In our present time, issues of justification in music and music education loom large. In the United States, at least, a conservative mind-set with its emphasis on basic literacy and numeracy skills and the preparation of young people in general education for a world of work governed principally by technological and commercial interests may seem to diminish the importance of music and its role among the core subjects of study in compulsory and elective education. At the same time, over the past two decades especially, notions of musical study for its own sake have been challenged by views of music for other instrumental ends. Even the notion of justification itself has been co-opted to refer to music’s value as a subject of study that merits defense in an environment understood to be at best neutral or mildly sympathetic and at worst hostile or even antithetical to music-making and taking. Against this backdrop, the writers in this issue explore the grounds of music and music education for their own sake and for aesthetic ends, rather than just as a means of advocacy. While their positions may prove useful for advocates concerned to justify music’s place in general education, this is not their first purpose. Rather, it is to understand the nature of music and music education and to construe musical and music educational experience in valid ways.
Particularly refreshing, is the case-in-point that Matti Huttunen, Erkki Huovinen, Elina Packalén, Marja Heimonen, and Heidi Westerlund collectively exemplify a phenomenon all too rare in music education research, namely, a group of scholars from different specialties–historical musicology, philosophy, music theory, and music education–who converse together beyond their specializations and institutions. Their collective work integrates music education into the wider frame of musical scholarship while also bringing pedagogical interests [End Page 1] directly to bear on musicology broadly construed. In so doing, the boundaries between specialties that might otherwise become overly hardened and restrictive are softened and broadened. I wish that cooperative work might be more common in musical and music educational scholarship internationally. And in the interest of extending this conversation in the present issue of the Philosophy of Music Education Review, the group is joined by Janice Waldron whose reflections on aspects of music performance complement its work.
It is also striking, particularly in a North American milieu where empirical aspects of music education have historically been central to the field’s scholarship, to find a group of researchers focused on normative questions underlying musical experience as they seek to understand how music ought to be thought about and by implication taught and learned not only within Finland where the group is based, but internationally. Since their collective work represents a normative rather than descriptive approach to music education, it illustrates the possibilities for music education where philosophical discourse is central to scholarship in music and music education.
Among the specific questions addressed by our writers, Huttunen discusses the historical nature of Western culture particularly since the nineteenth century and the impact of aesthetic considerations on what is remembered of the musical past; for him, philosophical reflection plays an important role in critically examining conceptions of music and interrogating the stories of this past. Huovinen examines music from the perspective of its structural claims and emphasizes the analyst’s responsibility in both making and critically engaging these claims. Packalén critically assesses the justifications for speaking of music in expressive terms and the validity of emotional descriptions of music. Heimonen takes a hermeneutic approach in arguing for the inclusion of music in the publicly supported school curriculum grounded in balancing the differing interests of freedom and discipline. Westerlund argues that the personal interests and values that students place on their musical learning are crucial justifications of music education. And Waldron critically examines Gunther Schuller’s ideas by way of demonstrating how aesthetic ideas play out in musical performance and influence what musicians do as much as think about what they do.
It is clear, in this issue, that matters of justification in music and music education are sometimes vexed. Still, our writers demonstrate the ways in which philosophy serves...