Announcement: Portuguese translation of Green (2003) published in InterMeio

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Action, Criticism, and Theory for Music Education is pleased to announce that an article originally published in ACT 2 (2), “Why Ideology is Still Relevant for Critical Thinking in Music Education,”  by Lucy Green, is now also available in Portuguese in the free access journal InterMeio 23 (45). The link to the Portuguese version of the article is available on the ACT website: http://act.maydaygroup.org/volume-2-issue-2/

Weekly Discussion 1: Sirek (2018) “Until I Die, I will Sing My Calypso Song”

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Beginning this week, the MayDay Group will be facilitating weekly or biweekly discussions (#chatMDG) around articles published in ACT and TOPICS. For this first week, we encourage you to engage with Danielle Sirek’s recent publication.



“Until I Die, I will Sing My Calypso Song”: Calypso, Soca, and Music Education Across a Generational Divide in Grenada, West Indies

DANIELLE SIREK
University of Windsor, Ontario, Canada

September 2018

Published in Action, Criticism, and Theory for Music Education 17 (3): 12–29 [pdf]
doi:10.22176/act17.3.12

In post-revolution Grenada, explorations of identity often reveal a generational divide. This generational divide is frequently expressed through music (Sirek 20132018). In this qualitative case study I use an ethnographic methodological approach to examine Grenadian calypso and soca music, analyzing data collected from observations and participant observations, interviews, investigation of media/social media; as well as calypso and soca music and lyrics. Drawing from Tönnies’ (1887/2017) constructs of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft, I explore the ways in which calypso and soca musicking  (Small 1998) and music education initiatives construct and articulate the generational divide in Grenada.

Keywords: calypso, soca, Grenada, Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft, identity, music education



What questions and or comments do you have regarding this publication?

Newsletter (September 7, 2018)

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In this newsletter this week, there are several reminders for conferences including Mountain Lake and the International Symposium on the Sociology of Music Education, as well as calls for a conference on Music and the Internet and a special issue of JPME. There are also numerous position vacancies, including at Eastern Illinois University, San José State University, University of Puget Sound, Northwestern University, Eastman School of Music, Purdue University Fort Wayne, and California State University, LA.

To view the Newsletter, click: https://goo.gl/Z2EinZ  

Steering Committee Election Results

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We are pleased to announce the appointments of Julie Beauregard, Anita Prest, and Daniel Shevock to the Steering Committee. Congratulations! Brent Talbot has agreed to serve as the Steering Committee Convenor for the coming two years in addition to his Ex-Officio role as Colloquium Coordinator.
 
MDG Steering Committee
Ex-officio members:

  • Colloquium Coordinator – Brent Talbot
  • Managing Editor of ACT – Vincent Bates
  • Co-Editor of ACT – Deborah Bradley
  • Co-Editor of ACT – Scott Goble
  • Editor of TOPICS – Darryl Coan
  • Production Editor of TOPICS – Matt Koperniak
  • Editor of MDG website – Janice Waldron
  • Editor of the MDG Newsletter – Danielle Sirek
  • Membership/listserv Coordinator – Danielle Sirek
  • Website and Social Media Coordinator – Jesse Rathgeber
  • Original co-conveners – J. Terry Gates and Thomas A. Regelski
  • Treasurer – Vincent Bates

Members-at-large (with ending year of office):

  • Brent Talbot, 2020
  • Juliet Hess, 2020
  • Tom Malone, 2020
  • Darrin Thornton, 2022
  • Julie Beauregard, 2024
  • Anita Prest, 2024
  • Daniel Shevock, 2024
Best regards,

Danielle Sirek
on behalf of the MDG Steering Committee

P.S.  SAVE THE DATE MDG Colloquium 31 will be June 19-22, 2019, at Mary Immaculate College in Limerick, Ireland. We hope to see you there!

July 2017 Discussion of the Month

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For the next several months, this feature of the website will reprint the collection of short articles that first appeared 10 years ago in Ecclectica. The collection was edited by Wayne Bowman, and published online by Brandon University; this particular issue explored the topic, “The Future of Music Study in Canada.” Contributing authors to this collection represent a diverse range of music scholarship and interests. The MayDay Group obtained permission to reprint these articles from Ecclectica and the various authors for the purpose of discussing the ways music in higher ed has changed since these articles were written ten years ago. The original publication may be viewed at http://ecclectica.brandonu.ca/issues/2006/2/Read.ecc.asp This month’s article from the above collection is by Professor Emeritus Doreen Rao and is the 16th installment from Ecclectica to be featured on the MayDay Group website: Discussion of the Month.

Our hope is that as you read, you will think about what has changed in the past ten years, what may not have changed at all or very much, and where there are signs of shifts in both thinking and practice. While the Ecclectica issue dealt primarily with music in higher education in Canada, the issues, we believe are common to higher music studies in other parts of the world, and this reprint seems timely given the 2014 report from the College Music Society calling for sweeping changes in the approach to undergraduate education in music. Please take a moment after you read to share your thoughts, so that we may generate the kinds of discussions that will lead to the kinds of changes the original Ecclectica authors call for.

Singing: Implications for Music Education in the 21st Century

Doreen Rao, Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto

Understanding the nature and value of singing for music education requires a language suitable for the social and cultural conditions of the world today. Historically, singing and vocal performance in music education have been linked with values of uniformity rather than diversity, exclusivity rather than inclusion, and perfection over reflection—contrasting values of human experience shaped by history and culture.

This short essay examines singing and vocal performance as the education of personal intelligence, ethical discernment, and moral responsibility. In contrast with the values of uniformity, exclusivity and perfection, I look at singing in music education as a human practice inspired by diversity, as a healing practice rooted in ancient history, and as a mindfulness practice in time for a troubled 21st century.

