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Action, Criticism & Theory for Music Education

Page 10 of 28


can hope for subsequent international esteem or permanence (p. 108).” Although this is a statement quoted from the 19th century, it still holds true to a great extent. Despite the importance of understanding the music of one’s nation, Walker (2000) points out a growing realization that Western culture and other cultures around the world have complex and sophisticated musical practices that are equally valuable. Simms (1999) also states that Debussy’s favourite music was not the classic works of Beethoven, Wagner, or Schumann, but the simple notes of an Egyptian shepherd’s pipe. Many studies (Campbell, 1991, 1996; Jordan, 1992; Kwami, 1996; Volk, 1998) have indicated the importance of a multicultural approach in the teaching and learning of music in North America and some other Western countries. As Swanwick (1999) points out, “customs and conventions differ…. [E]xposure to other cultures helps us understand something of our own (p. 22).” As such, the role of music education is to highlight the essential values and identities of various cultures, thereby providing experiences of deeper musical meaning in music that is widely accessible to the students.

In light of the above studies, it can be argued that music at the local, national, and global level is equally important. Local music represents the current cultural context; music of a nation signifies one’s cultural identity; and the study of world musics fosters the understanding of cultures around the world. It should be noted that, even when teaching Chinese music, there are differences of familiarity between local and national music. The original study highlights that Guangdong music is better received in Hong Kong than Jiangnan sizhu, which, though widely known throughout China, originated in Shanghai and its surrounding area. This is one of the many examples supporting the importance of teaching local musics that are often ignored simply because the music has been commonly known locally and often is less valued as a result. In addition, the teaching of world musics is not as commonly emphasized in Hong Kong as in many Western countries. The teaching of music in Hong Kong concentrates mainly on the teaching of Western classical music and thus the importance of an understanding the music of other cultures (other than Western classical) has not been well addressed. World musics are pertinent both to students’

overview of world musics and to their

comfort and familiarity with the music of

Leung, C. (2004). Building a New Music Curriculum: A Multi-faceted approach. Action, Criticism, and Theory for Music Education. Vol.3, #2 (July 2004). http://act.maydaygroup.org/articles/Leung3_2.pdf

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