A Melancholic Celebration of Mendelssohn’s Life: A Schumann Analysis

Note: This is the analysis that got a 90. And thus resulted in me getting a 93.something for the semester. Which means I was less than a point away from a true A. It’s fine. Everything’s fine.

Composing their works during the Romantic Era of music during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Robert Schumann and Felix Mendelssohn maintained an acquaintanceship beginning from their first encounter; Schumann, a great admirer of Mendelssohn’s compositions, noted that he found him to be humble and modest upon their first meeting. As the years progressed, the two would perform together and support each other’s compositions until Mendelssohn succumbed to a series of strokes on November 4, 1847 (as documented in the subtitle of Schumann’s Opus 68: 28 “In Memoriam”). The piece is featured in Schumann’s Album for the Young, which is a collection of works composed for his daughters. It is believed by many that the pieces present in the album are highly suitable to be played by amateur pianists and beginners, therefore literally acting as an album of music for the young. While the composition shares many similarities to other music in the album due to the collection’s etude-like nature, the piece is given enhanced color through its usage of parallel asymmetrical form and secondary dominants.

Measures 1-4 and 5-10 form a parallel asymmetrical period form, both phrases moving in ascending motion. In both phrases, the second note in the soprano is a passing tone, therefore smoothing the transition between the anacrusic note and the next note in the chord (C#), which is a minor third below. The first phrase reaches the piece’s highest pitch (F#) just prior to moving to the half cadence on E Major (V), while the second phrase begins with the same musical information, yet continues past the point where Phrase I concluded (the first beat of Measure 8 being the equivalent to the first beat of Measure 4) as a method of adding onto the sentence. The theme of the first phrase returns on the “and” of Beat 2 in Measure 14 and continues through Measure 18’s first beat. The phrase on the “and” of Beat 4 of the same measure begins the same musically and rhythmically, although it soon deviates just before reaching the fermata.

In addition to form, it is crucial to note that there are three key modulations that provide chromaticism to the piece. While the first modulation (from A Major to E Major) takes place in Measure 6 and ushers into the secondary dominant of F#7 (V6/5 in the key of B Major [vi]), it is the second modulation—from E Major to B minor—that truly adds energy to the piece through the upward-moving sequence that takes place in Measures 11-13. The sequence begins in B minor with the utilization of natural accidentals, moves the entire sentence up one whole step in Measure 12, and then returns to a similar motive to M. 11 in Measure 13, concluding the sequence with dissonance as a B Major chord (V in the key of E Major [V]) is used. Dissonance is also a major contributor to the listener’s sense of the piece reaching its end in Measure 20, when in lieu of the expected V chord (EM), an e#m7 is played instead, altering the root note of the expected chord up one half step. The piece then continues through to the first ending, falling on a perfect authentic cadence until the anacrusic note. In both endings, the bass notes reach the lowest pitch (A1), arpeggiating through the chord until settling on A3. The second ending in the final measure then incorporates neighbor tones to provide a trill-like closure, highlighting the beauty of the supertonic note (B) against the median (C#) as the composition draws to a melancholic and nostalgic close, much like Felix Mendelssohn’s life.

At several points in the work, the listener expects the phrase to conclude on tonic; however, the usage of secondary dominants provides a faint dissonance, an uncomfortable settling. Although the composer arranged several key modulations, the listener still feels as though the piece is returning “home” in the key of A Major. A hypothesis is that because there are three repetitions of the opening sentence (which is completely in A Major), the listener becomes familiar with A; even when the piece modulates, their ear is still tonicizing A.

This is not a practice unfamiliar to Felix Mendelssohn himself. His contralto aria from the oratorio Elijah, “O Rest in the Lord,” is mostly written in the key of C Major and never truly changes its key signature, although there are several accidentals in the B section of the song, suggesting the possible usage of secondary dominants. However, as the contralto concludes her last “wait patiently for him,” the orchestra returns to the true tonic key. The final secondary dominant takes place as she says, “He shall give thee thy heart’s desires.” This is highly unexpected for the listener; every other time she has sung this line it has been on a V chord. However, once again, the piece returns to C Major and ends with a beautiful dissonance caused by the leading tone/tonic note neighbor trill in the flute section.

Although Schumann and Mendelssohn composed works for two completely separate reasons—one for a young pianist’s songbook and one for an oratorio—the composers utilized many of the same musical concepts. Although it is likely due to either their close musical relationship or living during the same period, it could be inferred that Schumann borrowed ideas from his style in order to pay his respects to his role model-turned-friend and carry his legacy into the future.

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A Creative Analysis of The Harmonious Blacksmith

Note: Yeah, this wasn’t my best analysis. And yet this got a 94, and my Schumann one (which was much better) only got a 90. I’m still bitter.

George Frederic Handel’s “Air and Variations” from Suite no. 5 in E Major, HWV 430, For Harpsichord, commonly nicknamed “The Harmonious Blacksmith,” is a Baroque-era piece consisting of two initial phrases followed by five variations of the main theme. Although it is unknown why it is famously known as “The Harmonious Blacksmith,” the musicality of the composition involves a sense of increasing intensity in the first variation through the usage of sixteenth notes in the right hand, much like the increasing, rhythmic intensity of work that a blacksmith performs.

The formation of the bars is unique due to the first phrase being anacrusic, while the second (and both phrases of the first variation) is crusic.

The first phrase’s melodic line ascends, reaching its highest point at C#5. The continuous movement through the usage of eighth notes that move in an Alberti-like fashion provides a light, harpsichord-like feel, even when performed on other instruments. The phrase is repeated, contributing to the growth of the overall composition through the restatement of the introduction. The second phrase then begins with a melodic line that also rises and then descends back down to tonic, creating a mild contrast with the first phrase. Additionally, there is a greater incorporation of sixteenth notes and first inversions (as well as a cadential 6/4 inversion in measure 6), giving the piece a faster feel and the inclusion of more non-chord tones. The second phrase contributes a B section which includes various non-chord tones and even a g#m chord (iii in the key of E Major). It then returns to the structure of the first phrase with an I-V-I pattern.

The first variation on the theme then follows the same line, but jumps down to the B and back up to the melodic line throughout both phrases. It serves as a propeller into each following variation, each new one developing the theme further.

“Air and Variations” is one of Handel’s most performed works for various reasons. Its light texture and moderato tempo gives it an ability to be performed on various instruments, as well as its chords being utilized from both the tonic and dominant keys. It is truly a unique composition that applies various theory principles.

A Creative Analysis of Mozart’s K.315 A

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Two Minuets is a notable piano composition of the Classical era in Western music. Common in the music of its time, K.315/a has a light texture, relying on the tonality from the chord structure. The chord structure is reinforced through the usage of Alberti basslines and strong chord progressions, encouraging the movement of harmony throughout the piece. The piece is unified through its use of hidden motivic unity, and repetition of rhythms. The piece explores contrast between the Allegretto and Trio sections through differing orders of rhythmic patterns, interval sizes, and progressions. The minuet’s shape is formed through the range utilized as well as through the form of the overall line.

In the Allegretto composed in the key of C Major, each phrase begins with an anacrusis on the tonic note, with primary movement occurring between tonic and the dominant. Each phrase begins with an anacrusis, as indicated by the singular quarter note in the first measure. The treble staff’s pattern then leaps down to G (the dominant in a C Major triad) and ends the phrase on the dominant as it approaches its first rest. The next phrase continues from where the dominant lies, still maintaining most movement within the chord of C Major (with emphasis on the notes that spell out the triad—C, E, and G). All this occurs accompanied by an Alberti bass pattern, which utilizes eighth-note arpeggios that include the first, third, and fifth notes in a triad. After the imperfect cadence in the fifth measure, Mozart transitions into G Major briefly, incorporating the use of inversions, sevenths, and triads raising F to F#. The G Major section then ends with a perfect cadence, moving from a D Major triad back to tonic. As the minuet returns to C Major and the Alberti bass pattern returns, the treble staff returns to its original pattern as well.

