An irregular and somewhat confusing semester at Robert Schumann Hochschule Düsseldorf has begun. The buildings are still closed—yet most of my department’s music theory classes are taking place, and I am teaching a number of online courses, switching between synchronous webcasting and tutorials on various e-learning platforms. Thanks to Jeannette Getrost of Studio Balu, I found a temporarily unused space where I can deliver my video conferences well-focused and without even leaving my neighbourhood, which is a great opportunity! Students are widely accepting the challenging conditions and show a remarkable level of flexibility. I am currently developing some freely accessible musical form and ear training tutorials for the ELMU platform, an open educational resource founded by Ulrich Kaiser which I invite you to check out.
Do you know music by Gioseffo Zarlino, Johann Mattheson, or Heinrich Schenker? Thanks to my dear students and their widespread interests, I felt inclined to go beyond the well-known treatises and textbooks of European music scholarship, and to dig a bit deeper to see what those scholars contributed in the domain of musical composition. The playlist Music by Theorists is, if you will, the side effect of a seminar on the history of music theory which I had the pleasure to give at Robert Schumann Hochschule Düsseldorf. I believe that many of these pieces are worth being disclosed from obscurity—and, of course, there is still much more to discover. For now I hope you enjoy this selection of preciosities as much as I did.
Glad to be part of the music theatre education project YOUR_Street.Scene of Theater Magdeburg which is loosely based on Kurt Weill‘s opera Street Scene. During the next months I will be conducting a creative workshop with a class of 11th-graders at International Gymnasium Pierre Trudeau Barleben, resulting in a musical and choreographic performance which will be presented inside and outside the Magdeburg opera house in July 2020. Today has been the first session—the students show a promising level of musical understanding and vocal and instrumental skills, and I look forward to developing ideas for their collective improvisations and compositions. Thanks to the resourceful Matthias Brandt for initiating this collaboration!
(1) I eat too much and sleep too less.
(2) I should really do some sports rather than watching it on the internet.
(3) I love my job, and I am fine to commute for a certain period of my life, but in doing so I fly way too often. This is a moral dilemma. I would definitely prefer to take the train if only this was a reliable option at a reasonable price with the probability of arriving in time—but alas, it is not. Deutsche Bahn tickets from Berlin to Düsseldorf cost €70 on average (sales offers are very rare in the early morning hours when I would need to go). Travel time is about 5 hours from door to door, but since 2 out of 3 train connections passing through the Ruhr area are significantly delayed, this is hardly a recommendable choice, given that I need to start working at noon to manage my teaching load. My employer wouldn’t reimburse any travel expenses, so I have to choose the cheapest option over traveling sustainably, despite my dislike of airports and planes. Eurowings air fare is €29 or €39 for the same route, which takes me less than 3.5 hours (as long as Tegel Airport is still in service, I should add). Needless to say, I have not been late a single time since I became a weekly flyer almost two years ago.
This does not primarily show that I am a carefree opportunist (which some people might claim). Instead, this example suggests that the neo-liberal German transport policy is so badly snafu that it cannot help but continuously produce wrong stimuli for travelers, acting in favour of the motor industry (the glorious ›backbone‹ of our economy) while not giving a shit about the desolate state of the most embarrassing railway company of all times. Even though I don’t have the slightest idea how this situation could improve in the future, your opinions and ideas are, as always, warmly appreciated.
Some news from two occupational groups in musicianship with whom I wish to express my solidarity and support. Please share and re-post if you feel the same.
(1) The Conference of Adjunct Lecturers at German Music Universities (BKLM) and the OrchesterlanD initiative have started a joint campaign, aiming at a significant improvement of working conditions for freelance academic teaching staff in music. The claim is to refrain from assigning fixed-term lectureships via administrative measures—which is current common practice—and turn these into private-law contracts instead. See also the BKLM statement on adjuncts’ dignity and work ethic.
(2) The Berlin Senate has agreed on a 40-percent increase of fees for freelance teachers at municipal music schools. Yet it seems as if the cultural administration would fail to provide the required assets in next year’s budget. There is an initiative of Die Berliner Musikschullehrer and the State Representation of Music School Teachers to protest against this incomprehensible neglect. Much support is needed.