Welcome to my weblog!
The place where I will regularly post thoughts and comments on any aspect of music.
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(As you see, the blog is in DInglish - Dutch International English - but comments in Dutch, German, French, Spanish and Frisian are welcome.)

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And you might check my other blog, Evert Listens to Dylan, if you would be interested what listening to the complete recordings of Bob Dylan does with (or to, or for) me.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017


I was at an international conference last week, about conservatoires. I was leading a workshop on audience engagement, or audience development, or similar phrases, visited by people mostly in a managerial position, I guess. The workshop boiled down to the idea that rather than thinking about audience engagement, we should probably think about the engaged musician; and rather than thinking about audience development, we should think about musician development - or even conservatoire development.

Nothing new or remarkable, really.

A colleague from a conservatoire far away then said: "I have given up the idea that I might change the conservatoire, or the orchestra, or any organization. If I can add anything at all on a small level, I am content."

I recognized what he said. And I remembered that, not so long ago, I had emphatically declared that I did not want to give workshops in this kind of context anymore, because although they were often received favorably they didn't seem to make much of a difference in the end.

Hearing my colleague from the far-away conservatoire, I realized that the sole fact of thinking that I might make a difference on a larger scale than making a small difference for a particular individual at a particular time can only be characterized as hubris. As if I am that important. As if it is not healthy that individuals are not able to exert such an influence. And as if we all not know the perils of individuals who want to be influential in a more major way.

And I realized that me being part of the conservatoire world - albeit reluctantly and in a 'one foot in, one foot out' manner - means that I have to make my contribution to the development of that world, although it is as limited as I suppose it is. Precisely because it is as limited as that, maybe.

Nothing new or remarkable, really. It is just simply that I apparently occasionally need a wise colleague from far away to remind me of the basics of a working life.

Sunday, October 1, 2017


Another new word: perturbation.

Of course I knew it existed. But one doesn't hear it very often.

I was in a small meeting in which one of the attendees, a very distinguished professor who is a specialist in the Complex Dynamic Systems Theory, at some point pointed out that one might look at anything - including for example a music lesson - as a Complex Dynamic System. All kinds of interactions are going on, and there is no way to think about what is going on in the simple terms of 'cause' and 'effect', of 'variables' which can be 'isolated'. If I understood him right - and if not, this little blog entry is completely my fault - he considered this as '19th century science'. Of which there is still a lot going on, of course.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017


I am learning new words every day.

Recently I stumbled over he word 'neuromythology'. It is a word I, retrospectively, had been looking for for a long time. It also is a word that has been around for a considerable amount of time - at least a decade. It is just that we only met recently.

In music education, there is quite some neuromythology going on. Neurosicience, the mythology tells us, is proving that music enhances empathy, fosters 'cognition' or academic skills, et cetera. It has been proven. It is true. Very true. Music is great. Very great. We must include it in our schools. Must not wait any longer. MUST act now.

Et cetera.

Luckily, researchers are looking into these neuromythological claims. It turns out, I learnt recently in a paper presentation, that neuroscientific researchers in general are very careful with their claims about music. They normally don't confuse correlation with causation, nor the labaratoire with everyday life outside it. But then, journalists popularize their work, and music education advocates take up their popularizations, and neuromythology gradually is born.

Recently, researchers looked into the acceptance of neuromyths among music education students and among teachers in primary and secondary schools. One of the myths presented to them was "cognitive abilities, e.g. intelligence in children, can be effectively enhanced by music education". Over 70% of respondents judged this myth - wrongly - as scientifically substantiated.

(For those of my readers who also believe this is true, I refer to the conclusion of another article: a recent metastudy "... suggests [see how careful resarcers are?] that music training does not reliably enhance children and young adolescents' cognitive or academic skilss and that previous positive findings were probably due to confounding variables".)

What worries me in all this is not so much that we use neuromythology rather than neuroscientific findings in our justification of the importance of music education. What worries me most is that we, in music education, seem to think that the primary justification of the importance of music in education can be derived from neuroscience in the first place. Although of course neuroscientific findings may help to underpin one's thinking about the importance of music education, it is only one of the many sources of knowledge we need.

As long as we think that the question 'why music education?' can be answered by simply pointing to fMRI-scans, I think there is little hope for music education to reclaim its potential important place within schools.

There's no excuse for laziness.

