For 23 years, John Ronsheim's classes inspired Antioch students from all disciplines. Theater and Political Science students, Biology and Art students crowded into classrooms with Music majors to experience music or philosophy or wine as amplified and demonstrated by John's intense, improvised teaching. Near the end of his career, when the classes available on this site took place, he had long been considered a "legend" and anywhere from a quarter to a third of the on-campus student body was registered for one of his classes. In the early seventies, when Antioch was stronger, his courses were broadcast live on WYSO, the local public radio station. John Ronsheim was a non-stop teacher dedicated to each student's individuation. He engaged in long talks, walks and diligent written correspondence, profoundly influencing hundreds of students across two generations.
In the Winter quarter of 1988 Music student Michael Benton began an ambitious project of tape recording John's classes. With a case of cassette tapes and a cheap tape recorder, Michael dedicatedly archived classes until John's retirement in 1990, hoping they would one day be made available to a wider public. One of these classes, The Contemporary Era, is currently available for listening on this site and a second, The Romantic Idea and Practice, is coming soon. Up to five more courses may be available in the future.
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Most of John's music classes followed the same protocol. A series of musical excerpts, assembled onto reel-to-reel tapes and accompanied by pages of descriptive notes, served as the class's "text". Over the course of the academic quarter, John would play these tapes--ranging in duration from forty-five minutes to twenty hours--in the class and animate them with his gestures, shouts and lucid psychological/philosophical metaphors. The quarter usually concluded with a "listening exam."
A few technical notes
These courses were lovingly recorded on low quality cassettes with a cheap mike and recorder. The original tapes have a great deal of hiss which has been filtered out as much as possible. The dynamic range is very wide-- that is, there is a large difference between the loudest moments (John shouting over some musical climax) and the quietest (John whispering). We have done some leveling of these differences, but it is important to listen to the classes either on good quality speakers, or on headphones. In any case, some volume adjustment on your part will probably be required. The classes were edited to take out non-pertinent discussions of administrative matters and the like. These ellipses are indicated with bell sounds.
CLICK BELOW TO ACCESS THE CLASSES
[The Contemporary Era] [the romantic idea and practice]
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