University Of Tasmania
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Captain Beefheart's piano: Confessions of an unrepentant illiterate

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-18, 10:10 authored by Michael Corbett
I want to make a confession. I am illiterate. I cannot read … music. Yet, I have passed myself off as a musician. I have earned money playing music on the pretext that I knew what I was doing. But here and now I admit that I am a fraud. I’ve tried to learn to read musical notation. I guess I’m not totally illiterate when it comes to musical symbols. I can find the notes on one of those charts and name them. I know there are 8 notes. And there are spaces between some of these notes and they’re called sharps and flats. I’m not sure what this means. I know that the way the note is written on the lines, with a tail or without, hollow or filled in has something to do with time and how long the note should be sustained. But I have no idea how this actually works out in a piece of music. I am not alone either, indeed the world is full of informally educated people doing all sorts of things they do not understand structurally and for which they lack credentials. In the rural community where I work for instance many vehicles are maintained and repaired by people who are not mechanics, plumbing is done by people who are not plumbers, wounds are treated by people who are not doctors, trees are felled by people who are not loggers and the list goes on. In spite of credentialism and professionalization, in my rural community the idea that only the formally certified can do complex work is known by the term: bullshit


Publication title

International journal of critical pedagogy






Faculty of Education


University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Place of publication

United States

Rights statement

Copyright 2008 International Journal of Critical Pedagogy

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Expanding knowledge in education

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