Thursday, January 31, 2013

Week 3- The Music Instinct

This week we watched The Music Instinct which delved into the effect of participating in music on the brain and the body.  In that documentary and in the reading, we heard from Evelyn Glennie, a profoundly deaf percussionist.  In our class discussions, we discussed the effects of music on the whole person from the perspective of the question of the purpose of music.

What struck a chord with me the most was hearing the biological and mental effects that music has people; and therefore the human experience.  It occurs to me that music has the power to express things that we as humans may not necessarily be able to put into words.  It has a way of articulating not only what is the most beautiful of our emotions but also the most uncomfortable horrible emotions that a human can feel all in one piece of music.

It occurs to me that this is why it has such a profound effect on us.  It is said that music has the ability to promote feelings of calm or agitation; fear or relax; serenity or elation.  Evelyn Glennie talked about an autistic boy who had no control over the muscles in his body and had to be restrained most of the time.  She described how this same boy that had to be restrained because of the lack of control that he had over his own muscles was somehow calmed down to a state of physical rest just from lying on the floor and feeling the vibrations of her playing the marimba.

She talked about how as a profoundly deaf musician; people don't really understand how it is that she is able to play so well and understand music so well.  She responds very matter of factly; stating that the same way that someone who is profoundly deaf cannot completely describe how it is that they hear; she also cannot; however they both have access to the idea of "hearing" the music. She points out that essentially how humans hear is mainly through vibrations; which she can feel as well. She just relies more on the vibrations in her feet and arms and hands than in her ears as we who hear do.

It's interesting that as people that study music we spend so much time trying to get everything exactly correct and exactly as we think the composer would have intended for it to sound; and how much that has a tendency to take away from the art of experiencing the music and actually feeling the music.

Monday, January 21, 2013


What is the Purpose of Music Education?
     Last week, the readings and the discussions in class were full of considerations about the purpose of music in modern education.  In so doing, we considered a few arguments.  One of those arguments was the aesthetic view of music education. Proponents of this view are seemingly in gross disagreement with what they feel is a common trend in music education; that is is for music educators to try to sell the purpose of music education as something to only be considered in support of the other "more important" subject like math, reading and english.  They feel strongly that that is not how music education should be viewed.  They feel that music education is about teaching students how to relate to beautiful music; teaching them what beautiful music is and what it sounds like; how to appreciate it and how to create or compose it; or even critique it.  
     Others feel that music education has more of a praxial purpose.  In other words, they feel as though learning music is not just for the sake of learning music; it is for the sake of understanding music from the perpsective of the musicians or composers who's work is being studied.  They feel very intensely that music should be explored by doing and that while aesthetics are definitely a factor, they should not be the only thing that drives the music education program in schools.  They also seem to feel very strongly that students should learn how to "do" music or become "musicers" (David. Elliot).  

     The socialist view of music education is one indicative of the idea that music education should contribute to helping to shape a better and more civilized society.  Cognitive music educators feel that music should no doubt stimulate the brain and mind by inspiring thought and reason. They feel that this philosophy of music education can also support cognitive thinking in other subjects.  When considering which point of view I most align myself with as a music educator, I find that I agree with the aspects of more than one of them.  I do feel that music education is partly the teaching of aesthetics. The teaching of the beauty of the art of music is integral to the human spirit which lends itself not only to the aesthetic but the socialistic view. However, I have to say that the aesthetic philosophy that music education has no other purpose than to teach students how to percieve and recognize beauty is one I disagree with.  I believe also in the theory that music education should be attained by doing as is the praxis view; and that in that; it will lend itself to the understanding of different types of people and the uses and functions of their music as well as the variety and diversity of the theorhetical and aesthetic value of music from the perspective of many different kinds of people.  However, I do not feel that music should ONLY be learned by doing.  I think there has to be room for listening and evaluating and understanding the feeling or time in the lives of the composers or performers.  
I do also believe what studies have definitely shown which is that music education contributes to the cognitive functions of students which does in fact help them excel in other subject areas. I feel that it is not helpful to pit one of these philosophies against the other. I think that one of the perks of an American education is the idea of citizenship and democracy which lend itself to the understanding that it takes scholars in many subjects in order to make a society work.  It is not just math or reading or english that is important; or music or foreign language or physical education; nor is it that choral music is more important than private voice instruction or violin or cello or wind ensemble or marching band etc.  What is true is that our society is a society of people who excel at all of those different subjects and every subcategory that falls under them individually.  I think what is more important is to glean the importance of music education from the perspectives of all of these philosophers and allowing that to guide us as music educators to work together with educators in other fields to point students in the direction of their success and our civilization. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Assignment #1 p. 37

Sarah E. Rios
History and Philosophy of Music Education
January 13, 2013

Assignment #1 p.37


Do Aristotle or Plato offer any insights into the core questions of the class?

1. Does a life in "gymnastics" lead to a life of savegery, and a life solely in music, a life too gentle, too soft?

According to the reading; Socrates and Glaucon would agree (as this is an imaginary discussion between the two) that this is true. 

1. Why does Aristotle believe that education be regulated solely by the state? What are his feelings about private education? To whom is this education restricted?