The trio section has various similarities as well as several points of contrast. In the minuet, the opening motive is a chord followed by the idea of thirds. In the B section, the order is reversed, moving as third-triad in lieu of triad-third. A point of contrast is in the range of the minuet and trio. While the minuet’s primary range lies within the staffs (with rare use of ledger lines), the trio’s pitches are primarily found in the upper ranges of both the treble and bass staffs. Furthermore, while the minuet is consistent in utilizing the progression of dominant chords (with primary movement between the I and V in the key), the trio’s motion is mostly stepwise.

The motivic unity is present in several ways. Both the minuet and the trio begin with an anacrusis on Beat 1. They also follow the similar rhythmic pattern of (where “q” represents the quarter note):

q (Bar line) q q q (Bar line) q

Furthermore, the Alberti bass pattern is present in all sections of the piece. The arpeggios that shape the pattern provide a sense of stability that connects the sections together; they also add extra movement, allowing listeners to truly feel the simple triple time signature.

Evidenced by the information above, W.A. Mozart’s K.315/a is a keyboard masterpiece, highlighting all of the greatest features of classical Western music: emphasis on dominant chords, lightness of texture, the utilization of Alberti bass, the usage of a compound ternary (ABA) form, and motivic unity. To this day, works of his such as this continue to inspire musicians and composers all throughout the Western world.

An Introduction to Voice Leading

Note: This was written during my first semester of music theory. Therefore, while the information written here is true, one does not have to follow all of these guidelines for good partwriting.

an introduction to

Voice leading is the process of connecting harmonic progressions. Voice leading connects musical lines, giving a sense of direction for the piece’s melody.

When learning how to voice lead, it is important that one take heed of the following guidelines: keep the rhythm as simple as possible, ensure that each note in the melody is a member of the chord so that its produced sound harmonizes with the other tones, follow a stepwise motion (more formally known as “conjunct”) with a single focal point (often the melody’s highest note), and follow the steps that tendency tones “tend” to resolve to. For example, scale degree 7 has a strong desire to resolve up to scale degree 1. When writing leaps, one should avoid augmented intervals, 7ths, and intervals larger than an octave.

Voicing is the practice of arranging the spacing of a chord. The first step one must take when learning to write in a four-part texture (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass) is deciding whether to write in an open or closed structure. In closed structure, it is important that no more than an octave can be observed between the Soprano and the Tenor, while in open structure, there is an allowance for an octave or more between the Soprano and Tenor voices.

However, even when writing in open structure, it is important for a beginning part-writer to take note of two main conventions. First, it is important that voices do not cross unless there is a musical reason to do so. For example, in Tavener’s “The Lamb” written for SATB chorus, there is frequent crossover between the Soprano and Alto voices, causing dissonance. However, traditionally one would not want the Alto voice to cross above the Soprano; it is usually not desired for a voice part to go above or below the one before it. Second, when spacing, there should be no more than an octave separating the Soprano and Alto, and the Alto and the Tenor (therefore resulting in no more than two octaves between the Soprano and the Tenor).

When writing, voice pairs are able to move in four ways: upper voices may move contrary to the bass, in oblique motion, parallel motion, or similar. It is also possible for an interval to remain stagnant, which is referred to as static. It is often preferred to avoid parallel 5ths and octaves in part writing, as they undermine the importance of the individual parts (Kostka). Doing so results in an objectionable parallel, which is generally avoided in tonal music written prior to the twentieth century.

In root position part writing, it is important to observe the guidelines of four- and three-part textures. In four-part textures, all notes belonging to the triad are present, with the root note repeated (“doubled”). In three-part textures, it is important to include the root and the third of the triad. If one chooses not to utilize the fifth, then the root will be doubled; however, the third cannot be omitted. It is also important to note that in both textures, the leading tone (scale degree 7) is usually not doubled, because it has a strong tendency tone, giving it a desire to move to tonic.

When writing parts that are a 4th and 5th apart, the most frequently used method (the rule of thumb, as learned in lectures) is to hold the common tone between the chords in the same voice. For example, when moving from a C Major triad (spelled as C, E, and G) when the Alto voice is the G to a G Major chord (G, B, and D), the Alto voice will hold the common tone of G (the note that is present in both triads) while the other voices will move in the same direction as the bass by step.

Another method (the first variation) is to move the upper voices in the same direction, but contrary to the bass. It is important to note that if the leading tone is in an inner voice (Alto or Tenor), then it does not need to resolve to scale degree 1.

The third method (the second variation) is when one note holds the common tone while another moves by step, and the other moves by a fourth. Although this is normally an acceptable progression, one must be careful, as this can cause voice overlap.

When writing with roots that are a 3rd or 6th apart, there will be two common tones. For example, when moving from C Major (spelled C, E, G) to E minor (spelled E, G, B), there are two notes in common—E and G. In four-part textures, the two voices with the common tone will hold it, while the remaining moves by step. In three-part textures, it is important to include the 5th of the second triad so that it can be evident to listeners that the entire chord has changed, rather than having performed an inversion of the same chord.

When writing roots a 2nd or 7th apart, there will be no common tones. In both four- and three-part textures, the upper voices will always move contrary to the bass. It is rare that progressions of a second lead to a proper cadence; they usually indicate that a musical phrase is not yet complete. One might be familiar with the deceptive progression (V-VI), which gives off a questioning tone rather than the comfort of a resolution to tonic.

The chapter* concludes with a brief explanation of how to write music for transposing instruments. As a double bassist (in spite of my primary academic concentration being voice), I have often had to transpose music down an octave, or change the tuning of my strings to match that of a cello’s when playing cello suites. Therefore, this section was very useful for me and many other students who may need to learn how to transpose their own music in the future.

In order to convey unity in tonal music, one must follow a sequence. A tonal sequence will maintain the piece’s key, while intervals may change. A real sequence will transpose to a different key. An example of a real sequence can be found in Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame’s “God Help the Outcasts” (Schwartz), in which the song’s original key of Bb Major raises Bb and Eb to B Natural and E Natural as the chorus concludes their part and Esmeralda begins singing a new verse in C Major.

However, it is important to note that imitations can mimic real sequences. In a real imitation, although one voice may transpose the melody, another might repeat the original pattern. Therefore, this cannot be considered a real sequence. In a modified sequence, repetitions of the pattern will be neither tonal nor real.

In harmonic progressions, the strongest progressions are those of 4ths and 5ths. An example chord progression would be:

I IV vii I

ii V I

V I

In this progression written, I chose to begin and end with intervals of 4ths, to begin and end on tonic, and to include a couple minor chords to provide some color. When moving up a 5th or down a 4th, this is considered following a circle-of-fifths sequence. Below is an example of the progression, with the chords written in the key of G Major.

G C fm G

am D G

D G

In the circle of fifths, one may observe that it can be known that C Major is the fourth chord in the progression, because when moving one position to the left on the circle, the key of C Major can be found. D Major is known to be the 5th due to its being one position to the right on the circle. The other chords can then be found using this process as a guideline.

*This information came from Stefan Kostka’s textbook Tonal Harmony, 5th edition.

