“No art is nearer to life than music.
One can say that music is life itself.”
(Spector , Irwin – Rhythm and Life, The work of Emile Jaques-Dalcroze, Dance and Music Series, n. 3 – Pendragon Press, Stuyvesant, NY, 1990)
1. Introduction: A personal history
I came across the Dalcroze Method of music education while talking to a very good friend at a Music College in Brazil. We were both members of a female vocal sextet and we were talking about how nice it would be to have music and movement combined together. She was a Conducting Major at the time and said that I should learn about Dalcroze and his method of teaching music through movement.
That idea fascinated me at the time. I had taken some courses in music education, and some of them talked about using the body movements for some activities but nothing specific involving the use of the body to understand music.
I started researching the Dalcroze Method on the Internet, since in Brazil we did not have Dalcroze classes available. As I kept reading and researching, I became more and more intrigued by it. However, in my readings, I could not find a totally satisfying answer to what Dalcroze was all about.
At that time, I was planning on coming to the United States to live in Boston. To my surprise, I discovered that there was a Dalcroze Program at Longy School of Music in Cambridge. After arriving in Boston I took an afternoon workshop with Master Lisa Parker and at that moment, I felt at home with the Dalcroze concepts
of music education. There was a picture of the “Dalcroze Spiral of Learning” on the wall, and everything made perfect sense to me. I realized that it was very difficult to describe the Dalcroze approach only by using words. It is all about experience, body experience, hearing experience, movement experience, and ultimately, music experience. It was a wonderful new world that was being opened right before my eyes.
I have always liked the arts in general. As I was Growing up, I took ballet lessons from 4 until I was 8 years old. When I was turning 9 years old I decided I wanted to play the piano and my parents took me to the local conservatory. I had to drop out of the ballet lessons at that time, but I always loved to dance, and throughout the years I have enrolled in many different dance classes.
I studied piano for 11 years and also participated in musical groups in my city in Brazil. I sang, played the guitar and keyboard in my church’s children’s choir. This experience led me to direct another children’s musical group in the poor neighborhoods of the city of Rio Claro where I discovered the joy of teaching music for children. Sometimes I felt that what I was doing was not as much “teaching” but rather giving them the opportunity to explore what they could do with instruments and music.
As a young adult, I pursued an Architecture and Urbanism degree. During the college years, my love for arts in general was very well nurtured. All the discussions in class were invigorating: art and architecture history and theory, design, sculpture, painting, cinema, culture, landscaping, artistic use of space, and one of my favorite topics – art and society, human relations with space and in communities.
One of my favorite quotes, “Architecture is frozen music” (by Goethe) resonated deep in me at the time. With all my musical background, how could that be translated? I tried to answer that question in my graduation project. It was a mobile stage, built on a truck that could go from city to city bringing musical acts to the squares and public spaces.
(Milene Corso-Zottarelli – Mobile Stage – Brazil – 1996)
The Italian author Bruno Zevi, in his book Architecture as space: how to look at architecture states that “according to Ernö Goldfinger, (…) the architect projects new ways of behavior before building forms” and that “architecture is a system of people, not a system of things”. This statement made me think of other creative uses of space in the arts, such as dance groups, choirs and performances in general; and how these other activities are explored by the performers and how they affect the audiences in an artistic way.
At that same time, I joined a renowned adult choir in my hometown. It was then that I discovered the joy of singing, and most importantly, the joy of singing together. Therefore, after being granted the title of architect, I had no problem going right back to school, this time as Music and Voice Major. My studies as a Bachelor of Arts in Music were mainly focused on Brazilian Music with a jazz approach.
In 1998, I became the Musical Director for this adult choir. My vision for the group was to perform a typically Brazilian repertoire using scenic elements like stage formation, grouping, some movement and the use of different levels of space while singing. I think I was already trying to bring together some of my interests such as the artistic use of space, dance, music and art. Eventually the choir changed its name to “Madrigal CorDaVoz” (www.cordavoz.org.br), and it is still a very active group. Nowadays, besides being its Musical Director, I also perform as an alto singer and work as an arranger and producer for the group in all its future performances.
(Madrigal CorDaVoz – Brazil – 2010)
In all my teaching (and directing) experiences, I always felt the power of using body movements as an important tool of understanding and internalizing musical concepts, but never before have I had the opportunity of analyzing how deep this whole idea can be. It was only after studying and practicing the Dalcroze method as a student that I began to see where this approach can lead musicians and artists in general: a complete understanding of their subjects, through experience, to analysis, conceptualism, and notation. The whole “Spiral of Learning” coming to life.