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Transcript
Barbara Leising
Prof. McMahan
SchMu 328
25 March 2014
Émile Jaques-Dalcroze
The Swiss composer and music educator Émile Jaques-Dalcroze was born in Vienna in 1865
and grew up with the musical influence of his mother, a music teacher. He studied composition at the
College of Geneva, but was frustrated by the lack of concern for students’ interests. He served as
professor of harmony, solfege and composition at the Geneva Conservatory, later establishing his own
school near Dresden. He opened another school that was moved to Vienna, but was soon closed by the
Nazis. As he taught, he realized that while many of his best students were trained well, they lacked a
musical understanding. He questioned why music was so abstract and dissociated from sound,
movements, and feelings, and questioned what he could do to change this in his students. Up to his death
in 1950, he conducted studies and developed his ideas and philosophy into what is today known as the
Dalcroze approach.
Dalcroze saw the human body as a well-tuned musical instrument. After all, when listening to
music, it is only natural for one to begin swaying or tapping toes to the beat. His main focus became what
is known as Eurhythmics: the movement of the body in certain ways in response to (improvised) music,
with the aim to educate youth musically. His method to achieve the full potential of musical sensitivity in
any individual consisted of three elements: Eurhythmics, Solfege, and Improvisation.
As previously mentioned, eurhythmics deals with musical expression through movement.
Dalcroze believed that rhythm and structure were concepts that could be mastered through the expression
of spontaneous bodily movement. He thought Eurhythmics aided in the mental, emotional, physical, and
of course, musical aspects of proper musical expression. It should be no surprise that he saw the
importance of solfege, viewing it as a means to further develop the musical ear and sight-singing abilities
of his students. He emphasized improvisation not only on instruments, but with the voice and bodily
movement as well. His method suggests that these three elements work together to ultimately develop the
inner ear, inner muscular sense, and musical expression. With continued stress in these areas, he was
certain students would become more sensitive to important musical aspects: timing, tone quality, and
articulation.
In a eurhythmics class, it is common for the teacher to be at the piano, improvising music while
the students shape their movement to the nature of the music. Their responses do not necessarily convey
meaning to anyone watching, but should have meaning for the mover in terms of the music’s tempo,
dynamics, style, and so on. According to Dalcroze’s philosophy, this is how the students become the
musical instrument: experiencing a deep musical understanding evoked through movement.
Of course, this method does not suggest that students ignore all musical rules and concepts.
Rather, they should be able to apply their movement to the “rules” that already exist based on how
movement and music work together. For example, beginning students should learn about musical notation
through associated movements. A teacher might teach sixteenth notes as “running notes,” and then after
the association has been developed, note names may be taught. Another activity may involve the children
incorporating rhythmic concepts and movement while the teacher tells as story. Yet another could be a
simple rhythm game where the student performs two rhythms at once: one in the feet and one in the
hands.
While many even today consider Dalcroze’s methods to be avant-garde, or just odd at best, there
is an incredible amount of research that supports his philosophy. If nothing else, the importance of his
emphasis on movement and the internalization of musical expression has had a massive impact on
children’s education and is incorporated in many positive ways.
Bibliography
Campbell, Patrician Shehan, and Carol Scott-Kassner. Music in Childhood From Preschool through the
Elementary Grades. Boston: Schirmer Cengage Learning, 2014. Print.
“Dalcroze Society of America - What is Dalcroze?.” Dalcroze Society of America - What is Dalcroze?.
N.p., n.d. Web 24 Marc. 2014. <http://www.dalcrozeusa.org/about-us/history>