The Inclusion of Individuals with Exceptionalities in Education

Background of Inclusion

Historically, the inclusion of students with exceptionalities in schools actually begins with the inclusion of non-white students in integrated public schools, as was mandated by the famous case, Brown v. Board of Education (1954). Acknowledged as one of the greatest Supreme Court decisions in American history, the Court’s unanimous decision led to the banning of segregation in public schools. This decision was made due to segregation violating the Equal Protection Clause and Fourteenth Amendment, and therefore the application of segregation was deemed discriminatory and unconstitutional. Furthermore, the separate institutions for white and African-American children were inherently unequal; black children in segregated schools had lower self-esteem than their white peers, which led psychologists to the conclusion that separation in itself leads to dangerous inferiority complexes that may have an adverse effect on the success of black children in academics (McBride). Ultimately, the decision did not immediately succeed in desegregating schools, it still set the foundation for more cases that would follow in its footsteps to support the rights of those who may not have originally been seen as equal under the eyes of the law.

Eleven years later, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (known as ESEA) addressed the improper treatment of Americans living in poverty, therefore committing to helping lower- and working-class families gain access to quality education. Additionally, the act mandates that funds be used for professional development, instructional materials, educational resources, and to promote the involvement of parents. This act is renewed every five years, adding revisions and amendments (known as titles) during each cycle (Social Welfare). Included in the ESEA series of amendments is Public Law 91-230 (1970), which includes Title VI. Title VI advocates for the education of the handicapped, providing definitions for learning disabilities. Furthermore, the amendment was implemented to encourage adults to complete a high school education through the Adult Secondary Education component (History of the Adult Education Act, 2).

Another amendment to ESEA is Public Law 93-380. This law set procedures and criteria for education, providing funding for programs to aide handicapped, migratory, and delinquent children. Such programs put in place as a result of the law include the National Reading Improvement Program, which funds the use of additional resources to effectively teach students with reading deficiencies and learning disabilities (Perkins).

Public Law 94-142, known as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, was established to ensure that children with disabilities have free appropriate public education available, with services designed to meet each child’s individual needs. Furthermore, the act ensured the protection of students’ and families’ rights, assists the states and local school districts in providing appropriate education for disabled children, and assesses the effectiveness of the institution’s efforts to provide an adequate education for students living with disabilities (Archived). This act helps provide the resources evident in the academic system in modern times.

Current Status of Inclusion in the Public School Setting

In today’s educational settings, students with disabilities and impairments are covered under requirements mandated by law. Two of the most common concepts discussed in special education are the plans that students with exceptionalities are able to receive accommodations under: The Individualized Education Plan and the 504 Plan.

The Individualized Education Plan assesses student needs and growth over the course of a designated time period. The information one may find in a student’s IEP includes their current performance or performance at the time of beginning the program, the annual goals that the child can reasonably accomplish within a year, the services that must be provided for the child (e.g. professional development for school faculty in order to assist the student), the student’s integration with non-disabled students, their participation in standardized testing (for example, a secondary school student in Ohio with a severe learning disability may not be required to pass the Ohio Graduation Test in order to graduate), the specific time and duration of when services are provided, transition service needs beginning when the child reaches the age of fourteen, and progress measurement (Guide to the Individualized Education Program). The IEP is commonly used when a student’s disability greatly interferes with their ability to perform in the classroom. For example, if a student is unable to comprehend their math homework due to Dyscalcula, this may greatly affect their ability to pass the course without assistance. However, if a student has a disability such as Asperger’s Syndrome (on the Autism spectrum) that may not have an adverse effect on their performance in the classroom but still leads to social or organizational deficits that make the school setting in general difficult for them, they will not be covered under the IEP. Instead, the student may be covered under the 504 Plan.

The 504 Plan is designed to help students with physical or mental impairments in order to ensure that students are treated fairly. These disorders may affect the student’s ability to walk, breathe, eat, sleep, communicate, see, hear, speak, read, concentrate, or work (Bachrach). Services provided by the 504 Plan to help these students include access to preferential seating, extended time on assignments, verbal and visual aids, excused tardiness or absence, and pre-approved nurse visits. These services provided by the IEP and 504 both strive to make living with disabilities less stressful for both students and their parents, assuring that every student can succeed with the support of their community.

My Experience with Inclusion in Schools

From September 2011 through to May 2016, I was a student at the Dayton Regional STEM School in Kettering, Ohio. Although funded like a typical public school, admission into the institution required the completion of an entrance application, admissions essay, parental explanation of the family’s interest in the school, and submission of Ohio Achievement Assessment scores to ensure the student’s ability to thrive in the academic program. Therefore, the vast majority of the students in my school came from the top quarters of their graduating middle school class, and were proven to have an ability to thrive in the mainstream classroom. However, there were roughly seven students (out of a 2016 graduating class of sixty) who did live with learning disabilities and/or disorders affecting their ability to attend classes. Of these students, the majority of them lived with Dyslexia, Dyscalcula, and Attention Deficit Disorder. The remaining students were covered under a 504 Plan, suffering from Chronic Migraine and similar neurological disorders. These were students who may not have needed academic accommodations, but needed exceptions to be made in other aspects of their education. Such examples include the option to complete frequently missed courses online, the allowance to miss a greater amount of school days than the average student (exceeding 20 absences), exemptions from certain class projects, and extended due dates in the event of a student’s inability to meet the original deadline due to hospitalizations and other extenuating circumstances. The students covered under the Individualized Education Plan had access to all of these resources, as well as having extended assessment time, assisted reading of test questions, and guidance in planning their assignments and responsibilities. Students under both plans were given access to a resource room which they had access to during their homeroom and study hall periods. However, all of the students were enrolled in mainstream courses.

One critique that could be made of the Dayton Regional STEM School’s policies regarding special education affairs is that it is insensitive to student privacy. Students would often be removed from their classroom for testing in non-discrete ways and teachers were (although not intentionally) vocal about who was receiving a “modified” exam, thus giving the students little to no confidentiality for their own academic records and progress. Therefore, although inclusion in the public school setting has come a long way, there is still a long way to go.

Inclusion Classroom Design

When designing the classroom structure, it is important to consider the educator’s personal behaviors as well as the behaviors of those in the classroom. One must keep a positive mindset about the abilities of all students; a student having a disability may be a hindrance to their goals, but it does not render them impossible. Therefore, it is important to respect the student’s goals and capabilities, encouraging them while also advocating for their comfort in the classroom. This means that educators must have a zero-tolerance policy for the harassment of students with disabilities in and out of the classroom, must respect the student’s confidentiality (therefore not discussing a student’s disability with others without their consent), and educating the entire classroom on diversity. Furthermore, it is important to respect the student’s personal identity by addressing them directly. The application of this concept is to call on the student themselves; a teacher should not ask their aide or companion to speak for them or exaggerate speech. This can be considered rude and condescending, even if intended to be helpful. Additionally, when working with hearing impaired students, it is important to always have the mouth faced towards them (and in a well-lit room) so that the student may read their lips (Brown University). Also, it is highly recommended not to require verbal presentations for those with speech or hearing impairments; it is often humiliating to the child. Most importantly, as an educator, it is important to respect the student as an individual. An individual is not defined by their impairment or illness; they are their own person with their own values and cognitions. Therefore, when designing a classroom, it is important to remember to always uphold the most respectful behavior.

Reflection

Through what I have learned about diversity and inclusion in school settings, I have come to the conclusion that as educators, it is of the utmost importance to be careful in how academic and administrative decisions affect the students’ ability to succeed in school. Students with specific learning, cognitive, and intellectual disabilities must be treated with the same amount of dignity and respect as their non-disabled peers, and therefore in order to ensure that students received the best education and transition services possible in order to become a contributing member of society when they graduate and/or reach the age of 21, educators and administrators must be sure to engage in professional and personal development to ensure that their knowledge expands. Furthermore, I have learned that I believe in assessing students based off of progress, in lieu of solely based upon accuracy. While accuracy is highly important, I believe that a student improving from consistently receiving scores of 40% should be celebrated for raising their scores to 70%, rather than being punished with low marks on report cards for not scoring high “enough.” Rather, I want my students to understand that it is persistence that will lead them to success someday, and that progress is always a great place to start.