I suggest that singing as a form of personal intelligence, ethical discernment, and moral responsibility inspires understanding, a mindfulness value central to the mission of music education and imperative for sustainability in the world today. I propose that the nature and value of singing and vocal performance in music education today extends beyond the traditional goals of artistry and education to include the social and political imperatives of healing and peacemaking in the 21st century.

I hope that these not-so-scholarly musings offer readers an opportunity to ponder the imperatives of vocal performance in relation to peace education; to contemplate the broader meanings of singing as a form of awareness; and to consider the psycho-spiritual possibilities of singing and voice education in music education today.

Cross-Cultural Musings

In his writings on Mahatma Gandhi, Thomas Merton tells us that neither the ancient wisdoms nor the modern sciences are complete in themselves. They do not stand alone: They call for one another. From modern singing practices inherited from 19th century euro classical traditions, I call on the ancient wisdoms of Canada’s indigenous People of the Pacific Northwest. Found on a rattle fragment, this vision song was sung to a woman when she was sick. She then used it to heal others.

In your throat is a living song
A living spirit song
Her name is Long-Life Maker

Yes I’m here to heal
With the healing ways
Of the Magic-of-the-Ground
The Magic-of-the-Earth

So go on poor friend
And sing with the healing spirit
With the Magic-of-the-Gound
The Magic-of-the-Earth

And you will spring to life
Through the power of the words
Through the Magic-of-the-Ground
The Magic-of-the-Earth

Amongst indigenous cultures I have known, including the Sami of Scandinavia, the Aborigines of Australia, and the First Nations of the Americas, singing is used therapeutically as a form of medicine and healing to remedy emotional and physical illness. Holy men and women, sound healers and indigenous leaders throughout the world practice singing to affect human consciousness and improve health. For indigenous healers or shamans, the concept of tonal aesthetics does not exist. Sustaining life is what counts.

Cross-cultural descriptions of singing from a variety of different traditions provide us with a rich palette of contrasting perspectives. From these diverse human traditions and practices we can examine singing and vocal performance for music education as these relate to the experiences of everyday life and good health.

What is the value of vocal performance in the world today? Is the value of singing aesthetic experience, social identity, physical health, psychological well being, or spiritual enlightenment? Is singing a demonstration of artistry or musicianship, the formation of consciousness, or a manifestation of the soul? As performers, teachers, and health care professionals continue to investigate the power of singing in relation to the wholeness of the body, mind, and spirit, these questions can guide us toward a future of alternative theories and practices associated with singing and voice education in the 21st century.

Narrative

My interest in the psycho-spiritual dimensions of singing started at Northwestern University. As part of my doctoral research I examined the nature and value of musical performance crafting a language that I could attach to years of intuitive practice. This work found its way into my choral textbook We Will Sing! (1993) and continues to distinguish the Choral Music Experience performance approach to music teaching and learning from the concept-based, elements-of-music methods traditionally used in general music education.

As a professional singer, conductor and music teacher, I believed that the value of musical experience was embodied in what the Greeks called techne, or musical “making and doing with skill and understanding.” I also believed that singing in choirs should be more broadly understood in mainstream music education as a musically and educationally dynamic, inclusive and intelligent form of musical knowing and doing.

My 1988 research demonstrated how the physical, spiritual, creative, and cognitive aspects of singing serve as a multidimensional, non-verbal form of procedural knowledge, or “thinking-in-action.” In 1996, I began to search for a new way of understanding singing and voice education, a way that reflected my social and spiritual values beyond thinking. I left mainstream music education in order to explore indigenous culture, feminist theories, and the contemplative arts.

During a six year period of research and writing, I studied and practiced my “beginner’s mind.” In the desert of the Southwestern United States, in the footsteps of the Buddha and on the Ganges River in India, and finally to the Himalayas of Bhutan, I observed the “big picture” and studied the many ways singing is used cross-culturally as medicine, as meditation, as relationship, as community, as war, as ecology, and as art.

This enriching work culminated in my textbook Circle of Sound Voice Education: Circle of Sound, which introduces a contemplative approach to singing through a blending of Eastern breathing meditation and martial art movement forms with Western bel canto vocalization. The Circle of Sound contemplative approach to singing suggests what Wayne Bowman called “bold alternatives to traditional pedagogical practices, alternatives that treat music as a natural human fact, an essential way of being human, and a point of access to a dimension of human experience that is both unique and profoundly important to our individual and collective lives.”

There is no better description of singing as human experience than the one remembered in 1921 by Danish explorer Knud Rasmussen who transcribed the words of Orpingalik, a leader of the Netsilik, the People of the Seal. As Rasmussen explains, “He was always singing when he had nothing else to do, and he called his songs ‘comrades in solitude,’ or he would say that his songs were his breath, so necessary were they to him, to such an extent were they part and parcel of himself.” As Rasmussen accounts, from the well of his being Orpingalik could draw up a song to meet every need, to lighten every burden. The great Inuit leader said, “How many songs I have I cannot tell you. I keep no count of such things. There are so many occasions in one’s life when a joy or a sorrow is felt in such a way that the desire comes to sing; and so I only know that I have many songs. All my being is a song, and I sing as I draw breath.”

Contemporary Portraits of Singing

Contemporary voice research proposes that singing is first an art and secondarily a science. Unfortunately, the portrait that emerges from the last twenty-five years of research is one of an unconnected body of work favoring the biological and acoustical functions of the vocal mechanism over the psycho-spiritual dimensions of singing. Few studies in physiology, in acoustics, in function, or even in psychology consider the voice holistically, as a multidimensional phenomenon embodying its biological, emotional and spiritual nature.

While early definitions of voice suggest both an “inner voice” (the voice of God or spirit) and an “outer voice” (the voice of reason), vocal performance all too frequently focuses on the manipulation of the vocal apparatus in the production, control and coordination of tone without much consideration for the psycho-spiritual, therapeutic, and social benefits found in cross-cultural perspectives uncovered in music/medicine, psychology, or anthropology.

