UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 11 | Sep.
5 , 2002
Breaking Barriers In Music Education
High tech tunes teach complex concepts
By Helen Lewis
So you've never played a note on a piano - don't let that
stop you from writing a fabulous four-part composition.
UBC Arts One lecturer Brandon Konoval says technology is
taking music education into a new realm, where students can
experience a music lab from home, and where inexperience is
no barrier to grasping complex musical concepts.
Of course, it's all done with computers.
Konoval created an on-line introductory music theory course
(Music 103) last year. He is now developing an on-line course
in music appreciation. But how do you give students an engaging
music class experience without putting a teacher and a piano
in front of them?
A music notation software program called NoteAbility Lite
has made the task much easier.
NoteAbility Lite (a simplified version of the NoteAbilityPro
program developed by UBC's Prof. Keith Hamel) allows students
to play back any piece of music - including their own compositions
- from a home computer.
They can create complex four-part compositions and hear them
played back by various instruments, sample other works to
explore musical concepts, and submit their finished pieces
to Konoval by e-mail. At the touch of a button, he hears the
results of his students' efforts.
For Konoval, it means his classroom extends far beyond the
walls of UBC.
"For students in an on-line community, it's crucial
to take theory out of the realm of 'notes on paper' and to
make the subject come alive," he says.
Konoval is a distance education teacher (in music appreciation,
for students as far away as Jamaica, Hong Kong and Taiwan)
and music theory lecturer for UBC Science and Arts majors.
What he needed was someone who could make the technology
easy and rewarding to use - so he teamed up with "web
designer, multimedia wizard and musician" Jeff Miller,
a course designer in UBC's Distance Education and Technology
Together they build on-line courses that recreate the immediacy
and practicality of a music studio.
"In a classroom I'll draw a diagram of the theory then
demonstrate by playing it on the piano," Konoval says.
"But this technology will not only recreate a classroom
experience - it will be a completely different approach. I
created a multi-media text that's student-driven because they
can explore the concepts themselves."
With NoteAbility Lite, Konoval uses Hollywood themes to illustrate
concepts in classical music for his students. Clicking on
the laptop, he plays Star Wars' familiar Darth Vader theme
- and bringing up one of Wagner's themes from Tristan und
Isolde alongside it, he makes the parallels between the works
"I look for examples that will interest students, in
everything from medieval chant to Sting songs. It makes the
point much more effectively because they can both see it and
hear it at once," he says.
The on-line course in music appreciation is expected to be
ready by January 2004.