Works Cited

ARCHIVED – Thirty-five Years of Progress in Educating Children With Disabilities Through IDEA– Pg 10. (2016, April 27). Retrieved April 02, 2017, from https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/osers/idea35/history/index_pg10.html

Bachrach, S. J. (Ed.). (2016, September). 504 Education Plans. Retrieved April 02, 2017, from http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/504-plans.html

Brown University. (n.d.). Retrieved April 02, 2017, from https://www.brown.edu/campus-life/support/accessibility-services/resources-teaching-students-disabilities/interacting-students-disabilities

Guide to the Individualized Education Program. (2007, March 23). Retrieved April 02, 2017, from https://www2.ed.gov/parents/needs/speced/iepguide/index.html?exp=0#contents

McBride, A. (2006, December). Brown v. Board of Education (1954). Retrieved April 2, 2017, from http://www.pbs.org/wnet/supremecourt/rights/landmark_brown.html

Perkins, C. (1974, August 21). H.R.69 – 93rd Congress (1973-1974): Elementary and Secondary Education Amendments. Retrieved April 02, 2017, from https://www.congress.gov/bill/93rd-congress/house-bill/69?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22pl%2B93-380%22%5D%7D&r=1

Social Welfare History Project (2016). Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. Social Welfare History Project. Retrieved April 2, 2017, from http://socialwelfare.library.vcu.edu/programs/education/elementary-and-secondary-education-act-of-1965/

History of the Adult Education Act: A Preview. (1991). Retrieved April 2, 2017, from https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ovae/pi/AdultEd/anniv40/silver-a.pdf

Personal Development as a Student Music Therapist

Music Therapy as a Profession

To me, music therapy is a profession dedicated to enhancing the mental, emotional, and physical health of participants through the use of musical interventions. Such interventions may include (but are not limited to) lyric discussion, active music listening (giving the client the option to choose a desired form of music to listen to), neurologic music therapy applications (addressing rehabilitation and maintenance of functional behaviors), guided imagery, and music-assisted relaxation. Interventions for clients are carefully chosen to suit their needs, which is why another important aspect of music therapy is the development of therapeutic rapport between a therapist and client. Through the building of trust and secure attachment, the therapist is given the ability to develop an understanding of their client’s goals, strengths, and weaknesses. As an aspiring student music therapist, my philosophy is that music as therapy is the use of creative methods to make medical and psychotherapeutic experiences more personal and enjoyable for the client, as well as actively affecting the wiring of the nervous system.

Critical Skills for Music Therapists

Musically, every music therapist should develop effective transposition, theoretical, sight reading, and aural skills in order to serve their client effectively. While working in the field, there will be many experiences when a client may want to use a song that the therapist has not previously heard or learned the chords for. However, to maintain professionalism, it is important to communicate to the client that they have a choice in the musical selections used, and that they do not need to worry about the therapist’s ability to perform. Rather, music therapists are by definition professional musicians, and therefore must develop advanced musicianship techniques. If a song that a client wants to hear/play is in a key difficult for the therapist or client to sing/perform, then the therapist must take it upon themselves to transpose on sight, memorizing the key signatures and chord progressions. A music therapist must also use musical elements to communicate transitions, emotions, and key phrases in the music through the use of vocal dynamics (i.e. crescendo to communicate anticipation of the next verse, diminuendo to communicate a change in a story’s theme, etc.), tempo (i.e. accelerando to communicate emotions such as excitement and happiness, ritardando to transition to a song’s cadence, etc.), and instrumental patterns (e.g. the choice to strum or fingerpick on the guitar).

Non-musically, a music therapist must develop self-awareness. Not only must one be aware of their personal strengths and weaknesses, but they must maintain awareness of how their behaviors are reflected in their work. This means an awareness of the vocal dynamics they often speak at, and reflecting upon whether or not it may be too quiet or loud for their population. For example, a geriatric music therapist with a typically quiet voice may want to work towards speaking louder, in hopes of being heard by clients who may be dealing with hearing trouble. Similarly, a therapist with a consistently stoic facial expression may want to participate in improvisation classes or work towards expressing emotions more evidently, especially if they are working with young children who are still developing an understanding of the six basic human emotions.

Critical Traits for Music Therapists

Music therapists must be resilient. As a psychological, medical, educational, dramatic, and musical profession, music therapy is arguably one of the most difficult professions in the nation. As a student, one must complete three practicum experiences, an educational field experiences, a recreational music course, 180 pre-internship hours, the interview of a board-certified therapist, several psychology courses, and music courses on a primary and secondary instrument, all while participating in University ensembles and completing core university requirements. On the way to board-certification, many lose hold of that dream that initially led them to where they are, and they walk away from the profession. However, the dedicated music therapy student will find a way to succeed; they will face the obstacles with confidence and determination, knowing that their efforts will be worth it when they receive their certification and are licensed to work in the community. Furthermore, upon receiving certification, one must also understand when it is beneficial to take a break from working. As a music therapist, Compassion Fatigue is a common occurrence, especially when working in palliative and chronic illness care. However, in order to maintain personal health, it is important for a music therapist to understand the importance of self-care, and remember that although they may have the privilege to work in a career they love, they are still a person separate from their job.

Personal Skills, Strengths, and Weaknesses

Personally, I believe that my most well-developed skills and traits are my optimism and persistence. I am a firm believer in stressing progress rather than comparison when working with others; I want individuals to understand that they do not need to have any prior musical training to participate in therapeutic interventions. Rather, I want them to focus on where they are today, and how much they have grown over the course of treatment. Furthermore, I am persistent. Throughout my entire life, I have been recognized for my work ethic; whenever I have a goal, I put in all of my energy to achieve it. This means that no matter how difficult it becomes, I will find a way to help my client achieve their own goals, and I will make sure to show them that I will do whatever I can to ensure that all needs are met.

As a student music therapist, I believe that my main weakness is my performance anxiety. Anxiety was not a major hindrance to my musical performance originally; however, this past year, it has become a major stumbling block. Both musically and socially, I have found increased difficulty in making eye contact, communicating with peers and professors, initiating conversation, and performing in front of trained musicians. I am unsure if this is the result of an anxiety disorder (as I have avoided psychoanalytic therapy my entire life); however, I plan to begin attending counseling sessions to improve my interpersonal and musical skills to ensure that I am able to continue to pursue music therapy as a profession.

My Future in Music Therapy

While the field of music therapy is highly interesting to me, unfortunately it does not seem likely that I will be continuing in the major. Due to an unsuccessful audition, I will not be able to study here at Baldwin Wallace. Although I could hypothetically audition again in the Fall semester, I do not believe that I will be able to perform well under the pressure of presenting in front of professors whom have previously rejected me. On the contrary, in the event of a successful audition, paying for two extra years of liberal arts college is too difficult financially. Therefore, I am auditioning at Cleveland State University (where I would plan to double major Music Therapy and Education), Wright State University, and Wittenberg University to pursue a Bachelor of Music Education. After, I may consider Post-Baccalaureate studies in order to prepare to take the Board Examination.

Furthermore, I am switching to a Music Education major due to an increased interest in educating children with mild and moderate special needs. After completing a field experience in a fourth grade resource room, I have discovered that I am passionate about teaching young children who live with intellectual disabilities. I want to teach the students how to become musicians as well, rather than solely focusing on using music as an intervention. Therefore, I believe that I may be needed more in the field of education than I am in therapy.