 Aristotle believed that the neglect of education "does harm the constitution" in that in order for an individual to be a good citizen; one must be molded and suited for the form of government he/she will live under.  He argues "the better the character" of the inhabitants of the government "...the better the government."  Aristotle feels that public education is better than private education.  Private education at the time was more children being kept at home and being educated by his/her mother;as the wife stayed at home and did not work most of the time.  He feels that education instead of being private and relative to the teachings of that particular family; should be uniform for all that live in that society since they all have a common goal of being a civilized society.  He maintains that this education should be regulated and restricted by the state.  

2. What criteria does he recommend one follow in deciding what to teach?

 He describes the customary branches of education in four aspects: i. reading and writing, ii. gymnastics and exercise, iii. music and iv. drawing.  He goes on to  describe that people should be able to work well and use leisure well.  Although he goes on to describe that people should spend all of their time amusing themselves, he does go one to say that although the study of letters, reading and writing and business are important, that music is essential in teaching people how to conduct themselves in leisure. Music is looked at as a means of supporting the other and deemed more important subjects.  Aristotle's view is shared by some even today. 

3. What if one thinks solely about "the useful" in education?
He argues that that if one only thinks about "the useful" in education, that they are in danger of not teaching the next generation other concepts that music can help teach them like nobility and civility.  

4. Should children be taught to play an instrument or just listen?
Aristotle maintains that parents and educators are careful not to teach music that will lead to vulgarity.  He mentions that some in the history of Greece have considered the playing of the flute, lyre and Lydian harp (among other instruments) to lead to produce too much emotion.  He also goes on the state that no freeman should be play instruments or sing for finances, calling professional musicians vulgar.  He says "Nay, we can professional performers vulgar, no freeman would play or sing unless he were intoxicated in jest." 

5. What do you think about Aristotle's argument about contests? And his opinions about performing on various instruments? Are there any parallels to this argument in contemporary life?
He seems to feel that children being trained to the end of competing in contests can be helpful and beneficial to the character.  Although he asserts the vulgarity of becoming a professional musician, he thinks it to be beneficial for children to learn how to play certain musical instruments while they are still young to the end of competition.  He thinks it is important for people to pay attention and care to exactly what instruments are being studied, as he feels that some are more appropriate than others.  I think that there are definitely parallels in contemporary life.  There are some that honor the study and practice of music by children even to the end of competing in recitals and other sorts of contests; however people have a tendency to not want their children to pursue a career in music or any aspect of the performing arts.  Many feel that music and the performing arts is a very unstable profession and should only be practiced as hobbies and not pursued as professions. 

6. Have you heard arguments in contemporary life similar to the following? Do you agree or disagree?  "The vulgarity of the spectator tends to lower the character of the music and therefore of the performers; they look to him, he makes them what they are, and fashions even their bodies by the movements which he expects them to exhibit."
Yes, I have definitely hears arguments in contemporary life to that end.  There have been many formal and informal discussions about the state of music today. Not just music, but all of the media outlets like film and television are being scrutinized for their content.  There are those that argue that the violent images in television shows, movies and even video games contribute to the rising violence among young adults and teenagers in urban and suburban communities.  They blame vulgar and misogynistic, degrading lyrics on the moral compass or lack thereof of partakers of rock n roll of the 60's and 70's  and heavy metal, hip hop and rap of the 80's, 90's and the first decade of the the 21st generation (200-2010).  I partly agree in that I do feel that what one takes in through their ear and eye gates on a constant basis does help to shape what value systems they hold and how they carry themselves; however I also know that there is much more then just music, movies and video games having an effect on today's teenager.  Some would argue that children and teenagers becoming functioning and contributing members of society begins at home with the training and values being instilled in them by their parents, others feel that whether or not the child grows up in a loving home is a factor; or whether or not a child has access to both of his parents.  I think the truth is somewhere in the middle.  All of those factors are important.  There is not one aspect that is more important than another; aside from maybe the factor of a child knowing that they are loved.  Not to say that this is the only thing it takes in order to become an effective contributing member of society; just that all of those factors; including what we watch and what we listen to effect who we are as individuals. 

7. How does Aristotle resolve this dilemma? Are there parallels in contemporary life?

Aristotle seems to suggest that the resolution of this dilemma exists in being careful to teach children the usefulness of harmony and other theoretical concepts of music; rather than the emotional dynamics.  He speaks about the possibility of being too emotionally moved to be of any purpose in society.  There is also evidence in the reading that the society that Aristotle lives in is not the democracy that we as Americans know; but a society of slaves and free men.  The free men, obviously are the educated people while the slaves are not.  There are clear distinctions made between free men and slaves where slaves are not even referred to as people and where slaves are believed to be vulgar and wicked from birth.  There is a great deal of reference to what is useful for a man to learn, since in this society, there probably at this time were not many girls being educated.  That being the case, there were certain things that were considered feminine, or too soft; hence the reference to being careful not to get lost in the leisure and pleasure of music but to learn and to calm down after rigorous exercise or a hard day of working. 
There indeed are parallels in contemporary life.  Again, among some, music and the performing arts in general are things that one does to unwind, or relax or entertain guests; not something that one should pursue as a means of employment.  Even the study of music education, and one taking on the training with the intent of becoming a music education; despite the rigorous education and practice that must be given to it is still, among some looked upon as not the most practical form of employment.  There are some who hold the performing arts and music in very high regard; some for enjoyment, some for the purposes of training and discipline; but there are still some who regard music as something to be enjoyed for entertainment purposes only.  The fact that most musicians that become wealthy are pop starts or other recording artists who spend years putting their lives on public display and missing out on what most would consider a "regular life" among other things only contributes to that opinion.