A common definition of listening distinguishes between hearing and listening. The basic distinction describes hearing as a passive action of perceiving sounds, whereas listening involves paying active attention to various layers and elements of what one is hearing. Active listening to music, featuring the discerning of sounds, musical structures, harmonies, and the interrelations between the sounds, is akin to contemplating complex ideas. Providing meaning for this nexus of relationships requires listeners to grapple with these complex musical nuances, listening to different layers of the melody and harmony and connecting them to cultural and historical aspects. Challenging students to grapple with the complex nuances of musical pieces, to listen to different layers of the melody and harmony, and to connect those elements to cultural and historical aspects will provide them the opportunity to reflect upon the social and cultural contexts in which they live. The concept of what it means to be active (or mindful) has been examined from various perspectives and theories and holds great potential in advancing individual growth and social sensitivity.
Koji Matsunobu and Liora Bresler
From rites of passage to closer community bonding, the practice, enjoyment, exchange, and transmission of music—regardless of the setting—is an integral element of the history of human civilization. While the field of music education research has long focused on school music and institutional teaching, it is increasingly reaching out to the wider community, in the process involving people at different life stages who are operating in a variety of societal contexts. Consequently, research in music education explores a broad spectrum of musical engagements (including composition and improvisation, in addition to singing, playing, and listening) and a wide-ranging repertoire (including jazz, popular music, folk, and world music), together with diverse pedagogies both inspired by and borrowed from these genres. This process reveals how these forms of musical transmission can, on the one hand, create new meanings and experiences at individual levels, and, on the other, shape collective identity formation through the facilitation of cultural sustainability and transformation. By means of quantitative, qualitative, historical, and philosophical methods, and typically drawing on the fields of—among others—psychology, sociology, and anthropology, music education researchers have addressed social, cultural, pedagogical, and ethical issues of music teaching and learning.
Curriculum Studies has an abiding concern for creating curriculum that leads toward the good society. Typically, this concern has taken either a technical approach to citizenship education or political projects, redressing society’s ills and wrongs. The citizenship approach attempts to establish correct citizenship behavior. The political approach attempts to reorganize the structure of society. Neither approach attends to the inner ethical life of the person. A third approach also exists in the Curriculum Studies literature: how ethics and aesthetics are grounds for educating for a good society through cultivating the inner ethical life. Asserting the intersection of ethics and aesthetics has an old history throughout the world. In the European tradition, it begins with the Greeks, who theorized that one of the major areas of inquiry, axiology, actually was two areas of concern, asking two conjoined questions, “What is ‘the good’?” and “What is ‘the beautiful’?” They recognized that these two questions had intersecting concerns but went no further than a cursory mention. This insight has continued, in various forms, to this day. The Chinese tradition, which began before Confucius, theorizes a similar connection. Contemporary Curriculum Studies literature takes two approaches to the ethics–aesthetics intersection. The first approach favors studying how people encountering already made art may be aided in developing an ethical life through those encounters. This literature uses three ethics systems: pragmatism, affective education (akin to naturalism), and utilitarianism. In this approach, the relationship of aesthetics to ethics is basically instrumental: encountering aesthetic objects is an instrument that can lead to an ethical life. The second approach makes art-making central to cultivating or enlivening ethical consciousness. To varying degrees, this approach treats the experience of making art (cultivating an aesthetic consciousness) as a “door” to ethical consciousness such that one cannot necessarily pass through the door without it. Art-making only means making art, which all people are capable of doing (rather than a focus on training professional artists). Both approaches offer a significant opportunity to rethink the contribution aesthetics and the arts can make to fostering the good society. They also offer an opportunity to rethink what it means to do Curriculum Studies by considering the place of body and aesthetics in all of Curriculum Studies.
Throughout history, music has been a dynamic force in both formal and informal settings of education for all ages, places, and cultural identities. Music as curriculum is focused on this phenomenon in and through a wide array of cultural and historical contexts. Connections between music and curriculum may be understood through Joseph Schwab’s four commonplaces of curriculum which are milieus, teacher, learner, and subject matter. These connections are recognized and understood in greater detail by exploring the role of music in creating or affirming solidarity, empathy, cultural identity, content acquisition, educational connoisseurship, as well as learner-centered curiosity. Music as curriculum explores these aspects holistically as a way to maximize educational experiences through multiple ways of knowing that are actively present in music.