Conservatories often, by their very nature,
treat music in relative isolation from other
subjects, convinced that stylistic and formal
considerations - and their development over time - are of such primacy that music’s connections to other disciplines and outside factors acting on the history of music are necessarily secondary. This implies that music has historically exerted more influence on society than society has on it, a contention I would dispute. I believe it is impossible adequately to understand music outside of its social and artistic context. Therefore, I teach the history of music employing extensive and frequent references to art, architecture, international and local politics and society, and a view of individuals and culture taken through the prism of modern psychology.
Further, I teach history in a “terraced” or “scaffolded” manner, i.e., I take my classes in the first week quickly through the entire period under discussion. Once that overview has been retained, I flesh out my students’ general knowledge of the period in question with more and more detail, alluding frequently to previous lectures and calling on students - in class - to summarize knowledge gained in previous lectures and and connect it to the subject immediately at hand. I play musical examples, show slides, and inject spontaneous discussion into the fabric of lectures in the hope that my students will become active, ambitious, and aggressive stewards of their received knowledge.