If articulation is the metaphor of giving yourself away for the music, then our sound theology must consider great music teachers as some of the best examples of this metaphor . . . and at the top of that list must be French musician Nadia Boulanger.
American composer Ned Rorem said this about Boulanger after her death in 1979, “So far as musical pedagogy is concerned – and by extension, musical creation – Nadia Boulanger is the most influential person who ever lived.”
From Aaron Copland to John Cage, John Eliot Gardner to Quincy Jones, and Daniel Barenboim to Burt Bacharach, Nadia Boulanger’s students fill the who’s who lists of musicians in the 20th Century. From her apartment in Paris, she influenced European and North American music in unimaginable ways. Called the “tender tyrant” by some, her ability to shape and enhance the natural gifts that each student brought into her studio, made her the most sought-after teacher of her time.
An accomplished composer and conductor as well as a pedagogue, Boulanger combined an unparalled understanding of Bach with a generous openness to the composers who were her contemporaries, especially Stravinsky. She encouraged each student to find his or her own voice, and her influence created a generation of musicians who spoke a shared language rooted in her ability to give herself to others.
Enjoy these performances by some of Boulanger’s students:
Burt Bacharach (and Hal David)
or a more contemporary version of the same piece here
John Eliot Gardner and the Monteverdi Choir
Click “show more” under the video to read an excellent description of the work and its context.
Quincy Jones is a legend in “giving himself away,” in the same way that Boulanger did. This tribute concert features many of the musicians who have been mentored by Jones.
75th Birthday Tribute at the Montreux Festival (2008)
Aaron Copland was the featured musician in the post “Articulating Christ in You”
John Cage’s piece 4’33” was referenced in the post “If You Stopped Playing Notes . . .”
Someone that I would love to meet – Nadia Boulanger. But then I guess we have met her, in the musicians she gave herself to, and the music they create and perform. To give your self away – such a Jesus thing. Thx!, Colleen.
Yes, Teri! I wish that I could have found some recordings of Boulanger playing her own music. It’s so disappointing that Schirmer rejected her request to print some of her pedagogical methods. After she was turned down, she never again attempted to put her ideas to paper. It was always primarily about the relationships.