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Toward Open Encounters I don’t care how you’re gonna take it to your people and flip it and dip it and serve it. —Snoop Dogg The form of the question was gotcha. In an interview published in the New York Times Magazine, writer Jon Caramanica asked Snoop Dogg, the producer, rapper, and musician, what he thought about “this suburban streak in hip-hop, like Iggy Azalea and Macklemore.” The provocation, I think, was supposed to expose a fault line around issues of race and authenticity, or maybe the question was meant to elicit some kind of codgerly reproach from rap’s old-school Doggfather . “Rap is supposed to grow,” Snoop responded. “One thing about Iggy and Macklemore: They got soul. They’re inspired by hip-hop. I don’t care how you’re gonna take it to your people and flip it and dip it and serve it.” This chapter is about generosity and the laws of musical practice. It’s also about flipping and dipping and serving, an option that music educators may too infrequently employ when teaching others. What characterizes an open music education? What principles define its ends? My inquiry starts with the rule of Law. Who gets to make it? Who gets to break it? I return, over and again, to the twin themes of border control and border crossings in an appeal to a more venturesome vision of music teaching. A breach, a general failure to act in required ways, is taking place in the field of music education. Tired of closed forms of life and living, we want to break free—we are longing for openings. Making and Breaking the Law I start my telling of open and closed forms in a way that music-education scholar Estelle Jorgensen, transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau, and rapper Snoop Dogg might approve of, mashing up metaphors and strange illustrations with personal insights that together deal with possibility, access, and control. I begin with the story of Dapper Dan, Harlem’s underground haberdasher who repurposed hip-hop fashion in the late 1980s in ways that anticipated today’s DIY aesthetics . After this, I turn to a Kafka tale that finds figure in a great Master teacher called Goldmann. Then, the Japanese sushi Master Jiro Ono, the titular subject  2 | Remixing the Classroom of the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, becomes an example of an agent who opens a closed form but then closes it again, deciding context and codes for another generation. Dapper Dan, a Lawbreaker; Goldmann, the Law personified; and Jiro Ono, a Lawbreaker turned Lawmaker: all are subjects of their lives, and their lived choices speak to profound ways of operating within differing aesthetic structures. In my hands, their stories become contemporary parables of possibility and control in which the construction and performance of an aesthetic form is just as important as what the form does to and for its practitioners. We are more than the objects we make, they warn us; we are made by the objects we make. And as the Law concerns issues of power and authority, we implicate others in the objects we make. These parables provide points of comparison for the inquiry that concludes this chapter. In the spirit of an ongoing and unfinished tale, I start with Dapper Dan. Dapper Dan, a Prophet of Open Forms Today, on the corner of 125th Street and Madison Avenue in New York City sits a new experiment in public schooling, the Harlem Children’s Zone Promise Academy . This shiny-new brightly colored building is an exemplar of one of several chains of charter schools that operate using private, philanthropic, and public money in an explicit effort to disrupt the entrenched interests that prevent neighboring public schools from achieving excellence. The Harlem Children’s Zone Promise Academy is organized according to an exacting business model, operating from a top-down structure that makes no excuses when it comes to success and achievement. All children are expected to meet certain benchmarks at certain grades, and they can be pressured to leave if they do not. Students are tested and compared at every stage of learning. We are told that they learn grit and self-control, presumably because they come to school lacking self-concern. Externally mandated examinations, created and administered by for-profit testing companies like Pearson, drive curricula and afterschool activities. The African American founder and CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone Promise Academy, Geoffrey Canada, is said to be a...


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MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
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