- In DialogueResponse to Roger Mantie, “Bands and/as Music Education: Antinomies and the Struggle for Legitimacy,” Philosophy of Music Education Review 20, no 1 (Spring 2012): 63–81
Roger Mantie’s paper “Bands and/as Music Education: Antinomies and the Struggle for Legitimacy,”1 looks at the educational band-world through a perspective informed, in his words, by “three concepts flowing from the work of Michel Foucault: power, truth, and discourse.” This is an ambitious intention, and to my mind, it has to be carried through with courage, and by that I mean addressing the full consequences of the project at hand.
Mantie argues that there is a break between the traditional musical practices of “American wind bands” and the contemporary institutionalization of banding that has induced the creation of the “pedagogical band world” within contemporary school and university contexts. Whereas the former aimed to promote music “of the people and for the people,” institutionalized music education band [End Page 191] practices sought to solve “the problem of their educational legitimacy in adopting the presentation of ‘art music’ as their raison d’etre.” Whereas, in the “old band world” what mattered most was “the here and now celebration of immanent time, space, and place,” contemporary approaches to band as a means for music education celebrate “the timeless and unassailable qualities of the music itself.” This break entailed the creation of “a schizophrenic creature that suffers a continual crisis of identity.”
One of the core issues that emerge out of Mantie’s text relates to a not uncommon tendency to regard a non-institutionalized form of musical practice as constituting the “true” instantiation of this very musical practice, as opposed to the subsequent contaminated version that is the inevitable result of institutionalization.2 Such an approach seems to me quite at odds with Foucault’s nominalism, with his emphasis on problematization and eventalization or eventialization [évènementialisation]—“the bringing to light of ‘ruptures of evidence,’”3 which is rooted in methodological individualism.4 For Foucault, eventalization entails a “breach of self evidence. . . . It means making visible a singularity at places where there is a temptation to invoke a historical constant, an immediate anthropological trait, or an obviousness which imposes itself uniformly on all.”5 Edward Said has noted Foucault’s “predilection for the analysis of discontinuous but actual spaces,”6 in other words, his tendency to adopt a spatial instead of temporal perspective, preferring to talk about places, fields, loci, topical institutions, events, their singularity and their discontinuities and fragmentations, instead of unified processes of temporal developments.
Mantie’s text tends to take as granted issues that should be regarded as loci of problematization. In his account, “the American wind band” (and despite his cautious comment in a footnote) is regarded as a bounded cultural phenomenon that constitutes an enactment of democracy, based on openness, inclusiveness, informality, and plurality, elements that have, it is suggested, vanished from its contemporary pedagogical incarnations. One of the most important strengths of a Foucauldian approach is that it does not help us to easily take sides. Taking as an unquestionable fact that traditional band practices were an instance of practicing democracy masks active processes of exclusion, operating on the basis of racial and gender oppression and discrimination. A Foucauldian perspective might be important for developing multiple local micro-historical accounts of traditional wind band practices, emphasizing not only what these practices forefront (thus contrasting it with contemporary practices) but, most importantly, what they exclude or silence.7
Instead of claiming that “bands were simply appropriated by schools,” an argument [End Page 192] that implies a uniform passage from an original form of the band world to its educational distortion, the aim could be “to fragment what was thought unified, and show the heterogeneity of consistency,”8 directing our attention to the microphysics of power/knowledge relationships as they emerge in different (educational or other) contexts and in the passage from older to more recent practices. A Foucauldian view of the relationships between old and contemporary band practices, as well as the position of the latter within larger music education discourses would not lead to a process of discovering “uncontaminated...