<span class="vcard">Wendelin Bitzan</span>
Wendelin Bitzan

Diversifying Music Theory

During the past semester I tried to augment my music theory classes with music by women and BIPoC composers. In doing so, I was delighted again and again to see how well these fit into my teaching, and to discover pieces that I hadn’t been aware were existing. There is so much more that is worth listening and analysing beside the so-called classical canon (which I didn’t want to exclude, but to enhance with lesser-known compositions), and I got a number of very positive reactions from the students, so there’s no reason not to continue in this manner. Promoting diversity in the music theory curriculum turned out so easy that I feel I should have done this so much earlier.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of composers from whose music I took the most inspiring and rewarding examples offered during the last four months: Maddalena Casulana, Raffaella Aleotti, Francesca Caccini, Anna Amalia of Prussia, Joseph Bologne de Saint-Georges, Juliane and Louise Reichardt, Maria Theresia Paradis, Sophie Westenholz, Maria Szymanowska, Louise Farrenc, Emilie Mayer, Pauline Viardot, Ella Adaïewsky, Cécile Chaminade, Mélanie Bonis, Ethel Smyth, Amy Beach, Leokadiya Kashperova, Elena Gnesina, Florence Price, Germaine Tailleferre, and Lili Boulanger.

More Stimuli for Rethinking Music Education

I’m a bit late in sharing the following two articles. However, I don’t want to neglect them as both are noteworthy for voicing remarkable positions in the field of professional music education, and deserve appreciation and further discussion even with some weeks of delay.

In April 2021, composer Fabien Lévy‘s passionate plea for diversity in repertoire and ways of approaching music appeared as a nmz longread. The piece should be considered more than a theoretical observation or a polemic reckoning with the fetish-like traits of classical music tradition, and be seen as a possible model for designing future curricula and study programmes.
In May 2021, an initiative of eighteen ASta student representations at German music universities issued an open letter that deals with a number of deficiencies in the current system of higher education in music, particularly in times of dealing with a pandemic. All of their points are worth considering, especially for being the first substantial claim of engaged student committees unwilling to bear with the status quo any longer.

Rethinking Music Universities

I would like to direct your attention towards the newly established Initiative for a New Music University that introduces a comprehensive alternative conception for the system of professional music education in Germany. By tradition, music universities are hierarchical organisations with solid power structures, tending to preserve routines such as master-student dependency, cult of genius, and pressure to perform. The new initiative aims at replacing these structures with an open, holistic, and consensual environment of learning and teaching. Thus, the creative and innovative potential of music education is rethought under the terms of equality and maturity of all persons involved. Even though the conception seems not to include some important aspects of administration and content so far (such as the abandonment of traditional repertoire limitations), the initiative and its creators, Hans-Christian Hauser, Sebastian Haas, and Hayo Keckeis, deserve the highest possible attention and appreciation—to which wish to contribute with the present post.

Statement on Adjunct Lectureships

I wrote another statement on the employment practice of German music universities, with special regard to the field of music theory and aural skills where institutions significantly rely on freelance teaching staff. After describing the status quo, I introduce and substantiate two central desiderata: to create more permanent positions, and to lower the rate of adjunct teaching in the abovementioned subjects to a maximum of 10 percent. After that, I outline a scenario of how adjunct lectureships can be applied as a way of early-career faculty development and as a productive stage of postgraduate academic occupation. Looking forward to your thoughts and objective discussions!

Adjunct lectureships in music theory: Read my statement (in German)