. If history is our guide, newer instrumental technologies tend to prevail over older technologies.

It was a shocking realization to behaviorists that in education the individual learner is in charge of the learning process, not the professor, the administrator, the technology, or the pedagogical stimuli. For decades we have tried to find the techniques that work best for presenting materials to students. We have stimulated them like laboratory animals; we have tried to shape their thoughts and their actions. We have tried to evaluate their thoughts by observing their behavior.

Large universities have trouble dealing with individuals, especially at the undergraduate level. Our systems are based on the factory model. We manage large groups of people well. These large groups make their way through a system of requirements and small tasks. Educators have assumed that, once students have completed a series of pedagogical steps, students are sufficiently trained to meet the challenges of the professional world. However, children learn very early that school tends to be a series of somewhat unrelated events. Society tends to equate this type of schooling with learning. Education is viewed as something you go somewhere to do and when you leave that place you stop learning.

A central problem with computers in higher education is that this new technology empowers individuals. In the early days, this empowerment came at a high price. Students used lab technology, empowered by academia's generosity. But technology got cheap. High technology now empowers individuals through individual purchases. Students are no longer dependent on a computer lab, Most students can now afford their own computers and synthesizers.

The magnitude of the confrontation between institutions poised to educate the masses, en masse, and new technologies designed to empower individuals should not be underestimated. Through this encounter, the nature of teaching and the structure of the university will change drastically. We must encourage our students to take risks and start revolutions rather than to entrench further a system that is fraught with human frailty. We must locate flaws in our model and refine the model, not rationalize the errors in the model. Our goal should be a chaotic, democratic, joyful, continuous rethinking of musical values and the musical marketplace. We must encourage a high level of craftsmanship, regardless of the directions in which our students' spirits may move.

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Last modified on Thursday, 02/05/2013

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