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Saturday morning quote #9: More on teaching

July 16, 2011

Constrained by time and travel, today’s short and unadorned quotes are drawn from Les Principes du Clavecin, contenant une Explication exacte de tout ce qui concerne la tablature et le Clavier, by Monsieur* de Saint-Lambert, published in Paris, 1702.  The prefatory remarks contain several insightful passages that clearly distinguish Saint-Lambert as an empathetic teacher, as well as a kindred spirit to this writer.

     A good teacher knows to the bottom the abilities of those who put themselves in his hands and, accommodating himself to the range and capacity of each of them, he teaches each in the way that suits their talent.  He devises as many methods as he has different talents [to develop in his students].  He speaks childishly to children, reasonably to reasonable persons: to both he speaks intelligently and tersely.

The good teacher brings far along the road to perfection the scholar who has much facility…and even further the one who has more facility.  He causes the male and female scholars who may have more talent than he has to play better than he does.  And because he knows that one cannot profit unless one really likes playing, he has a special secret to cause his pupils to like learning.

I’ll add a personal note that, this week, a student in guitar and composition confessed that I effectively taught him to play piano from the harmony and voice-leading exercises I wrote out and encouraged him to play at the keyboard for better understanding of the movement.  He’s good.

*Nota Bene: Amended to clarify identity, not to be (understandably) confused with Michel Lambert (1610 – 1696).

6 Comments
  1. Carol Larkins Curran permalink

    Dear Ron Andrico –

    Thank you for so generously sharing your brilliance in the spirit of Michel de Saint-Lambert! I am very grateful that Wade is one of your fortunate students. Roger and I have the deepest respect and admiration for what you and Donna do. We wish enormous successes to you both as you continue to combine your beautiful sounds.

    Sincerely –
    Carol Curran

  2. Dan Winheld permalink

    Flabbergastingly enlightened advice. Transcends mere music lessons and enters the realm of universal training in any discipline, including spiritual ones. Reminds me of my old Martial Arts Sensei (who played Classical & Jazz violin, and encouraged me to switch from guitar to lute so many eons ago). Also reminds me of an ancient Chinese Zen master who, when setting out to teach; vowed to patiently instruct even the most elderly and difficult student if they had a sincere desire to learn, but on the other hand would bow to a child if he was more spiritually advanced.

    My old teacher used to remind us not to be too proud of ourselves; that our achievements were accomplished by standing on the willing shoulders of all our previous instructors, who of course stood on their masters shoulders.

    Michele de Saint-Lambert must have been an extraordinary individual. What is his music like?

    Thanks for posting another gem, I’m starting to look forward to the Saturday nuggets that are showing up.

    Dan

  3. Thanks, Dan. In response to your question about the music of Saint-Lambert, it turns out that the identity of our music teacher is frequently confused with Michel Lambert, better known to lutenists as a composer of airs de cour. Saint-Lambert left behind very little music but did write a treatise on accompaniment A New Treatise on Accompaniment: With the Harpsichord, the Organ, and with Other Instruments, translated by John Powell (Indiana University Press, 1991). Among the ‘other instruments’ mentioned in the title, Saint-Lambert perceptively discusses use of theorbo. I read this book some years ago before I realized that accompaniment in baroque music was much simpler than playing jazz standards from a fake book.

    RA

  4. Dan Winheld permalink

    I googled him up, (“Principles of the Harpsichord by Monsieur de Saint Lambert By Michel de Saint-Lambert”, Rebecca Harris-Warrick -found on Google books) -as you note, it seems he didn’t leave many compositions of his own. Yes, the “Lambert” name could confuse- I’m sure we have the “Airs de Cour” buried somewhere around the house.

    The accompaniment treatise sounds interesting- I happen to be struggling right now with accompanying my wife on two songs by Leonard Bernstein- “Some Other Time” and “lucky to be Me” from “On the Town”. I salute your courage in trying to learn Jazz from the fake book- after taking a 6 week intro jazz class from guitarist Mimi Fox three years ago I decided to leave jazz alone in this lifetime. Sarge Gerbode told me there’s a fabulous theorbo rendition of “Round Midnight” out there somewhere.

    As to similar related approaches to teaching/learning of the lute, you might find the writings of David van Ooijen interesting. http://www.davidvanooijen.nl/
    -He has been working on “Zen in the Art Of Lute Playing” (the “Writing” section of his website) and he is quite serious and well informed.

    Dan

    • Thanks, Dan. Yes, I’m familiar with Rebecca W-H’s limpid translation of Saint-Lambert from the early 80s but did not draw upon it for our quotes. Powell’s translation of the treatise on accompaniment has much more of interest to lute players, but the thoughtful remarks on teaching come from the keyboard treatise.

      Improvisational music is indeed a challenge, and forces one to become conversant in a very broadly applied harmonic language. My guitar heros are players like George Van Eps, Dick McDonough, and Carl Kress. If you were to map out their improvisations, you’d see a completely logical application of voice-leading in three and four parts, made up on the spot. Maybe someday.

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