Historically, the separation of the biological dimensions of singing from the psycho-spiritual dimensions of singing from the time of Decartes (who obviously never sang in a choir!) contrasts significantly with Aristotle’s classical view of singing in which the soul and the body constitute a single substance. Aristotle’s thinking intuitively connects the organic, biological dimension of voice to its psycho-spiritual dimensions.

There is a growing body of evidence to suggest the healing powers of singing and vocal performance. Briefly, musician-neuroscientist Manfred Clynes, a leader in the field of emotional responses to music, suggests that singing is a key to the promotion of health and well-being. The Mind and Life Institute in Boulder, Colorado is working with His Holiness the Dalai Lama to investigate the impact of meditation and chant on the thoughts and emotions of artists and educators. University of Wisconsin neuroscientist Richard Davidson has measured these effects on a wide range of subjects.

Scholarship in the sciences, the contemplative, and the performing arts suggests that breathing and singing reduce anxiety, improves immune systems, and increases activity in the area of the brain associated with positive emotions like joy, enthusiasm, and good will. Today’s medical and musical research in cross-cultural sound healing offers fresh perspectives that logically and holistically embrace the mind-body-spirit nature of singing experience.

Singing as Knowing, Doing, and Being (Theoria, Praxis, Phronesis)

How do singers and vocal performance teachers get from the theoretical constructs of knowing about the voice (the physiological, acoustical and functional aspects of singing) to contemporary praxial accounts of vocal performance as musical making and doing (as alternative ways ofknowing or “thinking-in-action”), and further still, to emerging revelations of phronesis—in my words, singing as social conscience, moral responsibility, and ethical discernment?

The concept of phronesis or ethical discernment suggests a moral course of action that is ‘right’ and ‘just’ in a given situation. It is a matter of doing the right thing, at the right time, with the right intent. It is a matter of character and as Aristotle observed, this approach is “not for every person, nor is it easy.”

Music education in the 21st century must necessarily consider the kind of personal attention, emotional support, and care-giving that motivates our students’ ethical discernment—their ability to embrace moral courses of action. It is more important than ever that vocal performance teachers consider singing as a matter of character and service in close relationship with skill and understanding. As David Best argues, education in the arts has an utterly inescapable moral dimension.

Personal Intelligence, Ethical Discernment and Moral Responsibility

What have the development of personal intelligence, ethical discernment, and moral responsibility to do with singing and vocal performance in music education? In my view, just about everything. Understood as a form of awareness, singing is a life-skill closely related to personal intelligence. As a singer follows the breath in and out, an awareness of herself and others continually deepens.

Understood as a form of mindfulness, singing encourages the skillful means of being fully present in the here and the now. Mindfulness and ethical discernment are interdependent skills. In the context of vocal performance, students learn to “bear witness” to themselves and to others.

Singing encourages the skills of deep listening as a form of moral responsibility. The ability to listen to others, to the ensemble, to hear their own parts in relation to others and to make adjustments in pitch, tone quality, or dynamic levels requires deep listening ability. The ability to listen is closely related to being free of fear and anxiety, being at ease, and being in calm and concentration. Learning to listen to the self is the first step in learning to listen to others.

Singing is the practice of well-being. In a world where violence and injustice surrounds us, it is not enough for our students to simply produce beautiful singing for its own sake. Too often our work takes place in the exclusive confines of our rehearsal rooms and concert halls that leave out most of the world. Singing beautiful tones for their own sake is not enough to educate our students’ social consciousness or sense of moral responsibility in the world today. Well-being comes from the quality of our connection with others – from the sense of shared humanness that comes from singing for the benefit of all beings.

In Conclusion

Vocal performance in music education understood as the inclusive education of personal intelligence, ethical discernment, and moral responsibility should be encouraged through the systematic development of awareness, mindfulness, and deep listening in studios, classrooms and rehearsals. A young singer who recognizes herself as an important part of the choir, who respects the multiple differences and the rights of her fellow students, and who demonstrates her service through the joy and pleasure of performance counts in every way as an artist and peacemaker.

In a world of borders and boundaries, terrorism and injustice, music education could consider the social and psycho-spiritual potential of singing and vocal performance as a cross-cultural, transforming, and inclusive musical practice—a human practice inspired by diversity, a healing practicerooted in ancient history and a mindfulness practice for living in the 21st century.

We can re-dream this world and make the dream real. All roads lead to death, but some roads lead to things, which can never be finished. Wonderful things.
—Ben Okri, The Famished Road

June 2017 Discussion of the Month

Posted Leave a commentPosted in eColumns

For the next several months, this feature of the website will reprint the collection of short articles that first appeared 10 years ago in Ecclectica. The collection was edited by Wayne Bowman, and published online by Brandon University; this particular issue explored the topic, “The Future of Music Study in Canada.” Contributing authors to this collection represent a diverse range of music scholarship and interests. The MayDay Group obtained permission to reprint these articles from Ecclectica and the various authors for the purpose of discussing the ways music in higher ed has changed since these articles were written ten years ago. The original publication may be viewed at http://ecclectica.brandonu.ca/issues/2006/2/Read.ecc.asp This month’s article from the above collection is by Professor Norma Coates and is the 15th installment from Ecclectica to be featured on the MayDay Group website: Discussion of the Month.

Our hope is that as you read, you will think about what has changed in the past ten years, what may not have changed at all or very much, and where there are signs of shifts in both thinking and practice. While the Ecclectica issue dealt primarily with music in higher education in Canada, the issues, we believe are common to higher music studies in other parts of the world, and this reprint seems timely given the 2014 report from the College Music Society calling for sweeping changes in the approach to undergraduate education in music. Please take a moment after you read to share your thoughts, so that we may generate the kinds of discussions that will lead to the kinds of changes the original Ecclectica authors call for.