Although I am not continuing in the study of music therapy for the time being, I believe that what I have learned in this course will benefit me greatly as a special needs music teacher someday, in the event that I do not become a music therapist. At any given time in a special education classroom, there will be children with multiple types of disabilities, ranging from Attention Deficit Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down Syndrome, and other common exceptionalities. Therefore, learning how individuals living with these conditions will aide me in providing the highest quality education and care, showing them that no matter where their musical and non-musical abilities lie, they can always find peace and comfort in music-making. Anyone can learn how to make beautiful music, if only someone gives them the chance.

My Educational Philosophy

Education and school settings are important because they teach the individuals of the future generations the skills and values that may benefit them and their community someday. Ultimately, this is my inspiration for becoming a teacher: serving as a mentor and motivator for all students in the community, so that they may have the opportunity to not only contribute to the existing society, but so that they may also leave the world a better place than it was when they arrived. Some of the key components of education in the school setting include but are not limited to the teaching of the core subjects (mathematics, language arts, natural sciences, and social studies), spiritual and religious curriculum, physical and athletic activity, and embracing cultural and personality diversity. Many of my values are derived from that of existentialism; my personal philosophy is that education in itself serves as a tool to aid children in finding meaning and purpose in their own lives, guiding them to find their own sets of beliefs in lieu of adults directing each child’s learning experience. Furthermore, school settings are important because students are socialized by their peers; additionally, students are known to learn best through discussion and non-lecture activities. Such philosophers that serve as leaders of the theory of existentialism are A.S. Neill and Maxine Greene.

A.S. Neill, the creator of the Summerhill school, created the school in order to encourage children to become independent, making their own decisions on what they want to learn. More recently, Maxine Greene held the belief that it is crucial for students to find meaning in their lives. She was an advocate for the use of humanities and arts in school settings, as they move individuals to become more aware of the world around them (198).

As an educator, I hope to teach my students about how their work will ultimately contribute to the greater good. As an aspiring music educator and therapist, I want to diverge from the standard education that solely focuses on the performance of Western music. Instead, I intend to teach my students Ethnomusicology, how to interpret the poetry of the piece’s lyrics, and how to apply their knowledge to their own life, whether that is through the composition of their own works or an application in an entirely different field of interest. In the classroom, my students will engage in small group discussions with their peers about the course’s material (as well as the music that they listen to in their personal time), present pieces to the class/studio, and participate in group activities such as drum circles and song leading exercises. I will provide the instruments to them (a piano, guitars, percussive instruments, recorders, etc.). In addition, I intend to teach them life lessons that they will encounter anywhere they go, especially the experiences of failure and loss, and how they can survive any dilemma through perseverance. I believe that these are skills that should be taught in schools, so that children can grow into fully-functioning, emotionally intelligent adults who can take the lessons that they learn in school and apply the knowledge to improve their personal life and lives of others.

With the theory of essentialism, it can be inquired whether or not its effectiveness can truly be measured. Therefore, I intend to assess my children’s work through comparing their skills and knowledge with where they were previously, assessing their progress rather than comparing them to where traditional teaching standards think they “should” be. Rather, I believe in using beginning- and end-of-year assessments and performances to measure the effectiveness of my teaching strategies.

Until the Journey’s End: My Music Therapy Story

NOTE: The post written below is an admissions essay that I wrote for the Baldwin Wallace University Conservatory of Music in order to be considered for acceptance into their Music Therapy program. Ultimately, I was rejected, and am currently considering transferring to Wright State University, Cleveland State University, College of Wooster, or Wittenberg University (whose music program I have already become familiar with, as I attended workshops with Dr. Kazez there during my senior year of high school). While this is disappointing, and I am still very sad about having to leave BW after sophomore year, I believe that, much like as is stated in Death Cab for Cutie’s ‘Black Sun,’ “there is beauty in a failure.” 

What this means to me is that in every failure, there is something good that will come out of it. It is very difficult to be optimistic about something I worked so hard for, just to crack under pressure in the audition room. Honestly, I do not know what will come out of this; I invested a lot of time and energy (and stress… lots of stress… and some tears but whatever lol) into hopefully becoming a student music therapist, so it’s kind of difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but still. “So, why are you sharing your admissions essay if you didn’t even get in?” you may ask. Good question!

Well, honestly, I just want this to be public record (for the same reason I have published my other college essays on here) so that it can be read by more than just the few admissions officers who probably won’t remember anything about it; after all, this is just one essay out of hundreds that were reviewed. Additionally, I know that there were a few people who my parents informed about my audition who may be wondering how it went (to answer y’all: my major is Early Childhood Education). I don’t really feel like talking about it or my future plans in person, so… this post kind of serves as an explanation for some things. Also, I spent like three months writing this essay, so I want it to be on display somewhere. There are some grammatical errors and a few things that I wish I did/didn’t include in the final draft, but for the sake of authenticity, the essay below is exactly what was submitted.

(MORE DISCLAIMERS: In the section when I start talking about the specific years of my father’s timeline, they might not necessarily be 100% accurate. The only years that I know for certain are correct are the year of his retirement (2003), the year he wanted to retire (2013), and the year of his diagnosis (1992). The rest are educated guesses because my memory is kinda weird. Like, I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I found out Michael Jackson died (someone whose music I didn’t even listen to while he was alive) but I can’t remember these dates that are actually kinda relevant to my life. Which, for the record, when I found out Michael Jackson died I was in New Philadelphia, Ohio at a church summer camp painting a kid’s nails. It was a Thursday, and I’m pretty sure it was June 25th. I had just finished fifth grade and– ANYWAY! That is all.)

Well, I think that’s all that needs to be covered before I write the essay below! Remember, kids– life has many setbacks, but that’s no excuse to give up. *finger guns*

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Looking back on the past eighteen years of my life, there is no set path that led me to pursue a career in music therapy. In fact, there have been several instances that I have lost my way, hoping to find peace in other areas of interest. However, from the very first days of my life, I have encountered signs on the side of the path that have led me back to the main road.

I am the youngest child in a family of five (seven, if you include our two dogs), and all of us except for my biology-loving sister, Faith, have performed in music ensembles. My mother spent much of her teenage years as the only alto clarinetist in the now-defunct Cleveland All-City Orchestra, performing in Severance Hall and in other venues throughout the Cleveland area. My father is a jazz-trained bass guitarist, who has over thirty years of experience in jazz bands, military music ensembles, orchestras, and church music groups. My eldest sister, Charity, performed as a soprano in our local high school’s Varsity choir, performing in concert venues all over the United States.

It goes without saying that as the baby of the family, I have been immersed in music from the very first days of my life. As a young child, I would often attend my father’s rehearsals, admiring how he played his bass guitar with such ease and great energy. In these rehearsals, I remember thinking, “I want to be just like my daddy someday.”

Soon, I found myself following in the footsteps of my parents shortly after singing my first vocal solo in a church service at the age of ten. I then began to teach myself new strumming techniques on the acoustic guitar, purchased an autoharp, and even learned a major scale or two on the violin.

After years of exploring my musical interests, I began performing in the community through participating in music theatre and vocal performance master classes through the Victoria Theatre Association and Human Race Theatre Company, along with training in music theatre vocal repertoire with Ashley Leasure, a Master of Music at the Wright State University. Selections representative of my lessons with her are Boublil and Schonberg’s “On My Own” and “I Dreamed a Dream,” along with several selections from Avenue Q and Jekyll & Hyde. During my time training with her, I was cast as a Mezzo-Soprano in the Miami Valley Symphony Orchestra and Dayton Playhouse production of Les Miserables, as well as being given the opportunity to perform with the Miami Valley Symphony again under the direction of David Deitrick during their last concert of the 2014-2015 season, a production of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony no. 9.

