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or objective form. An example of emotional reality is when the person engaged with the music becomes overwhelmed with emotion, possibility to the point of physical reaction. Or, some music, and other artistic materials for that matter, may be inferior or offensive to some individuals which also precludes their willingness to engage. At the other end of the continuum, examples of objective reality might include substandard musical execution or poor environment. Consider for a moment a cell phone ringing, or a person coughing/clearing their throat at what always seems to be the most delicate moment of a concert. That is an all too frequent instance of objective reality!

Dawson and numerous other philosophers refer to areas outside of aesthetic distance along this aforementioned continuum as “underdistanced” or “overdistanced.” As you might surmise, one may be considered “underdistanced” or too close to the music when the emotional and subjective domains dominate the perspective of the individual. If the only thing a student can describe about a musical experience is the way it made them feel, chances are they were “underdistanced.” Conversely, one is considered “overdistanced” or too far from the experience when the music is perceived only through a dispassionate and objective perspective.

As a general rule, younger

musicians or individuals without a degree of musical education or experience will tend more often to trend toward under-distancing. Consider how excited students can be in a beginning band class about everything that goes on. More mature musicians or musically educated individuals will often trend toward over-distancing.

It is worth

reiterating that the exact amount of distance and proportions of areas representing under- distanced, aesthetically distanced, and over-distanced will vary for each person, each piece of music, and each occasion. It also seems reasonable that the degree and variety of distancing is a constantly moving variable on a continuum of experience within each performance.

Aesthetic distance according to Donald Stewart also has pedagogical implications. He indicates that students must understand the principles of aesthetic distance, perhaps even unconsciously, if they are to respond to critiques of their work. As music educators,

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we know that some students take criticisms of the work personally. They note the grade or score and internalize it as a reflection of their personality rather than an assessment of their work. Stewart suggests that if students would achieve a measure of aesthetic distance they would derive greater benefits of the offered critiques.

As music educators we have dual relationships with our art because of the technical knowledge and expertise we possess as well as the appreciative, creative and emotional content of our performance or interpretation. It is expected that musicians can and often do purposefully manipulate their aesthetic distance quickly and in a complementary fashion, which in turn may affect the aesthetic distance of others. We have the ability to be completely immersed in a musical moment, but retain the ability when needed to instantaneously shift our attention other cognitive domains.

I would like to suggest that in order to diversify the perceptions of our students about music we need to provide our students the means to facilitate them to also see both the forest and trees. Stated different, by raising our own awareness of aesthetic distance and deliberately altering it, we can design and implement strategies and conditions that offer our students more opportunities to explore how they think and feel about music, again provided they are available to be engaged in the experience.

To that end, I offer the following ideas which have been successfully implemented with ensembles at a variety of levels. The goal is to find equilibrium in how we feel and think about music. These suggestions may also be adapted for use with audiences too. You may already employ some of these ideas, but I hope that you will now utilize these them while being mindful of aesthetic distance.

Consider your conducting Conducting is an efficient, non-verbal, and musical way to alter aesthetic distance. While a lengthy discussion about conducting is beyond the purview of this article, consider the following questions. How do you start the ensemble when rehearsing? Do you count-off? Counting off when you start your ensemble not only is counterproductive to expressive conducting, because you are

training your students that they don’t need to watch you, it automatically increases the aesthetic distance. How much eye contact do you offer your ensemble? Your eyes are the most expressive part of your face. Eye contact is a great way to reduce aesthetic distance. Good eye contact also is a great help with classroom management. How expressive and varied is your gestural vocabulary when conducting? Providing your ensemble with only a mirrored beat pattern most likely will not help to inspire or reduce the aesthetic distance of your students.

Interaction with guest artists

Perhaps at no other time in music history has it been easier to interact with guest artists, which could include composers, soloists, conductors and other ensembles. Technology and social media have been very helpful in this regard. For example, I have yet to interact with a composer who did not enjoy hearing that we were performing their music. Very often they are enthusiastic about receiving email correspondence, commenting on recorded rehearsals or attending them virtually through platforms such as Skype, and when their schedules permit and resources allow being a composer-in-residence. These are great opportunities to alter aesthetic distance in either direction, but usually I have found it brings students much closer, emotionally to the music but tempered with objective insights that only the composer can bring.

Utilize rehearsals as a vehicle to teach or reinforcement music theory concepts One of my mentors at Florida State University, the late Dr. James Croft had a saying which has always stuck with me and been a staple of my teaching, “By their forms, shall ye know them.” Knowing the form of a composition is essential to effective rehearsals. If you know the architecture and structure of a piece, when you rehearse it, you can logically and systematically take it apart and put it back together. When students also know the form, they become more adept at listening for new or recurring thematic, rhythmic and harmonic patterns resulting in opportunities to increase their aesthetic distance. The same is also true of intonation tendencies. When


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