Web 2.0: A Return to Participatory Oral Traditions in Music Education

By Hanna, Wendell; Kelly, Kevin | American Music Teacher, October-November 2013 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Web 2.0: A Return to Participatory Oral Traditions in Music Education

Hanna, Wendell, Kelly, Kevin, American Music Teacher

Music technology is pervasive. Music is on iPods, cell phones, television, radio and the Internet. When placed on hold, or while shopping at the department store, music is in the background. Thousands of kids play Guitar Hero, create music loops on Garage Band and surf YouTube videos. Many adults now listen to automated music recommendation services such as Pandora or share favorite music video clips with friends on Facebook. Technology has merged with the music distribution business and a record number of people have become daily music consumers. Citizens of the industrialized world listen to music for more than one quarter of their waking life. "It is unlikely that any other sign system--the spoken or written word, pictures, dancing, etc.---can on its own rival music's share of our average daily dose of symbolic perception." (1)

The Participatory Oral Tradition In Music

Music has been a part of every culture since the beginning of human civilization. (2) Indeed, for much of human history, music making has been a central aspect of daily life across cultures, regardless of age, status or ability. The use of synchronized movements to music helped in accomplishing large human work projects throughout history, such as singing work songs while building a railroad or sea chanteys while working a boat. In addition, music has always strengthened the sense of community while preserving the transmission of cultural identity. Moving to the sound of music is a human instinct? Observing young children move automatically to music is evidence of the natural connection between rhythm and bodily movement.

Pre-modern societies encouraged active and broad music participation in communal settings without the benefit of music notation. We refer to this as oral tradition learning? The oral tradition valued the empathetic and subjective in the transmission of music, valuing emotion and personal interpretation of the music. Oral music cultures were bound to particulars of the moment in time and space. Further, the oral tradition emphasized communal music, shared by everyone and owned by no one. Communities of music practice--such as dance, drumming, domestic tasks and ritualistic ceremonies--were not considered as stand-alone "art forms," but as integral to the lived experience of everyday life. (See Example 1: "Oral Tradition")

The Emergence Of Music Literacy: Music Notation

Music notation can be traced to Babylonian times; however, sophisticated written notation for music is a relatively recent innovation. Indeed, it was not until the mid-14th century that a need to create exact written notation emerged. The Roman Catholic Church developed a refined notational system, which accurately recorded both pitch and duration and was then able to musically propagate its mission to far-away places. (5) In effect, music notation then became a powerful new "technology." (6)

Music notation was objective and disengaged--it was a factual, unemotional document. Yet, written musical works were able to transcend time and space, a miraculous feat that allowed any literate musician, anywhere in the world, many years later to be able to play a particular piece of music the exact way it was intended. In short, notation preserved music as was originally written. It was an authoritative document, immutable to interpretation, true to the composer's original intent. Music notation functioned as a complete, finished work based on abstract and analytical symbols (see Example 1: "Written Notation").

As notation became more widespread, however, it created a need for fluent music "literacy" and this produced a divide between the literate and the non-literate musician. People who could read music and perform that music were considered "literate" musicians, and those who could not could only be passive listeners of written music or were considered merely as "folk" musicians. (7)

What Is Music "Literacy?

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Web 2.0: A Return to Participatory Oral Traditions in Music Education


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?