Music Matters: A New Philosophy of Music Education

By David J. Elliott | Go to book overview
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6
Musical Works

Listening for musical performances involves thinking and knowing in relation to several simultaneous dimensions of musical information. Thus, musical works may be conceived as thought generators--as intentionally constructed challenges to our powers of consciousness.

In Chapter 4 I introduced three dimensions of musical information that are part of every musical work: (1) the musical performance-interpretation dimension, (2) the musical design dimension, and (3) the practice-specific dimension of shared musical standards and traditions. In this chapter I explain why some musical works may involve additional dimensions.


1. Form-Content Relationships

In discussions of musical works, the terms form and content refer to the ways in which musical patterns are organized (or formed) in relation to each other (intramusically), in relation to other musical works (intermusically), and in relation to other human interests.

Several factors predict that music makers around the world will organize musical works in more than one way. The first factor is the human tendency to make values of necessities: the tendency to emphasize, extend, or elaborate common needs, actions, and occurrences. This tendency suggests that in addition to purely musical sound patterns, the sounds of everyday existence (e.g., speaking sounds, working sounds) will likely become part of the content of some musical works. The second factor is the wide range of things people can do with sounds intermusically, intramusically, and in relation to all other human interests. This factor suggests that musicians will sometimes link musical patterns to a variety of cultural and personal concerns, including religious, moral, technological, practical, political, and historical ideas or events. The next factor involves the related human tendencies to pursue enjoyment and self-knowledge. These tendencies predict that musicians will often push the limits of composing, improvising, or performing in terms of

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