Observations From a Liminal Space

Norma Coates, University of Western Ontario

It feels strange for me to write about the future of university music studies in Canada. I am American by birth and have been in Canada for exactly one year. Although my home department is the Don Wright Faculty of Music at the University of Western Ontario, I’m a joint appointment with the Faculty of Information and Media Studies. My PhD, in fact, is in Media and Cultural Studies. I am neither a musician nor a musicologist. Further (and I hope that this does not add insult to injury), my precise area of research and expertise is popular music.

At the risk of sounding egotistical (which is certainly not my intent) and following the editor’s injunction to address this issue provocatively, I want to suggest that my position as described above, represents one of the possible futures for university music departments in Canada and elsewhere. Even given my newness to the country and to a music faculty, I sense that this is a very exciting yet very challenging and a bit fraught time for music studies in Canadian universities. As a popular music scholar, I perceive that my discipline has roiled traditional music departments and conservatories. A related trend is the increased embrace of, or at least lip service to, interdisciplinarity by university administrators.

Part of the reason I am here is because this Fall our music faculty is admitting its first class of students to a new BA program in Popular Music. As I understand it, this is the culmination of a several-year process that was at the same time resisted by some in the department and supported by others. This is consistent with what I have heard about attempts to integrate popular music courses into other music departments in Canada. Resistance is understandable, especially by faculties and conservatories that have made and stake their reputations on art music. There are fears that the inclusion of popular music in the curricula will lead to the exclusion of art music, or that a turn toward popular music represents a triumph of instrumentality over “aesthetics”. At the same time, it is becoming clear that our students’ overall knowledge of how music, any music, signifies and works affectively in everyday life and history is enhanced by the study of the cultural contexts in which music of all types is produced, used, and received. At Western, our BA in Popular Music will include courses on the cultural impact and history of popular music alongside those on musical style and genre. Insights gleaned from the cultural and historical study of popular music can be applied by enterprising students to music across centuries, hierarchies, and genres. Our future music educators, especially at the primary and secondary levels, will be teaching students who encounter popular music across an unprecedented range of media from their earliest childhood. They need to be prepared accordingly.

We are also building expertise in popular music studies across two faculties, the Faculty of Music and the Faculty of Information and Media Studies. Between these two faculties we will have six faculty members whose research and teaching is solely or partially in popular music. Our collective expertise spans style, performance, history, gender studies, technology, political economy, recording, and jazz (and I’m sure that I’m leaving out something major). This range of popular music expertise provides stimulating possibilities for graduate student research and development during a time when the administration is making that a priority.

The interdisciplinarity of Western’s popular music faculty and offerings, and of popular music studies in general, leads to an important question: what is the role of the music department in the disciplinary advancement of popular music studies in Canada? Popular music scholarship takes place in several departments, including musicology, ethnomusicology, media studies, communication, English, and sociology (among others) and employs diverse methodologies. Although several disciplines contribute to popular music studies, the field runs the risk of turning into “two solitudes” (a phrase I’ve learned since my arrival in Canada), comprised roughly of the “musicological” and the “cultural.” That is, the field shows signs of becoming multidisciplinary, rather than interdisciplinary. If panel composition and/or attendance or presence at conferences can be read as indicative of trends in the field (and I submit that they can), then it appears that this divide may be taking hold in the discipline as it establishes itself. That’s not to say that there are not scholars who combine musicological analysis and cultural theory with wonderful results. In fact, Canadian scholars are setting the pace here; the work of Susan Fast and Christina Baade at McMaster, along with that of Kip Pegley at Queen’s, is exemplary in this respect. Music departments can have an enormous impact in shaping the future of popular music studies, but cannot do so where debates about musical taste and value are bracketed.

It is also important that departments and administrators conceive of courses in popular music history and culture as more than giant survey courses, providing electives for other majors and departments. With the right instructor, such courses can be and are quite rigorous. In other circumstances, these surveys run the risk of being viewed as “bird courses”. Popular music needs to be acknowledged as a field worthy of smaller classes and in-depth analysis as it develops in rigor and methodology.

Another fear is that popular music will drain resources from art music. That fear is valid yet addressable. Integration of popular music into the music curriculum will require more resources, especially where popular music is recognized as inclusive of musics beyond white, Anglo-American forms. This is crucial as the industry, popular music, and the world our students will enter upon graduation becomes more interconnected and interdependent. A solution to the resource issue is to forge links with other departments: that is, to capitalize upon the fact that research in popular music is performed in several disciplines. Such connections can be formalized, via cross-appointments or the creation of interdisciplinary centres and courses open to students interested in popular music within attached disciplines. Music departments can and should lead the way in these endeavors.

Interdisciplinary connections can also be made within music faculties. As previously mentioned, some knowledge of the history and culture of popular music, and its affective power and role in the lives and media consumption of primary and secondary school youth is increasingly important for future music educators at that level. Fruitful connections can be made between popular music and every other division within music departments.

Ultimately, I believe that this all comes down to what is best for our students: to what they will require in order to venture out into the world beyond the conservatory or department. I would wager that our students don’t care too much about maintaining strict divisions between art and popular music, theory versus musicology, and the many other perceived or real divisions within music faculties. (Discussion of those issues could make a great course or seminar.) Through the study of the history and cultural resonance of popular music, students can learn about culture, history, and how and why contemporary societies operate as they do. The addition of popular music courses beyond the token survey will provide students with breadth and depth across the range of musical cultures, styles, and “aesthetics”. This knowledge will help make them thinkers as well as musical practitioners, educators, and aficionados.

