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New ways of understanding music

Sinn Spezialuhren supports university Internet project MILAN

When talking about MILAN, Konrad Georgi goes into raptures. Sitting opposite him, you can immediately feel his enthusiasm and sense just how much heart and soul he has poured into this project. This pianist and music theorist is the intellectual father responsible for bringing MILAN to life. To date, he and his colleagues have provided an online learning and teaching platform at to the benefit of both students and lecturers.

Strictly speaking, MILAN is a research project of the Academy of Music at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. It has been used diligently by students and lecturers since the 2010/2011 winter semester. MILAN was presented to the public for the first time at a convention held by the Gesellschaft für Musiktheorie (German Society for Music Theory). It was 2009 when Konrad Georgi presented his ideas. What if students were to have access to high-quality sound recordings and sheet music of works by major composers?

Integration of music and notes through the incorporation of the corresponding files.

For example on a website? And what if lecturers were to come up with technically challenging assignments on the basis of such content, which students could then complete at home – whilst taking into account copyright protection, of course! – at their own pace? Minimum stress, maximum concentration. Not to mention a whole lot of fun. What on the surface sounds so appealing has a problematic educational background: although the introduction of Bachelor degrees brought with it a restructuring of courses, it did nothing to change the often marginal learning conditions. For example, the time-consuming hassle of searching for literature in the library. Less time for study, but the same framework conditions? For Konrad Georgi, there was only one thing for it: other optimised, creative and quicker ways to learn. And what better way than with an Internet-based solution?

Creation of electronic learning units (exercises and solutions). Simple programming of effective DRM protection.

Distinguished partners get involved in MILAN

This presented a number of legal and content-related challenges for the concept. For example: Who would provide the sound recordings and sheet music? How would copyright protection be ensured? After all, data and files were to be sent, too. A solution was found: Konrad Georgi brought distinguished partners from the music industry on board. Such as the German classical music label Deutsche Grammophon, which provides first-class sound recordings. Or Edition Peters, which provides the finest art song editions. Schott Music, which contributes the renowned Eulenburg sheet music series. And the firm netTrek, which is responsible for protecting the copyrights granted by the partners. The firm also developed DRM protection (Digital Rights Management) for MILAN, which regulates the use of sound recordings, sheet music and teaching material. Sinn Spezialuhren completes this partnership of MILAN enthusiasts. On presenting his project to Lothar Schmidt, the owner was immediately won over. After all, promoting education and culture is a matter close to his heart. Lothar Schmidt thus agreed to give MILAN the necessary initial funding to get started. The fact that the pair also knew each other personally through in-house company events at which Konrad Georgi played the piano may have also helped give the project the necessary credence.

Sound recordings and notes

So what is MILAN now offering? First of all, this coinage stands for the focal points of the project: ‘mi’ is the third syllable of solmisation (‘do, re, mi’), a system developed in the Middle Ages for attributing a distinct syllable to each note in a musical scale. ‘LAN’ underlines the online nature of the project. Thanks to its collaborative partners, the platform makes high-quality sound recordings and the corresponding notes available for studying and teaching. With its implementation, Konrad Georgi and his team have achieved something new: as part of any given assignment, students can now analyse and assess, by means of a direct comparison, how material was composed or how conductors arrange music and emphasise specific timbres in their interpretations. Those wanting to follow the notes whilst listening to the music can access the relevant passage of the score.

Feedback online or face to face

Use of the electronic learning material by students and pupils as well as by people who are generally interested in culture.

MILAN also links selected works to stylistic, historical and biographical contexts. When was the music composed? Which genres does it fall into? With which passages of other composed works and composers can correlations be made? Feedback on, for example, harmonic analyses is then given via the Internet or face to face. This enables a comparative overview of student results to be shown within the scope of a seminar, for example, in order to enter into a professional debate. For lecturers, on the other hand, MILAN is ideal for publishing tutorials and assignments as no previous knowledge of programming is required. Whilst research is initially very time-consuming, the ultimate aim is to provide a compilation of exclusively high-quality material. This invariably leads to time savings, as lecturers are able to use the results of each other’s work.

MILAN ‘supplements’ classic forms of studying

All of this is based on a proven educational concept: learning processes work particularly well when learners can make direct comparisons. MILAN also addresses various levels of perception, thereby promoting an intense learning process. The project improves the quality of the teaching, utilises the benefits of the Internet and is suited to the realities of student life. Konrad Georgi sees MILAN as a ‘nutritional supplement’ – which coincides with student needs. Whilst they enjoy working with the platform, however, they don’t want to work exclusively with it. Classic forms of studying are still in demand, i.e. personal contact with lecturers, as well as seminars and lectures. In this respect, MILAN is in fact a supplement to the fruits of knowledge – and a very nutritional one at that.

Bridging the gap between business and culture

What does the future hold for MILAN? Experience has shown that the education and publication platform has been very well received by students and lecturers alike. The exercises developed by Konrad Georgi in particular have played a significant role in this. Students can use these to train their hearing, just like a musical memory. For MILAN 2.0, the future will see current DRM protection being adapted to mobile end devices. Which just leaves the question as to why MILAN and Sinn Spezialuhren make such a great team. For Konrad Georgi, the answer is simple: they are bridging the gap between business and culture by cooperating, and associating high-quality mechanical watches with a high-quality area of culture. Both specialist fields are also driven by a passion and desire to create sustainable values for people to enjoy. Patience, precision, creativity: these are attributes that are important in both music and watchmaking. Coupled with a mutual desire to continue to optimise past creations. And in this respect, the musician is no different to the watchmaker. Which is reason enough to continue this successful partnership.

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