Overlapping the time I spent rehearsing and performing with the orchestra, two of my friends also decided to form a self-conducted small vocal ensemble, performing an a cappella rendition of “Mary Did You Know” at the Ohio Fine Arts Festival (myself singing the alto and tenor parts) and eventually performing at the National Fine Arts Festival in Orlando, Florida (at which we received a Superior rating). Throughout the course of my final year of high school that followed, I performed with my school’s senior vocal ensemble at graduation, and even originated a voice acting role in the Dayton Writers Movement audio drama Unwritten. However, even though I thoroughly enjoyed participating in the arts, my college career began on an entirely different track.

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INTERRUPTION (sorry)

Attached are two of the three recorded “Mary Did You Know” performances.

Above: This is us singing offertory a few months before Nationals. I’m the first soloist, and the middle voice during harmony. I ran out of breath a couple times in this.

Above: Yes, I’m wearing a headscarf. It was 2 a.m., which explains what happened at 1:11.

Above: This last video is actually me on a really bad vocal day, but overall this is probably the best one.

Okay, sorry. Back to the essay.

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As college auditions were drawing near, I found myself growing more and more unsure of my capabilities. Although it is true that I have had several performance opportunities, I still felt inadequate compared to my peers; none of the schools I attended while growing up had music programs, I had not been able to take as many private lessons as most musicians due to the financial and logistical struggles of dealing with my father’s illness, and I simply felt unprepared. I found myself cancelling auditions just as soon as I scheduled them, ultimately deciding to major in Criminal Justice instead.

It didn’t take very long to realize that I had made a mistake in choosing my major. Every day, I would wake up and remind myself that it would just be another class to sit through, another exam to take, another four years of studying a field I wasn’t truly passionate about. This short period of my life would pass faster than I would know; technically, I didn’t even have to use my degree. I just needed to study something, even if I spent my days staring at the clock. I never felt that connection to my major that everyone else seemed to have; everyone else seemed to have a sense of pride when asked what their major was. I, however, wanted nothing to do with mine.

I still wanted to do something in the field of music. Even more so, I wanted to do something that would positively impact my community. Luckily, during my first semester here at Baldwin Wallace, I was given the opportunity to participate in two organizations that would change my perspective on my career as I knew it: BW Singers and America Reads.

Performing as an Alto II under the direction of Dr. Weagraff, I found myself learning more and more about choral music every day; in BW Singers I found myself surrounded by both with similar experience and abilities, which shattered my expectation of the Conservatory being a cut-throat environment and restored some of the confidence I lost during my last year of high school. However, my work-study position with America Reads is what truly got me out of the Criminal Justice major.

America Reads is a tutoring program provided by the Cuyahoga County Public Library system through which students in grades Kindergarten-Grade 8 participate in after-school tutoring at one of the Cuyahoga library branches. In October, I began working at the Parma branch as a student tutor. Many of our students come from underprivileged backgrounds, receive low marks in school, or live with cognitive disabilities. As I spent more of my week days outside of work trying to find new ways to help my students with disabilities, I began to realize that perhaps my interests truly lied in working with those affected by mental and physical handicaps. I knew I wanted to work with music, but I didn’t want to simply perform; I also did not feel like a career in music education would be the best option for me, either. I also knew that I wanted to help rehabilitate those suffering from impairments, but I didn’t want to be a physical or occupational therapist.

Like many confused college students, I called my mother to ask for her advice. “Why don’t you consider a career in music therapy?” she asked. It was at that moment that everything made sense, as I was already quite familiar with music therapy due to my father’s struggle with Multiple Sclerosis.

Diagnosed with M.S. in 1992, my father’s careers in the Air Force and music performance both eventually had to be cut short. Being a progressive disease, the disease slowly took away the things he loved in small steps. First, he was forced to retire ten years earlier than he had hoped due to his inability to walk without limping. Having been born in the latter years of his military career, I have very few memories of my father’s time in the service. However, I do have vivid memories of my father’s passion for continuing in his Air Force career, hoping to retire in 2013 after thirty years of service. Returning back to civilian life was difficult, and not even two years after retiring from the Air Force, he was also unable to remain in the work force. Then, he became more reliant on walking with a cane. In 2011, he stopped driving. In 2013, even walking with a cane became too dangerous, and he began using a walker. And in 2014, he lost the most important thing to him: his ability to play his bass guitar at the level of proficiency necessary to keep up with the music.

In the present day, my father often uses a motorized wheelchair to get around public spaces, while he is still able to walk very short distances at home. He has lost most of the functioning on the right side of his body, which makes daily tasks such as writing or using eating utensils difficult. Furthermore, his cognitive ability is declining at a steady rate, and his memory continues to weaken more each day.

My father began attending music therapy sessions at the Dayton Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center after years of participating in occupational and physical therapy. Working with the institution’s board-certified music therapist, he was able to work with different strumming techniques and musical exercises to improve his physical strength. Unfortunately, my father’s therapist has recently retired, and the medical center has not found a replacement for her. While my family is fortunately financially stable enough to hire a private-practicing music therapist, many of the other veterans at the VA solely rely on their veterans’ benefits to receive health care, and have been forced to terminate music therapy treatment until the center hires a replacement.

Living near the University of Dayton (where there is a music therapy program), it is rather confusing that there are so few music therapists, and frankly, it is disturbing. Time and time again, music therapy has produced evidence of being beneficial to all people; yet so few have access to it.

I want to help change that. After that phone conversation with my mother that day, I knew that I had found what I wanted to do with my life. I began working with Blaine Heeter, a Master of Music at Wright State University and teacher at Stivers School for the Arts, on the pieces that I will be presenting at my upcoming audition, which include Reynaldo Hahn’s “L’Heure Exquise” in B flat major. After last semester ended, I also met with a local piano teacher in the Dayton area to learn to play the hymn “How Great Thou Art,” which I will be performing in the piano placement portion of the audition.

In addition to preparing my performances, I have also registered for many of the required music courses. I am in my second semester of BW Singers, I am enrolled in Performance Attendance, Beginning Guitar Class, Introduction to Music Therapy, and Educating Children with Special Needs. As a student in Professor Edie Hardin-Steiner’s Introduction to Music Therapy course, I have observed and interviewed Amy Schneider, MT-BC at Laurel Lake Retirement Community. I have also begun attending Cleveland Student Music Therapist club meetings in order to become more involved in Baldwin Wallace’s music therapy community. In addition, I am a declared Applied Music minor and an advisee under Professor Nanette Canfield.

I believe that I am a strong candidate for Baldwin Wallace’s music therapy program for a multitude of reasons. Not only have I taken music courses and extracurricular activities here, but I also have completed the majority of the prerequisite courses necessary. I have already taken Principles of Psychological Science, Principles of Sociology, Workshop in Exposition and Argument, and the First-Year Experience requirement (receiving grades of A and A+ in all of the courses). In addition, I have achieved a 3.911 GPA during my first semester here at BW and have a strong work ethic. This upcoming summer, I plan on taking extra Biology, Psychology and HPE courses in order to finish the remainder of my prerequisites; I also plan on attending the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music choral conducting workshop in July. Furthermore, being a year older, I am more prepared. Having spent a semester here already, I am well-adjusted to the expectations of college life, and due to the time I have spent in the liberal arts departments, I can say that I have adequately explored my other options, and am certain that a career in music therapy would be a good fit for me.

I believe that there are many ways that I could positively impact the world as a music therapist. Due to my family’s personal experience with musical interventions with Multiple Sclerosis, I have developed an interest in using music therapy as a means for helping clients suffering from autoimmune and neurodegenerative disorders. In addition, I am also interested in pursuing geriatric care, working in a retirement home in the Cleveland area. After spending a few years in the practice, I plan on pursuing a Master’s degree in Psychology, so that I can further develop my understanding of mental, intellectual, and developmental disorders and apply the knowledge to enhance my therapeutic services.

