Thursday, April 8, 2010

Teaching History

For the last seven 8 years I have been quite consumed in my business, and teaching has been a natural but slow-developing outgrowth. I haven't rushed into teaching, but I've been fascinated by it nonetheless. I often am called to do demonstrations of instruments, and I do this, by playing musical passages on the instruments. I avoid being didactic, but nevertheless there are some core philosophies behind my business that I deliver, as lecturer. On an side note, I have become a fan of intuitive lecturing a la Rudolph Steiner. But the difference where I do a workshop, is #1 we make a thing, and #2 it works!

The most recent workshop, in a week with ten participants, was in Berlin, last summer. It was part of a super-workshop called Sommerkamp Workstation, which had three nodes: interventions, physicality, and modeling. I was in the physicality node. My typical hands-on workshop for adults > 18 is making the "deerhorn circuit", which is a sort of radio theremin with analog signal processing to make a gesture sensitive tool (it is silent when there is no movement). I had developed it in previous workshop/installations in Providence and Baltimore. It is one long day of work, soldering a paper circuit (yes, paper). Then, I check the circuits, and finally, make an installation of all of them in the space, a polyphonic movement and wind sensor with acoustics. The deerhorn circuit started as a tool for such spatial installations, and that's what integrates it into the space of the workshop itself. There will be another deerhorn workshop this summer, in Washington DC.

Last summer, I taught a week-long class, video for kids, where they wrote-up, rehearsed, shot, and edited a video. Now I know you're thinking, what does this have to do with a college level class? Those kids are always teaching me, and in the middle of the summer, with all their energy, I learned to make videos in the "quicky" programs, IMovie, Kino, etc., and post them up on Youtube. This is a new form of digital expression that was "passed up" to me from teaching kids. Plus, it seems I get business from all these YouTube clips. People are buying the instruments featured in them. It helps, to "explain" them, in a more personal and immediate sense than formal documentary video.

A friend coerced me last summer to teach 8th graders to solder, which was a bad experience, although the circuit worked as an ultralight solar sounder... Soldering is best as a sort of guild skill, to be passed down, on an intern basis. I have had 3 interns over the years, who have helped me immensely and also by answering their questions it helps me to format the answers.

And then there's my racquetball class, which is coaching and mentoring adults, mostly slightly senior than me, every week at the community college. In it, I take a no-nonsense approach, warm-up every week, stretch, then play ball! I am reminded of the Throat-Singing EXCO that I led at Oberlin, which also focused on warming-up our vocal cords, then performing chants inside the various resonant spaces on campus. The racquetball court is a wonderful space for resonances, and I remember the honey-combed multiple squash and racquetball courts at Oberlin would serve well in a multi-student installation piece, "how to share a resonant space with others?"

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