May 2017 Discussion of the Month

Posted Leave a commentPosted in eColumns

For the next several months, this feature of the website will reprint the collection of short articles that first appeared 10 years ago in Ecclectica. The collection was edited by Wayne Bowman, and published online by Brandon University; this particular issue explored the topic, “The Future of Music Study in Canada.” Contributing authors to this collection represent a diverse range of music scholarship and interests. The MayDay Group obtained permission to reprint these articles from Ecclectica and the various authors for the purpose of discussing the ways music in higher ed has changed since these articles were written ten years ago. The original publication may be viewed at http://ecclectica.brandonu.ca/issues/2006/2/Read.ecc.asp This month’s article from the above collection is by Professor Susan Fast and is the 14th installment from Ecclectica to be featured on the MayDay Group website: Discussion of the Month.

Our hope is that as you read, you will think about what has changed in the past ten years, what may not have changed at all or very much, and where there are signs of shifts in both thinking and practice. While the Ecclectica issue dealt primarily with music in higher education in Canada, the issues, we believe are common to higher music studies in other parts of the world, and this reprint seems timely given the 2014 report from the College Music Society calling for sweeping changes in the approach to undergraduate education in music. Please take a moment after you read to share your thoughts, so that we may generate the kinds of discussions that will lead to the kinds of changes the original Ecclectica authors call for.

The Future of Graduate Study in Music at Canadian Universities

Susan Fast, McMaster University

At the time of this writing (July 2006), the future of graduate study in music at my institution, McMaster, is in flux, which is one reason I wanted to write about this subject. McMaster University’s M.A. Program in Music Criticism, in which I have taught for thirteen years, has been closed; the last three students will graduate in May 2007. The decision to close the program is the result of a key faculty member leaving for another institution and the University’s choice not to replace him, which is in large part because of a new interest in music cognition, an initiative housed in the Psychology Department. No current music faculty members have expertise in this area, although they have been asked to tie their fortunes to it. It is not surprising that at a University such as McMaster, where sciences, medicine and engineering are given priority, administrators would choose to support an initiative that studies music in what is perceived to be empirical, rather than socio-cultural terms, or, more importantly these days, where external funding for science based studies is considerably larger than that for the Humanities. Still, it is alarming to think that this is the likely future of music at McMaster, that its place within the Humanities will be diminished if not eventually eliminated (this is true at the undergraduate as well as the graduate level; discussions are currently underway for the development of an undergraduate program in music cognition).

Or is this really cause for alarm? It is probable that Humanities-based graduate studies in music at McMaster will develop, given the expertise of current faculty, within the context of Cultural Studies. This is a likely scenario at Queen’s as well, where plans for a graduate program in Cultural Studies are well underway, with no plans in the foreseeable future for a graduate program in music. Graduate study in music at Brock has not developed within the Music Department either; rather, within an interdisciplinary M.A. program in popular culture administered jointly by Social Sciences and Humanities. To be clear, in all these cases it is the study of popular music(s) that is finding a home within cultural studies or other interdisciplinary programs; whether the study of art music could find a place within such programs is another matter. But given these developments, we might well ask, is graduate study in music at institutions that do not already have established programs likely to occur outside of music programs, within the context of interdisciplinary studies, and is it likely to favor the study of popular musics (including the study of non-western popular musics under the rubrics of globalization or postcolonial studies)?

I want to emphasize that I ask these questions in relation to where musicologists are going to be housed and where musicology is going to be practiced, since those trained in sociology, communication studies, media studies and various other disciplines (or inter-disciplines) have long studied music, and especially popular music, outside of music programs and departments. I’m of two minds about musicology becoming part of a cultural studies, or other interdisciplinary program. On one hand, it makes sense. Music is a key means through which culture is produced and consumed throughout the world, so it seems logical for the musicological study of it to hold a prominent position—a more prominent position than it sometimes has—within these interdisciplinary programs. It is important that musicology take its rightful place in interdisciplinary studies, rather than remaining isolated within music programs, chained to technical expertise that none but a few initiates have “mastered.” Nonetheless, a cultural studies program is not a music program, and so the students we teach will likely not often have musical training when they come into the program, nor will they very often want to pursue music as their specialty. What we can teach these students will be restricted by their limited technical knowledge and by the fact that they don’t make music themselves. Or perhaps I am just setting up a straw person here: If musicologists with publication records that will attract students are teaching in cultural studies programs, why wouldn’t trained musicians come and study with them? Even more promising is a scenario in which these programs attract musicians who have not gone through an undergraduate music program, but who play in bands and have first hand experience with and understanding of contemporary popular music scenes and who are (in my experience) less burdened by ideas of composerly genius, canon, and music as transcendent of socio-cultural influences and influence. Graduate programs in music still have little room for this kind of musician unless they have also earned a B. Mus. degree along the way.

On the flip side, teaching non specialists can be viewed as a positive development: Students who do go through these cultural studies programs are likely to take a course from a musicologist who will underline the importance of musical sound as a site for the creation of socio-cultural meaning. Students will, hopefully, walk away from these programs with a better understanding of how music shapes culture, rather than thinking of it as mere entertainment or commodity. And perhaps in a generation or so, more and more students with training in music will opt to enter a graduate program in Cultural Studies rather than one in Music, especially if the progressive and interesting scholarly work is coming from faculty within the former.

Norma Coates, Kip Pegley and I were recently invited to participate in a round table at IASPM (International Association for the Study of Popular Music) Canada about women teaching popular music in Canadian Universities and a few interesting issues around graduate study in music were raised there. Because we focused on the study of popular music in particular, it became apparent in our discussion that many prominent Canadian universities that currently offer graduate programs in music (among them the University of Toronto, UBC, the University of Victoria, and the University of Alberta) do not have tenure-track or tenured researchers on their faculty who are scholars of Western popular music. Universities that do have popular music scholars generally have only one (Carleton and McGill are the exceptions, and again, at least for the moment, Carleton’s musicologists teach in an interdisciplinary graduate program, not a Music program). In fact, popular music scholarship in music departments West of Ontario is almost non-existent (many institutions do not offer undergraduate courses either). This seemed fascinating to us: given that popular music studies is currently a “hot” area of graduate study, why the dearth of opportunities to study it in Western Canada? And given that enrolments in undergraduate survey courses in popular music are through the roof, it is interesting that many Western Canadian universities do not offer these. Is the demand not there? Or is there resistance to curricular change, especially to the introduction of popular music (I think many of us who work on popular music have experienced such resistance at various levels)?