At the end of the day, there are so many possibilities with the field of music therapy that it is impossible for me to pin down a single path I would like to take with it. However, I believe that the Baldwin Wallace Conservatory will help me realize my potential as a student music therapist, and I believe that I have the persistence, the passion, and the creativity necessary to thrive as a member of BW’s learning community.

I know that I have much to contribute to Baldwin Wallace Conservatory of Music’s class of 2021, and I know that I have so much that I need to learn. I know that there will be many challenges that come my way as a non-freshman beginning the music therapy track; I understand that I will not be graduating with my original class. However, I am excited to face whatever challenges come my way, and I am prepared to do whatever it takes, for however long it takes in order to make a difference in the lives of my future clients. I look forward to the opportunities that studying music therapy at Baldwin Wallace will bring, and I plan on seeing it through to the very end.

“I won’t lose hope until I go the distance and my journey is complete.”

-Michael Bolton, ‘Go the Distance’

 

What Makes a Monster and What Makes a Man: The Importance of Fairy Tales in Early Childhood

Bruno Bettelheim’s study, The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales, offers insight into the reason fairy and folk tales are often used to teach children lessons, using illustrations for topics that would otherwise be difficult for parents to discuss with their children. While many adults only desire to present pleasant images to children, teaching that there is no evil in the world is inefficient; youth are quick to pick up on the notion that there is. Bettelheim argues that through Sigmund Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis, mankind is enabled to accept life’s struggles without allowing themselves to be defeated, but instead strengthened by their experiences and thus given meaning for their existence. Fairy tales are able to deliver these themes to offspring through following a structure similar to that of a daydream, through which they can be taught that while pain and suffering are inevitable, they may overcome their problems with great effort. Therefore, due to the benefits fairy tales pose for child development, Disney’s retelling of Victor Hugo’s classic Notre-Dame de Paris is efficient in teaching children to appreciate and understand other cultures through telling the story in a simplified format. Additionally, although Bruno Bettelheim’s research on fairy tales is shown to lack objectivity, Heike vom Orde proves that fairy tales are essential in child development, due to their efficiency in teaching values while also keeping the attention span of their audience.

Many tales begin with the death of a parent or another traumatic event. In order for young children to understand, the situation is simplified and unimportant details are omitted. The stories have a large focus on battles of good versus evil; a character is either good or bad, teaching children to easily comprehend the difference between the two. Although no one is truly good or evil in reality, Bettelheim argues that presenting such complexity in characters may confuse the young audience. Therefore, the protagonist and antagonist are displayed as distinct opposites, often leading the child to favor the character they can sympathize with the most: the character they believe to be “good.” This is likely because children can relate to the common theme of a character’s desire for a sense of belonging or to overcome one’s fears. The fairy tale then becomes a symbol of hope, reminding them that even the meekest of souls can achieve greatness (Bettelheim).

Psychologist Heike vom Orde further studies this approach in her article, Children Need Fairy Tales, conducting research through surveying young audiences and discussing the reception and criticism of Bettelheim’s claims. In the survey given, it is shown that 56% of German children ranging from the ages of nine to nineteen enjoy fairy tales, while 38% of those surveyed do not. A small margin of 6% only enjoy a few fairy tales (Orde, 1). Additionally, Orde addresses the concerns of the theory’s critics, who often stated that the work fails to reflect on the socializing function of folk tales and differentiates too little between folk tales and modern literature. Furthermore, Orde states that research proves Bettelheim’s claim that children enjoy fairy tales more than other children’s literature to be unsustainable. Additionally, Bettelheim is criticized for not having acknowledged the subjectivity of his interpretations. However, it is agreed that fairy tales are essential in child development, teaching children cultural values and morals.

Several adaptations of fairy tales have come into existence, most notably the works of the Walt Disney Animation Studios. Famous for its adaptations of tales such as The Little Mermaid and The Beauty Sleeping in the Wood (Sleeping Beauty), in 1996 the company released The Hunchback of Notre Dame as a child-friendly version of the classic Victor Hugo novel.

Originally published in 1831, Notre-Dame de Paris begins at the 1482 Festival of Fools, for which the physically and mentally handicapped Quasimodo leaves the bell tower of Notre Dame against the advice of his adoptive father, Archdeacon Claude Frollo. Later, after ordering Quasimodo to leave the festival, he orders him to aide in attacking a gypsy performer named Esmerelda as she walks home. Quasimodo is later arrested and tried for his crime; however, he is shown mercy by the young gypsy when she offers him water to drink during his public punishment. Esmerelda wins the affection of Quasimodo and Frollo, although she does not return the same affection to any of them; instead, she falls in love with one of the King’s soldiers, Phoebus de Chateaupers. This makes Frollo jealous, leading him to become obsessive and filled with lust for her. That night, he finds Phoebus and stabs him, accusing Esmerelda of his supposed death. While she awaits execution, Frollo visits her in her cell and gives her an ultimatum: she can love him or face death. She decides to face execution, and is hanged. At the cathedral, Quasimodo discovers her corpse and becomes furious, sending Frollo to his death by throwing him from the north tower. Upon seeing the cadavers of both the man who raised him and the woman he held dear, Quasimodo cries, “This is everything I ever loved.” After the events of the story, it is revealed that next to Esmerelda’s remains are the bones of a “hunchback,” as a depressed Quasimodo starves himself to death and dies by her side (Hugo).

In the 1996 Walt Disney film adaptation, the story follows a pattern that is much simpler for a child’s cognitive ability and attention span to follow. The film begins with the murder of Quasimodo’s mother, following the typical trope of fairy tales beginning with the loss of a parent. Then, despite the original novel’s diverse personalities in each character which often blur the lines of good and evil, Disney structures the story to fit the format of a fairy tale; there is a specific villain, Claude Frollo, whom is given few redeeming qualities; viewers are rarely shown his paternal side, and instead are conditioned to dislike him as he limits Quasimodo from accomplishing his dreams, attempts the genocide of those of Roma ethnicity, murders Quasimodo’s mother, and sings of his lust for Esmeralda (revised spelling of her original name), praying that “she will be mine or she will burn [in Hell] (Hulce et al.).” Through seeing the effects of Frollo’s oppression of Quasimodo and the gypsies, the audience is unable to sympathize with him, and instead are drawn to Quasimodo. In addition, not only are viewers taught to dislike Frollo, they are repulsed by the symbols for which he stands: corrupt leadership, racism, and sexism. Although children may not fully understand either concept at their age, they are shown the consequences that Frollo and the other characters face for his actions and the turmoil it causes them, leading the audience to understand how his behavior is harmful to society. After Frollo’s defeat, Quasimodo’s wish to be accepted into society is fulfilled, the gypsies are able to live in freedom, and the Parisians appear to be pleased with the outcome.

While Disney’s retelling is not as complex as the original literature, one must understand that the target audience would not have the capacity to truly appreciate the work in its unabridged form. However, the story’s themes of acceptance and freedom are still highly important for children to be taught; therefore, the only way to ensure the message would be instilled in a child’s mind is to follow the format of stories children are used to hearing.

Furthermore, the original novel deals with explicit themes of sex and murder; while the Disney version does touch upon these topics, it does so in a subtle form so that the audience is not distracted from the most important theme: acceptance. Utilizing every single detail from the original tale would only confuse a child, as their brain is not yet fully developed and does not yet understand the complex nature of many of Hugo’s topics. In addition, Hugo’s work is difficult for many adults to comprehend, often leaving the common citizen confused and only able to focus on the tragic ending in which all three principal characters meet a devastating death. Children are especially sensitive to traumatic events, often becoming psychologically damaged and subconsciously fearful due to being exposed to traumatic events at a young age. However, through giving the story a happy ending in which Quasimodo achieves many of his dreams, they are encouraged to believe that they too can leave a positive impact on their society, and that no matter where they come from or what they look like, there will always be something they can contribute. The film concludes with the quote, “What makes a monster and what makes a man?” (Kandel et al.) This final question proves the tale’s main point, which is that one’s character cannot be judged off appearance, but on their integrity. This is a lesson that many children will take with them into adulthood; they may only remember a few details, but they will remember all of the ones that matter.

