Closing a chapter today: Just taught my last two classes as an adjunct lecturer at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. Despite the ridiculously low income associated with teaching undergraduate music theory modules as a minor subject, it’s been a pleasure helping those students (most of which were focused, dedicated, and really smart in conversation) develop their abilities in reading and listening to music. Yet I am more than happy that I’ll never require to work as a freelance lecturer again. The concept of Lehrauftrag (teaching assignment) is one of the most corrupted and exploitative constructions in German academia, and even though the hourly rates at Berlin’s universities will rise to a €35 minimum in the near future, there is very little hope that conditions for adjunct staff will significantly improve.
It continues to amaze me how German functional analysis is still used and taught in an idiosyncratic way, seemingly in disregard of critical approaches and enhancements of the past decades, and sometimes leading to apparent inconsistensies. Have a look at the following passage, taken from a harmony script which is currently used at a German music university. The self-referentiality and dogmatism of functional theory becomes already apparent in the title of the chapter (»The subdominant fifth-sixth chord in root position«). Your thoughts are appreciated.
»Just like the dominant, the subdominant harmony employs a characteristic dissonance: the sixth above the bass, which is also used in the S6 [= ii6] chord where it functions as a consonance. […] The added sixth [marked ›sixte ajoutée‹ in misattribution of Rameau’s concept of the same name] causes the fifth, despite being consonant to the bass, to become a dissonant note which must be correctly resolved.« (Manfred Dings, Harmonielehre I. Skript zur Übung im Wintersemester 2017/18, Hochschule für Musik Saar 2017, p. 40; see also: Wilhelm Maler, Beitrag zur Harmonielehre, Leipzig 1931, p. 15).
This week I will start working as a lecturer in music theory at the Institute of Musicology of Robert Schumann Hochschule Düsseldorf. I will be in charge of the artistic subjects included in Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf‘s musicology minor programme, such as basic elements of composition, musical form, keyboard practice, and a preparatory course in music theory. I will continue to live in Berlin for the time being, while commuting to Düsseldorf for two days a week. Thrilled about this new challenge in teaching!
Berlin’s municipal music schools do something they didn’t do in quite a while: They are hiring permanent employees. Until recently, their quota of freelance teachers was at 93%, which is now being reduced to 80%. However, this will not change the fact that freelancers are in charge of most of Berlin’s music education. Apart from an awkward controversy between the Berlin Senate and musicians’ unions on how many FTEs this means, some more questions remain. Should the new positions be publicly advertised or only serve to the benefit of a school’s freelance staff? Is it acceptable if schools do not require applicants to hold a demonstration lesson? And finally: Why are permanent positions considered more important than a general discourse on quality management and sustainability of music education?