Nina Düvel, Anna Wolf, Reinhard Kopiez - Neuromyths in music education. Prevalence and predictors of misconceptions among teachers and students. Frontiers in Psychology 8 (2017)

Giovanni Sala, Fernand Gobet - When the music's over. Does music skill transfer to children's and young adolescents' cognitive and academic skills? A meta-analysis. Educational Research Review 20 (2017)

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

On Participatory Presenting II

I like presenting research in front of groups of people. Whether it is a guest lecture at a university, a presentation at a conference, a talk for a local women's society, a class at a school - it is always nice to do.

Basically I work with two formats: either the 'reading of a paper' (so literally reading; a form I had to get used to but I like more and more because it allowes you to be very precise in your words and your phrasing) or the 'guided talk' where the guidance comes from either some speaking notes or a power point which guides you through your message - and leaves room for some extemporality.

But recently I realize that I am more and more attracted to forms of what I call 'participatory presenting'.  I wrote about one form of it before - see my blog on working with music workshop leader Hannah Conway - and now have another, maybe even more 'participatory' example I would like to share.

Monday, May 15, 2017

On Schizophonia

I went to see the gipsy. Or: I went to hear a Nobel prize winner sing. When I announced it on Facebook, one of my FB-friends asked me which one. I answered that I was not sure how recent Groningen-laureate Ben Feringa sings but that in this case I would go to listen to Bob Dylan.

The concert was great. Dylan sang a collection of his own songs, interspersed with songs from the American Songbook. Maybe he did it for Nobel purposes, to make clear why it is completely justified that he did receive the Nobel prize for his lyrics, rather than the writers of the American Songbook lyrics. The difference between the two is obvious and couldn't be greater. Day and night.

One of the other great things of Dylan's concert was that he is still, at 70+, able to infuriate people during a concert. A guy right behind me took pride in boo-ing every American Songbook song and every piano note Dylan hit. And honestly: I am not a fan of his American Songbook crooning, and neither do I think he is a great pianist. But for me, it is the fascinating play of foreground/background that counts.

Monday, April 24, 2017

On participatory presenting

One of the connections music may make is a connection to time. To the past, to the future. And to the present. When I developed a little model of the functions of music, I called the connection to time 'presenting'. Just a little pun, with a little truth in it.

But now, I want to talk about this other form of presenting: standing in front of an audience and present something you think might be meaningful to that audience. I do that a lot, these days. Tomorrow morning I have to present something called a 'keynote' at the Research in Music Education RIME conference in Bath, UK. I am looking forward to it. I have more time than the usual 20 minutes to explain what keeps me busy: music education and 'idioculturality'. I will try to give a sort of synthesis of the many little building blocks I have been working on those past five years, and hope it works - hope it may be useful and meaningful to the people who come to listen to me. (The doubt about whether I will succeed in being meaningful is part of the package, I know by now.)

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Ridiculous question

Recently, the national education authority (‘onderwijsinspectie’) assessed the level of arts education in the Netherlands. I am not going to say anything about their findings, apart from the fact that they were not very positive. What I do want to say samething about, however, is how the national education authority thinks it can assess the level of arts education.

Children were asked, in the ‘knowledge assessment’, subtheme ‘own valuation’, the following question after hearing an unspecified music example (C.P.E. Bach? Martin Garrix?):

“Which word fits the music fragment?
a. solemn
b. rough
c. calm
d. boring
e. gloomy
f. cool
g. wild
h. happy
i. another word:
j. I don’t know
Why does this word fit the music fragment?”

Sunday, January 22, 2017

On the brain, unfortunately

A colleague of mine recently pointed out that the difference between psychologists and pedagogues is that psychologists care about the 'how' question whereas pedagogues are concerned about the 'why' and 'what' questions in education.

She immediately added that of course this was a gross exaggeration. Nevertheless, there seems to be a kind of truth in it to me. Let us accept, for the moment, that she is right, and that therefore one needs both psychologists and pedagogues to think about education. And let me then apply this difference to what some people consider to be the most important contribution nowadays to the discussion about music education: neuropsychology.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Serious Request - or: So Deadly Contageous is Music.

There may come a time when the mist that surrounds us all may thicken around me, and thicken and thicken. I will first find my way without any problem. But gradually I will lose sight of this beautiful world I know so well - and I will lose how it smells, and how it tastes, and how it feels, and how it sounds. Or at least, that is how I will look to you.

I would appreciate it if by then, you would help me a bit. Nothing serious - I hope others will be able to do the serious stuff - but when you visit me, play me a tune, sing me a song, put on the radio.

Play me 'Go Leave' by Kate McGarrigle, because I love this voice (and that of her sister Anna, of course), and because she sings 'ears have a way of calling...'.