 

 

Works Cited

Bettelheim, Bruno. The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales. N.p.: Johns Hopkins UP, 1976. Print.

Hugo, Victor. Notre-Dame De Paris. N.p.: Gosselin, 1831. Print.

Hulce, Tom, and Tony Jay. By Stephen Schwartz and Alan Menken. Heaven’s Light / Hellfire. 1996. CD.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Dir. Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale. Perf. Tom Hulce, Demi Moore, Tony Jay. Walt Disney Company, 1996. Videocassette.

Kandel, Paul. By Stephen Schwartz and Alan Menken. The Bells of Notre Dame (Reprise). 1996. CD.

Vom Orde, Heike. “Children Need Fairy Tales.” Televizion (2013): 17. Web. 27 Sept. 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Liberation from Sexual Stigma

Prior to the late twentieth century, sex and violence were considered taboo among the general public. Although everyone was aware of the subjects, it was often considered too vulgar or unprofessional to speak of such adult behavior in a public setting. Blues music paved the way for many artists to express and embrace their sexuality. Although the men and women of the genre communicate in different ways (men writing about women in boastful and sexist ways, while women often express emotions of sorrow or sing of homosexual relationships), the use of sexual content in the blues shows audiences all of the frustrations of love and lust.

When blues music began to emerge, it was known for speaking of the pain and pleasure of the working class (Humphrey, 153). In fact, many genres with similar history, such as the tango of Argentina, are known for voicing the taboo—sex, alcoholic consumption, and drugs. Such music is known for giving detailed descriptions of lifestyles that, at that time, were considered scandalous. An example of this type of songwriting is “Walking the Street,” originally performed by Mamie Desdoumes (Desdoumes). The lyrics were later remastered in 1937, stating:

Stood on the corner till my feet got soakin’ wet,

Stood on the corner till my feet got soakin’ wet,

These are the words I said to each and every man I met.

“If you ain’t got a dollar, give me a lousy dime,

If you ain’t got a dollar, give me a lousy dime,

I’ve got to beg and steal to please that man of mine.

The original lyrics communicate that the prostitute works on the streets in order to provide for her husband, yet the later recording expresses the woman’s desire to please her lover, as she is willing to “beg and steal,” if only to keep hold of his love. The song’s lyrics combine the harsh realities of prostitution with the violence the lifestyle is often accompanied with, perhaps showing that sex and violence work hand in hand. While similar women’s blues songs dealing with the theme often are told from experience or out of sympathy, male blues musicians often focus on the physical aspects of a woman, such as in Blind Boy Fuller’s “Meat Shakin’ Woman.” The song’s lyrics are quite possessive, using language similar to referring to one’s property:

If when you boys see my woman you can’t keep her long

I say hey, hey, you can’t keep her long

I got a new way to keep her down, you “monkey men”” can’t catch on

Baby, for my dinner, I want ham and eggs

I say hey, hey, I want ham and eggs

And for my supper, mama, I want to feel your legs

While the lyrics may not be easily seen as violent, it can definitely be argued that they are misogynistic. Through saying, “I got a new way to keep her down,” he sounds like a slave master or brothel owner, communicating that she will always return to him, as she will always be his property (Fuller). He compares her to “ham and eggs,” showing that he views her as a meal that satisfies his inner desires, rather than as a partner. Therefore, although the lyrics are not explicitly violent in describing murder or rape, they encourage the very culture that encourages the maltreatment of females. Blind Boy Fuller is not the only one to use possessive lyrics to describe women, however. In Lonnie Johnson’s “You Can’t Buy Love,” he says:

You can give your woman plenty money,

Dress her up in fancy gowns;

She will tell her outside man

She’s got the dumbest, the dumbest man in town!

These lyrics seem slightly possessive as well, especially through saying “you can give your woman plenty money.” The main point of the stanza is that even when the man works hard for his woman and provides her with everything she could ever ask for (“plenty money” and “fancy gowns,” in this case), she still cannot be trusted to remain faithful (Johnson). While the song is likely told from the perspective of someone who has been cheated on, and it is a valid reason to be upset, a man should not be angry at a woman for such because of what he has done for her and what she can give him in return; rather, he should see her as an equal who will stay because she loves him, and not solely because she needs him to survive. Therefore, it is evident that men’s blues is a product of the time in which it was produced—a time when a man was considered the leader of the household and women were taught to be submissive. However, women’s blues defies the era it began in, teaching women to be proud of their sexuality.

Women’s blues also shows a more humorous view of sex. While Robert Johnson’s “Travelling Riverside Blues” is infamous for the line, “You can squeeze my lemon ‘til the juice run down my leg,” (Johnson) such humor is also found in Lucille Bogan’s “Shave ‘Em Dry,” which describes the singer’s sex life. She can be quoted singing:

Now your nuts hang down

Like a damn bell sapper,

And your dick stands up like a steeple.

Your goddamn ass-hole

Stands open like a church door,

And the crabs walks in like people.

Bogan speaks of her partner’s body parts with slang, often using humorous analogies such as comparing his “ass-hole” to a church door. While this can be considered immature, I believe that it teaches listeners that while physical intimacy can be a private matter, there is no shame in celebrating its pleasures. In fact, it can be fun. For example, Lucille Bogan also is known for her song, “B.D. Woman’s Blues,” “B.D.” meaning “Bull Dyke,” which is a term for a masculine lesbian (Bogan). In her day, her music was considered especially taboo. In fact, even in the present her lyrics are still considered vulgar. “B.D. Woman’s Blues” is one of the first blues songs to openly talk about lesbianism, stating that “Comin’ a time, B.D. women ain’t gonna need no men / Oh the way they treat us is a lowdown and dirty sin.” The lyrics describe the harsh reality of being a woman in her time; women were often treated as lesser beings and treated horribly by men. Therefore, a woman might be able to find comfort in having a relationship with another woman instead, as women can understand each other’s experiences. The music of Lucille Bogan shows women as every bit as diverse as men can be, owning their own sexuality and being unafraid to call out the sexist and violent behaviors of men.

While the sexist nature of some blues songs can certainly be considered a flaw of the artist, it is not a reflection on the entire genre. In fact, I believe that singing about sex helps people to understand it better. Growing up in a society where no one would talk about it, I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for people in that time to understand their sexual feelings without being ashamed of them. Furthermore, homosexuality was considered a taboo topic, and “coming out” as a gay man or lesbian would mean being removed from the church or even risking losing a job. However, even if society was having trouble embracing new sexual concepts and understanding feminism, the blues gave—and continues to give—a safe haven to those searching for it.

Works Cited

Allen, Fulton. “Meat Shakin’ Woman.” By Fulton Allen. 1938.

Bogan, Lucille. “B.D. Woman’s Blues.” By Lucille Bogan. 1935.

Bogan, Lucille. “Shave ‘Em Dry.” By Lucille Bogan. 1935.

Desdoumes, Mamie. “Walking the Street.” By Mamie Desdoumes. 1937.

Humphrey, Mark. “Urban Blues.” Nothing But the Blues. Ed. Lawrence Cohn. New York: Abbeville Group, n.d. 153. Print.

Johnson, Lonnie. “You Can’t Buy Love.” 1952.

Johnson, Robert. “Traveling Riverside Blues.” By Robert Johnson. 1937.