Soft Boundaries: Re-Visioning the Arts and Aesthetics in American Education

By Claire Detels | Go to book overview

7
Integrating History, Theory, and Practice in the College Music Curriculum

The fragmentation of the discipline of music into separate subdisciplines of musicology, theory and composition, education, instrumental and vocal performance, and conducting (discussed in chapter 4) has made curricular reform in music very difficult at a time when the need for that reform is paramount. While the American musical scene has changed immensely in this century, our curriculum is still largely founded on history, theory, and performance of European and, to some extent, American art music. Recent recognition of the academic neglect of non-Western, American and popular musics has led to strong demands to cover skills and knowledge associated with those areas, without any additional credit-hour space in the curriculum with which to do so. At the same time, the development of complex new computer-based technologies for producing music has led to the need to teach students new skills, again in the absence of additional time and resources with which to do so.

In fact, the American music curriculum has long been stretched to the limit with course requirements for theory, history, and performance of Western art music. Academic requirements for music majors now commonly involve so many credits and so little choice that music students find themselves isolated from other students, who in turn are prevented from academic study of music by the design of the curriculum for majors only. Because of the lengthy emphasis on knowledge and skills associated with the Western art music tradition, there is little or no time for the teaching of contemporary musical skills such as composing, arranging, and producing advertising jingles, popular songs, and film scores; nor is there a consensus among music academics that contemporary skills should be taught. Instead, training in contemporary musical skills takes place largely outside the academic system, with the result that music students lack training to enter recognized professional areas in music, while those hired to perform contemporary music often lack traditional musical knowledge and training. This disconnection between academic and real-world practice in music helps

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