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Action, Criticism & Theory for Music Education

Page 7 of 28


Bontinck and Smudits (1997) argue that not all musical cultures have been standardized, the continuation of their existence is in doubt. Unfortunately, under the overwhelming impact of the mass media, both the classical and folk traditions have been under immense threat—although, comparatively speaking, Western classical (but not classical music of other cultures, for example, court music or music performed by the elite) is enjoying a better position than the folk tradition, partly due to subsidizing by government and private sources, and partly due to commercializing by record companies.

At the same time, however, contemporary music is seldom taught in class despite the fact that culture is constantly evolving and, as a result, so is music. As Swanwick (1999) states, “music not only has a role in cultural reproduction and social affirmation but also has potential for individual development, for cultural renewal, for social evolution, for change (p. 25).” Salzman (2002) agrees and writes, “change has continued to overtake music and the arts as it has the whole of society (xii).” According to Harbison (1999), the task of composition is to rebuild and reconnect the culture from the past to its current context, which is important in continuing the process of developing the culture—in this case, music. To these ends, it is vital not only to preserve and produce the “classics” but also to teach the ever-evolving music of our time. As evidenced in the above studies, in addition to popular and traditional (including classical and folk) music, contemporary works should also be taken into serious consideration. Under the impact of the mass media and commercial music sectors, popular music and classical music have more and more attracted the attention of their audiences through different ways of using music from its opposite; for example, popular music uses themes extracted from classical music in numerous ways while classical orchestras offer ‘pops’ concerts. The participation of both types of musician in ‘pops’ concerts helps to bridge and popularize both styles. Contemporary music, to the contrary, continues to be inaccessible to audiences and limits itself to an elite circle—the composers, their friends, and cognoscenti.

Not many significant changes have been identified in music classrooms, however. Teachers continue to be trained at universities and conservatories mostly in

classical music and thus keep on teaching

a limited range of all music that is

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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