Philosophy of Music Education Review 13.1 (2005) 95-98
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Response to Frede V. Nielsen's "Didactology as a Field of Theory and Research in Music Education"
Let me begin by acknowledging what is about to become obvious: I am not a musicologist, music educator, or a philosopher of music education. I am, however, a philosopher of education and a devoted student of music, so I found Frede Nielsen's paper both intriguing and rewarding. It is intriguing because it positions the theoretical study of music education—what he calls "didactology"—in relation to the practice of teaching music and exemplifies, if you will, the practice of didactology. As a philosopher, and one who has worked at philosophy of science as well as philosophy of education, I became intrigued by the conceptual ground-clearing and ground-construction that Nielsen undertakes in his paper.
I found the paper rewarding for two reasons. First, it is about music—at least I think it is about music, and music is about my favorite topic. Like many good works on aesthetic subjects, it seems to offer another way into a beloved yet ultimately mystifying domain and, thus, another glimpse into the unfathomable. Second, the paper offers a complex and rigorous analysis. I had fun wading through its parts and beginning to view them in relation to one another. I think that I have begun to understand not only the difference between didactics and didactology but also something about the contribution the latter might make.
So to begin these remarks, let me offer a brief overview of some key points in the paper. I will then go on to raise a question or two with the hope that these will prompt Nielsen to further elaborate his ideas.
To begin, Nielsen separates the topic of music pedagogy into two parts—the [End Page 95] normative and the descriptive. He defends both the study of theory and the study of practice as useful for understanding the subject of music pedagogy. He then defines the term "didactology" as "the theory of didactics, especially the theory of the content, aim, and rationale of education," and he defines "didactics" as planning and decision-making related to the practice of teaching. He tells us that didactology, though theoretical, is related to practice, that while it is descriptive rather than prescriptive it assumes values, that it "implies a view of science and the subject—the subject of music and the music itself." A didactological statement is a scientific statement and its truth is judged according to criteria for scientific truth. In summary, according to Nielsen:
It is the task of and the object area of didactology in relation to the subject of music to describe, analyze, problematize, and develop intended, actual, or possible issues concerning music education as well as its conditions with special regard to the content, aims, and rationale of the education.
Can the didactology of music be an independent science? The answer seems to be yes. As an illustration of the claim, Neilsen presents us with four levels of didactological reflection. The four levels, from top to bottom, are, fourth, reality (natura)—the "inner" and "outer" aspects—which refers to the experiences of hearing/understanding and performing the music; third, the musical phenomena (ars)—the music itself (the musical phenomena include, it seems, the social and existential contexts in which the music occurs); second, the theory that offers a disciplined or systematic explanation of the musical phenomena (scientia), that is, musicology (the theory envisions the musicology—the explanation of the musical phenomena—in relation to, for example, the theory and practice of teaching the music itself); and first, the didactic practices and didactological principles (didactica) that serve as the basis for determining "the content, aim, and rationale of teaching and learning music."
Now despite the elegance of the typology here, I find myself wondering about two things. First, what is the subject of Nielsen's analysis? He tells us that...