chapter  6
18 Pages

The changing nature of music education

ByGraham McPhail, Elizabeth Rata, Alexis Siteine

The chapter identifies two significant stages in the music curriculum of Western countries through the lens of multicultural music education and suggests that we are on the cusp of a third stage. The first stage is characterised by an academic approach which emphasised the theoretical study of music’s episteme, focused on what was commonly referred to as ‘Western’ classical music. The second stage, in the decades at the turn of the millennium, saw a significant shift away from music as an academic subject to an understanding of music as the cultural practice of various ethnic and other social groups. We identify and critique the features of the cultural recognition stage in the music curriculum using an example from New Zealand and also referring to examples from other countries. This leads to a discussion of the global processes that led to the widespread but ambivalent response to ‘Western’ music and the corresponding interest in the cultural expression of various ethnic groups. We argue that music education would benefit from recognising both the universal characteristics of the music to be taught to students and the need to teach music in ways that use students’ sociocultural understanding to help them engage with the conceptual nature of academic music.