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Music Education: Aesthetic and Paraxial Theories Essay

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Updated: Nov 5th, 2021

The twentieth century gave people more opportunities in making progress suitable in different spheres of life. The change of manners and styles in the world of music provoked such changes in the sphere of education and its further adherence to the contemporary conditions of progressive society. The approaches toward the way of educating may vary in their philosophical background and probable use in practice. Some people may criticize this or that theory on education and express personal viewpoints on this issue with emphasis on a lack of contemporary innovative tools for making music better. Other people may quite fairly insist on the traditional, and frequently old-fashioned, trend in education pointing out the fact that every new thing came out from old ones. Nevertheless, the problem of making a curriculum for music education should be perceived in the diversity of standpoints and theories which are supposed to have a grave connection to music. Aesthetic education and praxial philosophy are contrasting in the paper in terms of their evaluation. Though, Philip Alperson in one of his books titled What is music? Describes the most significant features which were added to the world of music, namely:

…the introduction of polytonal, atonal, dodecaphonic, serial and aleatoric music as well as electronic and tape compositions into the concert repertoire, the blossoming of jazz with its strong improvisational center, the invention of proliferation of recording devices and the burgeoning of an enormous “popular” music industry (Alperson, p. 9).

This, in return, presupposes certain changes in how people urge to estimate music with more emphasis on its uniqueness and individuality of execution. Furthermore, human beings by nature tend to use more convenient and easy-to-use practical instructions of how to make out this or that feature in, for example, musical key. That is why it is necessary to compare the main principles and characteristic features of both aesthetic and paraxial theories while educating music.Theses two theories are distinguished in two basic directions of time prospects and the methods of straightforward implementation. Thomas A. Regelski in the book Teaching General Music in Grades 4-8: A Musicianship Approach corresponds to the reciprocal use of two theories and their significance with description of how these theories are reflected in the educational process. He writes:

“Practical” in a more general sense can refer to “useful” learning in connection with praxis, such as “practical wisdom.” Praxial theory of music and music education in comparison to the contemplation of hypothesized aesthetic absolutes said to be “in” musical “works” that are timeless, praxial theory values music as a praxis, a “doing” that serves an infinite variety of personal and social uses (Regelski, 2004).

Curriculum prospects take into account the facts of what is known at the moment and in what way the direction of musical trends should be improved for further possible theories serving to facilitate the educational process. David Elliott tried to evaluate the praxial theory in its most significant approach concerned with music performance (Elliott 24). He was convinced that music should be available and accessible toward masses and it should be demonstrated throughout the manner of schooling. In this case, an ability of a teacher to explain and demonstrate such features of music props up against the development of musicianship (Mark, p. 209). From ancient times when Aristotle began dividing three areas of knowledge, as theoria, techne, and praxis, in which praxis is, as Alperson wrote, the most significant, because “it focuses attention on the motives and intentions of those who undertake them, as well as “the social, historical, and cultural conditions and forces in which practices of music production arise and have meaning” (Gobble, 2003).

Another flow of theoretical learning is concerned with the aesthetic education in its conservative and live manner to represent what should be outlined from the past. David James Elliott in the book Praxial music education strive to depict a what the main goal of aesthetic approach was by means of one grave and laconic phrase, namely: “a philosophy of music education must entail not only a statement of beliefs, but also a clear articulation and critical refinement of those beliefs based on experience” (Elliott 2005). Bennett Reimer is one of the most eminent representatives of this school of music educating. Coming from the philosophical area of world understanding, this theory served for a long time as a “special realm for music and “the arts” (Goble 2003). The followers of aesthetic philosophy, such as Leonhard pointed out the need of educating music using the psychological approach as of the theoretical background of music itself and its separate and utilitarian nature apart from other kinds of art (Elliott 2005). The central point of both theories should take into account a well shaping of music for listening. By means of this prospect, undoubtedly, a better estimation of music features can be achieved. Then in praxial philosophy the followers tend to use the point of action learning according to Regelski and the aspects of what one can extract from music learning as well as the form in which a teacher should adhere to the way of “action research,” being somehow a “practitioner-as-researcher” (Goble, 2003).

David Bower wrote in one of his articles that “Certain schools of thought subscribe to the aesthetic approach to music education focusing on the product rather than the process” (Bower, 2009). Thus, educating music professors can vary between two approaches. First, according to aesthetic theory a teacher can emphasize that music needs a long practice for achieving perfection in skills, but, before everything else, praxial philosophy can encourage students to study music right away without pointing out music as an “art-object”, but a process of music-making (Bower, 2009). In fact, music is a distinctive kind of art which should be pointed out aesthetically with approaches toward its entire nature, but a teacher in his/her curriculum should not be too focused on this approach, because a student may doubt about probable successes in the future.

The followers of aesthetic theory underline an excluding role of many-years experience and a hesitation about whether one be capable as an artist in music afterwards. Elliott’s theory, on the other hand, promotes a hope for being successful in music due to the process of studying music. While providing classes a teacher should outline the expressiveness of music in its relation with environment. David Elliott elaborating the need of listening to music outlines such points as: “(1) the intricacies of intramusical designs, (2) musical expressions of emotion, (3) musical representations of people, places, and things, (4) musical expressions of various kinds of beliefs (e.g. personal, political)” (Cited in Bower 2009). Here one should not think that praxial approach presupposes a freedom of actions during classes, but a rightly directed flow of “practice-centred and culture-specific” points of music (Daugherty 1996).

Thus, the evaluation of music dimensions in the contemporary world does not exclude the fact that music itself should make people get more information about the milieu of their direct being, Also the music tends to make well shaping of world’s features in order to provide a better life inside the frame of a cruel and unfair world. This point is still under the discussion due to its controversial nature among the representatives of both theoretical groupings of scholars trying to reach the objective truth about the efficacy in making out music genuine intentions which it inherited from its author or authors.

Works cited

  1. Alperson, Philip. “What Should One Expect from a Philosophy of Music Education?” Columbus, Ohio: Journal of Aesthetic Education. Vol. 25, No. 3 (1991), 215-242.
  2. Alperson, Philip. What is music?: an introduction to the philosophy of music. New York: Penn State Press, 1994.
  3. Bower, David. Musical Knowledge, Musical Works and Curriculum Development: A Praxial or Aesthetic Approach?
  4. Daugherty, James F. . Perth, WA: Australian Journal of Music Education, No.1 (1996): 29-37. Web.
  5. Elliott, David J. “Music Education as Aesthetic Education: A Critical Inquiry.” New York: The Quarterly. Journal of Music Teaching and Learning. Volume II, Number 3, 48-66.
  6. Elliott, David J. Praxial music education: reflections and dialogues. New York: Oxford University Press US, 2005.
  7. Goble, J. Scott. “Perspectives on Practice: A Pragmatic Comparison of the Praxial Philosophies of David Elliott and Thomas Regelski.” New York: Philosophy of Music Education Review, Vol. 11, no. 1 (2003): 23-44.
  8. Mark, Michael L. Music Education: Source Readings from Ancient Greece to Today. Ed. 3. New York: Routledge, 2008.
  9. Regelski, Thomas A. Teaching General Music in Grades 4-8: A Musicianship Approach. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.
  10. Reimer, Bennett. Seeking the Significance of Music Education: Essays and Reflections. New York: R&L Education, 2009.
  11. Reimer, Bennett. A Philosophy of Music Education. 2nd ed. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, INC, 1989.
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