A further issue is that there is a high number of productive popular music scholars in Canada who are women, most of whom do not teach in institutions that have graduate programs in music. Why does this make a difference? Because many of these women are producing groundbreaking work in the field, and are internationally known, yet do not currently have direct influence over the next generation of popular music scholars. The subject matter they choose to study and their methodological approaches are often quite different from those of their male counterparts, and their voices in graduate programs would perhaps open up new areas of study and new approaches. They could also mentor graduate students, especially women graduate students, and encourage more of them to enter the field. In our experience, students who want to pursue popular music in their graduate studies are often frustrated by the lack of faculty expertise at their institutions, or by the fact that they are unable to study with a prominent scholar of popular music because s/he is not attached to a graduate program.

Perhaps we don’t need a slew of new graduate programs. Canadian universities are generally financially strapped and it’s not clear that there is demand for new programs. Those universities that have the infrastructure for M.A. and Ph.D. programs in Music probably need to be rethinking their priorities (Western seems to be leading the way in this respect, at least with respect to popular music studies—see Norma Coates’ contribution to this discussion). Productive scholars who are working in new fields of inquiry could be attached to these programs, and perhaps we need to become more creative about how this happens. I am currently adjunct graduate faculty at York and have sat on several PhD. Committees, work that is not recognized by my home institution, but perhaps should be. Instead of working in isolation from one another and/or in competition, we could begin to view the (after all, small) group of Canadian music scholars as a single pool (I realize that this might sound quite naïve and idealistic, but I’m willing to put it out there anyway). There could be more sharing of faculty resources among institutions. Although institutional bureaucracy often puts obstacles in the way of such inter-institutional cooperation, we could try to develop it. We could consider such ideas as residencies for scholars at institutions where graduate programs exist; guest or team teaching between institutions; greater flexibility around the supervision of students; and drawing on each other’s expertise in ways now done infrequently.

Our professional societies might be one vehicle through which discussions about this could take place. Or perhaps we need to create a separate organization that advocates for such inter-institutional cooperation specifically within Canada and specifically around graduate education in music. At the very least, we might be thinking about gathering current data on the study of music at graduate levels in Canadian universities. In what programs or departments (music or otherwise) is interesting work being undertaken? What are the growth areas in terms of theses and dissertations? And do faculty hires or curricular offerings correspond to these areas? Are productive scholars teaching within graduate programs? If not, how can this be encouraged? It is time we begin to rethink graduate level music studies in Canada along such lines.

April 2017 Discussion of the Month

Posted Leave a commentPosted in eColumns

For the next several months, this feature of the website will reprint the collection of short articles that first appeared 10 years ago in Ecclectica. The collection was edited by Wayne Bowman, and published online by Brandon University; this particular issue explored the topic, “The Future of Music Study in Canada.” Contributing authors to this collection represent a diverse range of music scholarship and interests. The MayDay Group obtained permission to reprint these articles from Ecclectica and the various authors for the purpose of discussing the ways music in higher ed has changed since these articles were written ten years ago. The original publication may be viewed at http://ecclectica.brandonu.ca/issues/2006/2/Read.ecc.asp This month’s article from the above collection is by R. Murray Shafer and is the 13th installment from Ecclectica to be featured on the MayDay Group website: Discussion of the Month.

Our hope is that as you read, you will think about what has changed in the past ten years, what may not have changed at all or very much, and where there are signs of shifts in both thinking and practice. While the Ecclectica issue dealt primarily with music in higher education in Canada, the issues, we believe are common to higher music studies in other parts of the world, and this reprint seems timely given the 2014 report from the College Music Society calling for sweeping changes in the approach to undergraduate education in music. Please take a moment after you read to share your thoughts, so that we may generate the kinds of discussions that will lead to the kinds of changes the original Ecclectica authors call for.

Humility, Creativity, and the Music of the Future

R. Murray Schafer, Composer, Educator

I have no idea how the world should be educated. Each culture has its own targets for citizenship and develops a curriculum to meet those objectives. Those who disagree with the objectives will have a rough time in school. I spent years in school trying to get out. It seemed to me that too much time was devoted to answering questions that no one had asked while the real questions slid by unanswered. Plato taught that there was an answer to every question. Socrates taught that there was a question to every answer, but that was something my teachers didn’t seem to want to deal with. For that reason I never completed my education but set out to travel the world and educate myself. Unfortunately, as Ivan Illich pointed out, the effect of universal education is to make the autodidact unemployable.

It was only after many years of traveling, first as a sailor, then a journalist, a broadcaster and a composer that I began to question seriously why my life at school had been so futile. The failure of the music program concerned me in particular because I had musical talent (I played piano and sang in a choir) and had eventually adopted music as my vocation.

When the Canadian Music Centre initiated its John Adaskin Music Program, in which composers were invited to visit schools to work with children and young people, I was one of the first to apply. After visiting several schools, I could see clearly what was missing: creativity. In art classes original paintings were produced and in literature classes original stories and poems were written, but the music scene was dominated by the concert band or the jazz band playing classical arrangements of music that wasn’t even written in Canada let alone in the school.

There was during this period (the 1960s) a wave of activity internationally that was encouraging creativity in music education in music education. The Manhattanville Music Curriculum Project was active in the United States and in England composers like John Paynter, George Self and Peter Maxwell Davies had penetrated classrooms and were writing music for and with young musicians. I shared their ideas and wrote a series of little books about my own experiences. The books were descriptive, not prescriptive. You can’t tell people how to become creative but you can reveal the excitement of creative activity and hope that it may encourage them to try something on their own. Allowing people to become creative does not require genius; it requires humility.

