Iīm afraid that reading whatīs going down here seems, to me, a little like the closing of ranks of a group of friends with a very vested commercial interest in the groupīs status quo. Fine, but can we be subtle about it and avoid the histrionics?
As you all know by now, I believe that you cannot teach composition any more than you can teach me to sing. I have tried all my life and still canīt do it. It boils down to a God-given ability, not necessarily a talent. Talent, for me, would imply doing it very very well.
I've been following this discussion quietly so far, since I had nothing solid to back my viewpoint on; thank you for supplying something:)
I come from a fairly song-heavy culture, but didn't sing much up until University, where I found more people who like to get drunk and sing random songs. I liked singing, and did so at any occasion I could get away with, but when trying to sing in a choir, I got sent to a song teacher who gave up on me. My wife tried in vain to teach me -- she is a great singer, and could tell that I liked to sing, but she didn't know what to do. I tried some evening classes with little effect. We then happened to find a new song teacher for her (one whose title was literally "elite song teacher") and I went along for a trial session just for kicks. He taught my wife for an hour first, while I just watched and listened, but when he got to me, I could suddenly sing -- producing song rather than some oddly-distorted speech and hitting the notes about 85% percent of the time rather than 15%, according to my wife. While I will probably never be the next Pavarotti or even the next Susan Boyle, I did find that a good teacher could teach me to sing at least well. He also improved my wife's already excellent singing by quite a bit. The totally proved to us that anybody can learn to sing (outside of actual physical damage to the vocal chords).
So when you say that one cannot teach composition any more than one can teach you to sing, I can only conclude that a good teacher of composition would be able to teach it. It is, like any other learning activity, easier when you are young, thus allowing some to reach levels that later starters couldn't match in a lifetime. It is likely -- though of course I cannot prove it -- that many of the great masters of various arts have simply grown up in environments that taught them their arts implicitly while they were able to learn a lot very quickly. Much the same effect is seen in Denmark where, even though university education including stipends is available to everybody, those who go to university have a strong overrepresentation of children of academics. Those children have grown up with reading for pleasure and discussions of academic subjects being everpresent and simply got a head start on those skills.
I cannot believe that a sense of composition, anymore than any other skill, is something that is magically endowed to some and not to others, and that nothing they do can change that. Given the right environment, we can all learn, though some at faster paces than others.
A question that has plagued me all through this discussion: For those who say that composition cannot be taught: Would you also say that it cannot be learned?
P.S. If you don't believe what I say about the song teacher, you're welcome to come to Denmark and try him. His English is quite good.