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.
Koji Matsunobu and Liora Bresler
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.