Above my desk I wrote some maxims to keep myself in line:

The first practical step in any educational reform is to take it.
In education, failures are more important than successes. There is nothing so dismal as a success story.
Teach on the verge of peril.
There are no more teachers. There is just a community of learners.
Do not design a philosophy of education for others. Design one for yourself. A few others may wish to share it with you.
For the 5-year-old, art is life and life is art. For the 6-year-old, life is life and art is art. The first year in school is a watershed in the child’s history: a trauma.
The old approach: Teacher has information; student has empty head. Teacher’s objective: to push information into student’s empty head. Observation: at outset teacher is a fathead; at conclusion student is a fathead.
On the contrary a class should be an hour of a thousand discoveries. For this to happen, the teacher and the student should first discover one another.
Why is it that the only people who never matriculate from their own courses are teachers?
Always teach provisionally: only God knows for sure.
At the time of these thoughts and activities (1970s), it seemed that a revolution was just around the corner, but it didn’t happen. Instead music education programs in Canada and the USA pioneered backwards. My own work in music education moved into other countries and cultures: South America and Japan. In South America there was no money for music so teachers had to use their imaginations. “Tomorrow I want each of you to bring an interesting sound to class,” I would say, and the next day a whole flood of sound and noise-makers would fill the room. This became our orchestra and we could produce free improvisations or create rondos and fugues with what we had just as with violins and clarinets – better probably, because we were unconcerned about the safety of expensive instruments.

In Japan the word for music is ongaku, and it means simply “beautiful sounds”. Not only music but the singing of birds, the splashing of water and the chirping of crickets can be ongaku, which opens the subject out to include the soundscape, giving our ears a completely new field to investigate.

Sometimes I think that music programs in Canada are crippled by affluence. How many times have I entered a classroom and the proud teacher points out all the instruments lined up against the wall, the loudspeakers, the amplifiers, the CD players… But the problem with flutes and trumpets and violins is that all you can do is to learn how to play them, and that takes years. A very expensive music education program has been erected in the form of a triangle in which the base line is all those enrolled in the program and the apex is the professional performer/teacher, or, in a very few cases, the genius who will make the school famous.

“Show Uncle Murray your flute,” my brother’s wife said to her daughter, just entering high school. She brought it out and took it out of the box. “Can you play it?” I asked. “Not yet.” And she left the music program a year later. Too many people have been fooled into believing that if it is expensive, the music program must be good. Those who don’t learn to master those expensive tools will slip down to the category of consumers to help the recording industries get richer. That, I think, is the problem music education faces in Canada today.

Can we learn to do more with less? I think so, and there are many people in various countries who are demonstrating how this might be accomplished through new approaches to music making, music teaching, and music learning.

In one of my little pieces for young players (Minimusic), I included this line: “MUSIC IS NOT TO BE LISTENED TO. MUSIC IS LISTENING TO US.” That is, the perfect world is listening to the imperfect world and is inviting us to go further, delve deeper and reach higher in creating the music of the future.

March Discussion of the Month

Posted Leave a commentPosted in eColumns

For the next several months, this feature of the website will reprint the collection of short articles that first appeared 10 years ago in Ecclectica. The collection was edited by Wayne Bowman, and published online by Brandon University; this particular issue explored the topic, “The Future of Music Study in Canada.” Contributing authors to this collection represent a diverse range of music scholarship and interests. The MayDay Group obtained permission to reprint these articles from Ecclectica and the various authors for the purpose of discussing the ways music in higher ed has changed since these articles were written ten years ago. The original publication may be viewed at http://ecclectica.brandonu.ca/issues/2006/2/Read.ecc.asp This month’s article from the above collection is by Gary Kulesha and is the 12th installment from Ecclectica to be featured on the MayDay Group website: Discussion of the Month.

Our hope is that as you read, you will think about what has changed in the past ten years, what may not have changed at all or very much, and where there are signs of shifts in both thinking and practice. While the Ecclectica issue dealt primarily with music in higher education in Canada, the issues, we believe are common to higher music studies in other parts of the world, and this reprint seems timely given the 2014 report from the College Music Society calling for sweeping changes in the approach to undergraduate education in music. Please take a moment after you read to share your thoughts, so that we may generate the kinds of discussions that will lead to the kinds of changes the original Ecclectica authors call for.

 

High Art or Trend and Trade? Some Thoughts on Future Music Studies in Canada

Gary Kulesha, University of Toronto

It is impossible to speculate on the future of music education at Canadian Universities without offering observations on the future of music itself. A cursory glance at the history of music in Canadian schools (and at universities throughout the world) reveals a close relationship between the prevailing musical concerns of the time and the content of the offerings at the schools. In the early 20th century, the inherited aesthetics of the French and English strands of our heritage dominated composition training at schools in Quebec and English Canada, while by the 1950s, serialism and modernism were the dominant concerns at most schools. The creation of regional orchestras in Canada created a clear need for properly schooled performers. The recognition of education itself as a separate discipline, and the growing demand for well-trained teachers, led to the creation of Music Education divisions within virtually every Canadian university.

The second part of the 20th century, however, changed many of the inherited paradigms. In particular, the sudden rise of commercial music caused a complicated ripple which has not yet subsided. The trendiness of world music in the popular and film worlds moved musical anthropology from a purely academic concern into a practical study. Even the study of History and Literature grew to include the rather nebulous area of “culture,” and the traditional focus of study broadened dramatically.

