From Palestrina to open learning ….
This is a post from the weareoca.com archive. Information contained within it may now be out of date.
OCA is always pleased to receive feedback on students’ learning experiences. Critical feedback is welcome too, because we do want to get things right. In this case, student Kathleen Shortt was so fulsome in her praise of OCA and this particular course, that we couldn’t resist reprinting it here on the OCA blog.
She said ‘the course was excellent and, as well as the support and encouragement provided by Patric, the administration was perfect. From my very first e-mail enquiry to OCA, everything went like clockwork – absolutely no hitches. I also thought the idea of sending out the cards to say ‘well done, you’ve submitted your X assignment’ was a lovely thing to do – it was very motivating. At the same time, the reminder letter when I slipped back a bit was also a nice way to encourage me to get back on track! The tutor feedback was excellent and amazingly quick – I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the course to anyone (and this was my first experience of open learning). Thanks again to all your team for a lovely experience!’ Kathleen also wrote her reflective summary of studying the OCA music course, ‘From the present to the past’which is worth a read…….
This final part of the course has been most enlightening for me. In addition to coming to a good understanding of the development of musical instruments over time, it was an opportunity to listen to some wonderful music by Vivaldi, Bach and Handel and to discover the much earlier works of Palestrina and his contemporaries. In fact, in my reading, I came across the medieval composer and visionary, Hildegard of Bingen, and have thoroughly enjoyed listening to works such as ‘Ordo Virtutum’, composed around 1151. To travel this far back in musical time was an unexpected pleasure for me. Also, by studying Vaughan Williams’ ‘Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis’ and relating it to its inspirational source, I feel that I have, in a small way,come full circle in musical terms. For me, this course truly achieved its aim of tracing back musical development through the centuries and of making, at each stage, links between the past, present and future of composition. I found it particularly interesting to be asked to make comparisons and connections between pieces of music from different eras. By way of consolidating my learning experience, I re-read the entire course and, in addition, read in full Paul Griffiths’ book, “A Concise History of Western Music” (C.U.P. 2006) which traces the development of music from the earliest days of the caveman to the creative talent of contemporary composers such as Thomas Adès (whose operatic production of The Tempest I saw and greatly admired).
Overall, it has been fascinating to study the development of music over time and to put into a social, political and economic context, the works of the western world’s most famous classical composers. Aside from what I have learned musically, the course has made me think tangentially about – for example – the influence of poetry in the composition of many famous classical pieces and the relationship between art and music (even in the study guide I found the colour plates used to illustrate the course notes of such interest as to make me want to learn about each of the paintings). Studying this course also made me think about such things as the role of the conductor in the orchestra and the accessibility of classical music to young people today and how they are funded. And, of course, learning about the lives of the great composers was in itself a fascinating journey.
If I have any regrets, it is perhaps that I didn’t avail myself of the opportunity to interact with fellow students on-line or in person by attending any of the meetings, but it has to be said I’m not renowned for my on-line social networking skills! Aside from that, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the OCA newsletters. In summary, I feel that I have gained so much more than simply a historical account of the development of classical music. For one thing, I have unexpectedly become quite a fan of opera and am eagerly awaiting the next ‘Live from the Met’ season to begin. In fact, in all ways, this is very much the beginning and not the end of my musical journey – and that is a very exciting prospect!