In my book (pp. 4-6), I discuss historical precedents for eco-literate music pedagogy in Satis N. Coleman (and R. Murray Schafer, a Canadian composer who coined the term "soundscape"). Satis Coleman (1878-1961) was a progressive music educator who was active as a writer from the 1910s to '40s, and who taught in rural Texas, Washington D.C., and in New York City at Teachers College and the progressive Lincoln Lab School. And my interest in Coleman began during graduate studies. I have previously written, in Music Educators Journal, about her improvisation-infused approach, called "Creative Music," as having a spiritual element (this was research I conducted in a class on music education history taught by Robert Gardner at Penn State). Coleman was a heavily published music education thinker, making this type of textual analysis feasible in a way it may not be with more famous (often male) historical figures who wrote far less.
Because Coleman's focus was on music education, even with antiquated early 20th Century terminology (e.g., masculine pronouns and colonial words like "primitive"), there is a lot an eco-literacy minded music teacher can glean from her books and articles. She asked music teachers and learners to begin listening to nature as music (40-50 years before Schafer opened our field's ear to soundscapes); that a child should be taught "to listen for [Nature's musics] and to love Nature with his ears as well as his other senses." This type of "love" is essential for becoming an eco-literate citizen when so much of our society destroys nature.
Coleman-inspired music teachers can begin by taking their students on walks, and pointing out the musical aspects of the sounds they hear. Since Coleman's method utilized improvisation, I suspect singing and improvising melodies with non-human animals would be consistent with her approach. This type of creative activity is done today by improvising musician David Rothenberg. See this YouTube video of him using his clarinet to improvise with cicadas. What might our instrumental students learn by improvising, listening and responding to cicadas (an inescapable part of the soundscape this time of year/the start of a new school year)? Certainly cicadas have a broader conception of dynamics change than most human-composed musics! As Rothenberg tries to adjust his embouchure to match pitch with the insects, I think about how that type of exercise might strengthen a student's embouchure while connecting h/er to the non-human musickers in h/er community--ecological conscientization.
Coleman also recommended students dramatize songs, representing animals they heard in nature. I could imagine students creating a story, script or play, using the musics of nature, and putting on a performance. In suggesting that summer camps (and out-of-door life in general) are healthy, Coleman's ideas probably were influenced by the Nature Study movement, already influential in education in the early 20th Century. See Anna Botsford Comstock's 1916 book, Handbook of Nature Study. Coleman then, much like my work in eco-literate music pedagogy (which brings in recent insights from ecomusicology and soundscape ecology), can be understood as an interdisciplinarian, making sense of another academic field for music classrooms.
Finally, it would be remiss to miss discussing instrument construction, which is often considered a defining characteristic of Coleman's approach. Coleman guided students into nature to find materials for instruments they would make (they also used purchased materials). The "creative" in Creative Music referred both to the creation of melodies (improvisation, which used alternative notation such as cipher so that the youngest students could compose and record their melodies) and the creation of instruments that the students would love (that would increase what philosopher John Dewey called "interest," and what Coleman called "the seeking attitude"). There are music educators (Koji Matsunobu, Matthew Thibeault, Clint Randles and others) who write about instrument-making as a pedagogical approach today. There are obvious benefits to interest, creativity, and cultural relevance (many of the world's musical musical cultures involve making an instrument). In a recent conference in Colorado, I discussed how instrument making can also reduce waste, both physical and metaphorical. You can watch a YouTube video I made here.
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