The voracious demands of the commercial world led to the rise of the community colleges, where music programmes were designed openly to be “trade school” programmes. Universities, long the bastion of “pure” research, were pressured by newly-elected capitalist provincial governments, to demonstrate “real world viability” in their programmes, and the lines between community college and university music programmes blurred. The abrupt cessation of generous funding for ensembles, combined with a sudden spurt of growth in musical theatre, called traditional performance training into question. The unpredictable ebb and flow of educational funding rendered many students who had chosen to pursue music education as a path uncertain whether or not they would be able to find jobs. Even History/Literature/Culture divisions had trouble keeping up with the demands of an increasingly multi-cultural society in which political (and therefore financial) necessity dictated a shift in focus. And to add to the confusion, the new areas of music therapy and bioacoustics crossed lines not just within the discipline, but with other areas of study as well.

However the future of musical study evolves, there is one question that no school of music can ignore: have the fundamental elements of music-making changed? A second part of this question is: how far should schools of music, and in particular universities, go towards adapting to what seem to be changing demands in the “real world”?

Traditionally, since the beginnings of Western Art Music, music has been taught as a sequential mastering of technique. Every area of the study of Western Art Music has been shaped by a platform-based approach—each new level of mastery opens the door to the next. The dramatic impact of computer-based music has threatened this tradition. Computer software can now leap-frog many of the basic elements of fundamental training. Anyone with access to relatively powerful computers (that is, virtually everyone) can compose music, orchestrate it, perform it, record it, and even distribute it. There are many people on staff at many schools who believe that this renders traditional training obsolete. They argue that, given the success of musicians who cannot even read music in the pop and film worlds, it is unnecessary for students to master traditional methods first. In a very real sense, this attitude represents a fallout from the explosion of creativity in the 1960s, when, driven first by the philosophical teaching of John Cage, and then by the undeniably vibrant creativity of the then-new pop world, creativity was celebrated as an end in itself. Where such conditions prevail, knowledge of traditional methods and standard repertoire become irrelevant. Discovery and raw creativity become paramount, replacing traditional approaches to music making.

There may be some interesting lessons to be learned from the field of jazz. Jazz began in exactly this way at the beginning of the 20th century. Originally a discipline learned by rote and apprenticeship (much in the manner of many forms of world music), jazz emerged as a major commercial force in the 1930s and 1940s. By the time of its commercial viability, its nature as an indigenous art form had been expanded, and it had become a mainstream activity, largely as a result of a combination of its commercial exposure and of the interest many Western Art Music composers took in it. By the 1950s, it had become a discipline, demanding serious training for both performers and composers, as well as commanding respect as an area for research. Within 20 years, it had become a degree course of study in many of the major universities in North America.

Jazz, however, is still not universally accepted as an academic discipline, and encounters considerable resistance in many schools. The reasons are manifold and complex. Is jazz, as is argued by many of its academic critics, simply too narrow a field to be acceptable as a course of study at a university? Is jazz obsolete? Is the primary purpose of jazz study to create commercial performers? Is jazz more suitably taught as a “trade”? Should jazz be taught at all? Should it not revert to being learned in its performance environment?

Many of these same questions bedevil the future of all music. Is pop too narrow a field for serious study? Is classical music obsolete? Is the primary purpose of study at a university to create teachers to fill jobs? Is historical and cultural research more suitably taught as an academic pursuit within the departments of history, culture, and anthropology? Should world music be taught at all? Should it not revert to being learned in its performance (and social) environment?

Why do students come to study music at a university music school at all? Before changes are made to the academic structure based upon assumptions and prejudices, it is worthwhile reviewing the motivation of incoming students. It is also incumbent upon staff teachers to reflect upon their own reasons for becoming musicians, and, perhaps more to the point, the path they took to their own success (assuming that teaching at a university is in some measure an indication of success.)

Performers come to school to learn to play their instrument, and to learn its repertoire. This has not changed in several hundred years. A violinist, for example, comes to a school to work with a specific teacher, a time-honoured approach to apprenticeship. They are drawn to this activity and the university environment not by bluegrass fiddle music or Acadian fiddling, but by the repertoire that has shaped their instrument in the Western Art Music tradition. They may well have interests in other musics, but their primary focus is to learn the established canon for their instrument. Taking part in jazz or world music ensembles enriches their experience, but for most, it is an addendum to their main course of study. Any performer seriously interested in studying genuine world music would certainly not chose to do so at a Canadian university; he or she would go to the sources of these musics. Pop remains a largely rote-learned style, and can be learned only in a performance situation. Pop musicians often enroll in classical institutions, generally in the interest of expanding their abilities in their own field through the study of Western Art Music.

Perhaps most telling, students from all over the world, from a vast number of different cultural backgrounds, continue to compete for places in Canadian universities to study Western Art Music. These are often students who have already completed study in their own traditional practices who are nevertheless committed to acquiring the skills of Western Art Music. These students are not interested in pop music or world music: They come for a clear and strict background in traditional classical music. Students are often amused (although they rarely speak out) at the ignorance of the professors who are attempting to teach them pop or world music. There is something to be learned from a student from Tehran giving a piano recital which includes impeccably played Brahms, Mozart, and their own compositions, which sound far more like Shostakovich than Iranian music.

It is urgent that teachers, sometimes misled by excitement at new discoveries, or, more bleakly, by simple boredom, recognize that ignorance is not freedom. Their own path unquestionably included strict inculcation into the traditions of Western Art Music, and they were free to embrace or reject these traditions in later life. Denying students this same right is arrogant, shortsighted, and self-indulgent. Intimidating as it may seem, the manifold basic elements of music making remain the same, and the study of these basic skills is arduous and long. But all students want these skills. Students universally want to know what their teachers know. However they choose to use their skills, they are shaped first and foremost by a passion for music, and the basic elements of music remain constant. The expansion of music’s horizons will bring new layers of study, and will imply exciting new possibilities, but training in the fundamental historical skills must remain central to any university’s music programme. The future of music study at Canadian universities will encompass more and more new areas, but, if teachers continue to respect the needs of their students and remain inspired by their own activities, the threat of music study becoming simple trade–schooling can be abated.