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Why Music Education is no longer about Music

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On the Nature of Music

There are three important characteristics of music, which I think most people would agree with.

  1. Music is for the ear. We do not eat music, nor smell music, nor see music. In our modern age we call what we see on paper, “music,” but it is not. What is on paper is in part a symbol of music, but it is a symbol of only the grammar of music. There are no symbols on the paper for feeling or emotions, which is the real role of music.
  2. Music exists only in live performance before a listener. A recording is not music. The recording bears the same relationship to music as does a photograph to a real person.
  3. The purpose of music is to understand and communicate emotions. While everyone understood this for thousands of years, it became clear with the modern clinical findings on our bicameral brain. The right brain, where the experimental and personal emotions lie, is mute.1 It cannot make a sentence. The left brain, a depository of secondary data, includes language, but when it comes to talking about music or writing about music, as is clearly also true with the emotions of love, the left brain is tasked with writing about something it knows nothing about. Thus the importance of music—a language of feeling which can be heard and understood by all.

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  1. Continuing research since Dr. Sperry’s Nobel Prize winning research on split-brain patients may have caused some lack of confidence in some readers, for it demonstrates more and more the complex cross wiring in the three trillion cells of our brain. However the basic fact of the bicameral brain remains clear, the left side designed for data and the right side for personal experiential understanding. []