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Music education in state schools in Britain - a historical survey and brief comparative study of music education in state and music schools in other countries.

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posted on 19.11.2015, 09:15 by David Gwerfyl. Davies
The Subjective elements of music became a philosophical football which was kicked about by amateurs and professionals alike towards the end of the nineteenth century. Much time and mental energy was spent in fruitless attempts to evaluate the affectiveness of music. Was music 'a language of emotion'. How a subjective experience can be expressed, or embodied in an objective art form is still debated. Fortunately, the affectiveness of music in the class-room is relatively uncomplicated, seldom arousing real emotion, but those of a tertiary order. Theorists have readily invented numerous scientific tests to evaluate children's responses to music. Historically, music education can be traced to the ecclesiastical schools of the Middle Ages, but for centuries it remained in a peripheral area, dependent upon the personal interest of the Headmaster, though often recognised as having ethical and recreational value. Educational thought in England slowly accepted its rightful place in education, but the support of religious, philanthropic, and social reformers was necessary before sight-singing was introduced in the National schools in 1870, but not as an integral part of the curriculum. The nationwide success of simple sight-singing won official approval but did nothing to formulate a systematic method of tuition. This was eventually achieved by Curwen, whose Tonic Sol-fa became the accepted medium for teaching music in schools, giving them, and thousands of uneducated adults, 'an experience from within'. Other countries have successfully implemented the music methods of Kodaly, Orff, Ward and Suzuki in their schools; these have largely been ignored in Britain. In official reports, the criticisms of music in our schools, particularly in secondary schools, are devastating. The quantified success of objective thought, reason, clear objectives and continued application is conveniently forgotten in order that the English tradition of non-direction in music education may be preserved.


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University of Leicester

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