Music Education: Cultural Values, Social Change and Innovation


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And this test soon gives way to another, yet more pernicious in its effect, but no less persuasive in the thinking of educationalists: is it relevant? Thus writes Roger Scruton, philosopher of both conservation and political conservatism. He has written on the aesthetics of music, on beauty, sexual desire, environmentalism and much more.

His thought has surely been influential in the making of recent educational policy. Culture is a form of knowledge. Culture is civilising. Learning to appreciate the best involves learning the right feeling.

Innovation in music education is only the first step in changing the game

It seems that what is meant by relevant to the interests of the child in the case of music is relating to the music that chimes with the child, the music that they easily identify with, see themselves in. The music that readily confirms who they are, the group to which they feel they belong, the music they come to school with in their heads, their lived experience.

First comes the mythic stage when children respond best to stories. Then the romantic stage when children are keen to gather facts about distant matters yet which relate to matters close to home. Next the philosophic stage, a time for developing generalisations and principles and finally the ironic stage, a sign of the mature mind, where focus shifts to the exploration of those instances which do not obey the rules.

Young children enchanted by music telling the story of the Pied Piper and year 9 drumming, dancing and singing an apartheid song are examples. Scruton maintains that education is for affirming, sustaining and growing a particular set of cultural values. It is duty bound to maintain a conversation between the past and present and that while teachers love their pupils, they love knowledge more.

Education is subject centred not child centred. The example of engaging with what is of human interest above is unlikely to persuade. After all music education is hardly ennobled if we think it is only for the benefit of those who receive it. Encounter Books: New York. I found it thought provoking and I certainly felt envigerated as I walked towards New Street Station for my cross-country journey home. There was brilliant sun that day and New Street Station was ablaze with mulitiple reflections playfully defying easy comprehension.

My imagination was in play and I wondered how that had come about. But that is past and here I must address the idea of the musical imagination, an idea central to the Listen, Imagine, Compose imagination? Are there helpful ways of thinking about this? David Hargreaves and Alexandra Lamont report a potentially important theoretical advance in this respect, and one supported by the growth of neurological evidence. Imagination is the essence of the creative perception of music.

Are we surprised by this? Probably not.

Did you know you can imagine music?

Musical imagination is at the heart of our musical life. So, I started thinking, with the support of my imagination, about how we might encourage the musical imagination of our students. We had heard from composers that they had come to know ever more about their ways of working. Without this they may well be doomed to eternal stagnation in developing and progressing as composers. So, some questions that might start the meta- cognitive process with our students. Did you know that in playing a musical instrument and in singing you are using your musical imagination? Next time you have an ear-worm, catch it.

Before it wriggles away freeze it if you can.

Play with it. It could be the start of something.


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How will you preserve it, make use of it? Next week come to your music lesson imagining some music. What if we put all the music that is being imagined into our musical pot? In her tests subjects were asked to recall the final notes of the American National Anthem in imagination.

Let the music play!

One interesting finding was that unlike the musicians, the psychologists resorted to a range of movement strategies finger pointing, arm waving in order to recall the music. Now play with those five notes. Play them slowly on a muted trumpet in the style of Miles Davies. But as Hargreaves and Lamont show it would be mistaken to restrict musical imagination to only sound that which is not physically present.

Interestingly, only a handful of philosophers have attempted to grapple with the concept of the human imagination. There can be no imagination without knowing something, without knowledge.


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  • Are we ever without knowledge? My three month-old grand daughter Mabel seems to me to be making and drawing upon knowledge of a kind. Mabel is not without her sucking and grasping schemas. I think it helpful to know where it comes from? In there was a shift in official policy with the stating of a freshly conceived aim for the curriculum.

    It is interesting to compare it with the previous curriculum. It is only now, six years later that the full significance of this statement is being felt in our schools and increasingly by our music teachers.

    Innovation in music education is only the first step in changing the game | Music Australia

    What sources might we look to in order to better understand this shift of emphasis? I suggest three. Arnold introduces the idea of cultural touchstones, those works, and he was thinking chiefly of literary works, the great works of the literary canon, that were considered essential to securing civilisation. In working in the Faculty of Education in Cambridge I was invited to be a part of group to meet with the then shadow minister for schools. In his possession was a heavily ear-marked copy of a book by E. Hirsch titled Cultural Literacy. We were asked what we thought about knowledge.

    How would you have answered? Hirsch who maintained that an educated citizenary would be one that would share in the kind of understanding that would be required to understand the cultural references found in a broad sheet newspaper. For this to be achieved a curriculum would need to be clear about essential items of knowledge that would make the literate citizen.

    To know the best of the musical canon provides us with cultural capital. But there is a third source. This comes from the sociologist Michael Young and it connects in various ways with 1 and 2. Those who acquire powerful knowledge can see beyond their everyday experience-it is not reliant on context;. This knowledge is acquired in specialist educational institutions, staffed by specialists i. It is organised into domains with boundaries and these domains are associated with specialist communities, music being an example;.

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    So, all in all we are now living with a freshly created discourse with potent propositions to persuade us of a course to follow. It is a knowledge-based curriculum that will provide for cultural capital, social cohesion and social justice. For this dominant discourse to work there needs to be one way of thinking about knowledge. The knowing of this and the knowing of that. That this is a trumpet, a muted trumpet, for example, is a form of knowledge easily set down as an outcome of learning and a contender for the knowing of essential facts.

    In the case of music the tendency, let me emphasise tendency , is to make a list, a mono-cultural list of listening and performance repertoire that can be placed into a logical sequence.

    Music Education: Cultural Values, Social Change and Innovation Music Education: Cultural Values, Social Change and Innovation
    Music Education: Cultural Values, Social Change and Innovation Music Education: Cultural Values, Social Change and Innovation
    Music Education: Cultural Values, Social Change and Innovation Music Education: Cultural Values, Social Change and Innovation
    Music Education: Cultural Values, Social Change and Innovation Music Education: Cultural Values, Social Change and Innovation
    Music Education: Cultural Values, Social Change and Innovation Music Education: Cultural Values, Social Change and Innovation
    Music Education: Cultural Values, Social Change and Innovation Music Education: Cultural Values, Social Change and Innovation
    Music Education: Cultural Values, Social Change and Innovation Music Education: Cultural Values, Social Change and Innovation
    Music Education: Cultural Values, Social Change and Innovation Music Education: Cultural Values, Social Change and Innovation

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