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STILLPOINT Archive: last updated 04/22/2013


3D Music Lessons

by Jo Kadlecek

Michael Monroe in classMichael Monroe (music) was no stranger to the Internet as an instructional tool or to social media to enhance his scholarship. He was an early believer in the power of technology, and found time between piano instruction and theatre productions to familiarize himself with existing programs. He began following music critics and other educators on Twitter and was one of Gordon’s first professors to blog regularly about his work. Still, he knew he wasn’t fully harnessing technology’s power for his Music History or Arts in Concert classes. So he began to tinker. He taught himself how to write software to blend musical scores with audio performances. When he posted them online, he quickly began to see how effective they could be for students.

“Not long ago, it was incredibly cumbersome to project a score for students to see in class while they tried to follow along, then cue up the tape and start again,” Monroe said. “Now this integrated technology allows me to talk about the score without the distractions, circling things in red as we go through the piece in class and listen at the same time.”

Monroe has created eight online listening guides—which he calls Musical Manipulatives—for classics including Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in C Major and Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto. Each includes his “three-dimensional” approach: Monroe synchronizes the audio with the score, and also with his notes about each movement. In class or their dorm rooms, students can access the links, click on any of the themes, and hear the music as they’re reading Monroe’s instruction while also following the score.

“The goal is to help students, when thinking of a big piece of music, to have a bird’s eye view of it—understanding how the structure unfolds—all while they’re involved in the piece,” said Monroe. He plans to explore the implications of such technology on his sabbatical next fall.

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