On the Man Who Gave Us Eurhythmics

I think I just saw him get off the L train in Williamsburg

If you come expecting a post on the great 80s synth pop band starring Annie Lennox and David A. Stewart, I hope you will only be slightly disappointed. This post will explain the name of the band, but the bulk of it is about the ORIGINAL eurhythmics.

Eurhythmics was a music education technique devised by a radical pedagogue named Émile Jaques-Dalcroze (1865-1850). Ethnically French, Dalcroze was born in Austria, and studied in Switzerland, where he also began his teaching career. He set up his school in Germany in 1910. Anita Berber was one of his pupils! Basically Dalcroze felt that the prevailing way in which western music is generally taught, notated, read, etc, that is,  through repetitive exercises and rote memory, was fundamentally flawed, because there was a primary disconnect between the systemization and the meaning and purpose of music, which is, or ought to be, intensely emotional. While music is intellectual and abstract on one level, there is an important way it is very real and concrete — what it does to our bodies. We tense, we relax. Our pulse quickens, it slows down. We involuntarily tap our toes, nod our heads, sway, and otherwise move our bodies to the rhythm. Dalcroze devised an elaborate method for teaching music that doesn’t just take this basic fact into account, it makes it the primary entry point for encountering and learning to listen to, play, and compose music. Movement, integrating the whole body, becomes the way music is internalized. (It must be said most “untrained”, or self-trained musicians take an approach much closer to this than conventionally trained musicians do. It’s about going directly to “owning” the music. Good trained musicians eventually get to the same place but by a somewhat circuitous route that alienates a good portion of the music loving public — including your humble correspondent!)

At any rate, I’ve never taken in a course in this, much as I’d like to have done, but it seemed to me worth celebrating Dalcroze in a show biz context on this his birthday. By the way, Annie Lennox was formally trained at the Royal Academy of Music, where she undoubtedly first encountered Dalcroze’s theories, which she and Stewart named the band after, removing the “h”: Eurythmics. And my wife makes the amusing point that in certain photos, Dave Stewart definitely seems to be channeling Dalcroze:

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