In his book, Composers and the Nature of Music Education (London: Scolar Press, 1978), Ian Lawrence suggested that composers have much to offer in addressing some of the intractable philosophical questions concerning the aims and methods of music education. Citing examples of composers during the past four centuries speaking to such matters as aesthetics, music teaching, learning, instruction, curriculum, and the administration of music education, Lawrence posits that there is much common sense and even wisdom in what they have had to say. In recent decades, composers such as Carl Orff, Zoltán Kodály, and Paul Hindemith are among the composers to develop approaches to musical instruction. Now, when music educators are again rethinking the relevance of ancient shibboleths, historical dictums, and traditional practices and asking if there are better ways to educate people musically, this special issue of the Philosophy of Music Education Review is devoted to the ideas about music and music education of some of the United States' foremost composers.
Mining the ideas of six composers—David Ward-Steinman, Joan Tower, Elliott Schwartz, Libby Larsen, Donald Freund, and Ellen Zwilich—takes two forms. Some of our composers wished to write down their own ideas; others preferred a conversation with music educators. Interestingly, the women composers chose the latter route, generating fascinating exchanges between Randall Everett Allsup and Joan Tower, Katherine Strand and Libby Larsen, and Anthony Palmer and Ellen Zwilich. The male composers reflected on their many years in composition and education and the insights into their own learning along the way. In writing about their art and its intersections with various aspects of music education, Ward-Steinman gives us, among other things, an illuminating portrait [End Page 1] of his studies with the noted French composition pedagogue Nadia Boulanger, Schwartz reveals the life of an active musician in the academy, and Freund draws some important principles for musical instruction in elementary schools.
Several themes resonate across these essays. One sees the joy of music making, the sometimes profound impact of school music educators on these composers in their formative years, the importance of the craft-art of composition to these musicians, and something of the passion they have for creating music. Contra the idea of composers existing in ivory towers, writing for academic audiences, and divorced from vernacular musics, they hope that their compositions will be relevant to today's musical worlds. We see them expressing international and humanistic views, reaching beyond the borders of Western culture to the musics of other cultures and to the popular musics of our time, and going beyond music to other arts and humanities. We notice them taking a broad perspective on today's cultures and wishing to imbue the young with a love of things cultural and an informed appreciation of sophisticated musical traditions beyond the mundane and ordinary. We catch their hope that young people can create music of their own. We hear their suggestions of various ways whereby they may have the tools to do this in an informed way. Everywhere, performance comes together with composition and improvisation, so that the lines of demarcation between composing, improvising, performing, and listening to music are blurred, and one sees the makers and takers of music as one and the same people rather than isolated from each other. All are passionate about the importance of new music to the life of a musical tradition. A riot of different approaches to musical instruction, whether for elementary general education or advanced professional education, is evident. They have important practical suggestions for the aims of music education and how it should be undertaken. The conversations between the composers and music educators reveal the power of dialogue both in interpreting, transposing, and transforming ideas from compositional perspectives into frames that are more inherently pedagogical. The composers are already thinking pedagogically about music, in particular, how people come to know music broadly construed, and about the musical obligations of music teachers especially to the new music of our time. In these conversations, the voices of Allsup, Strand, and Palmer also come to the fore as they interpret the ideas of Tower, Larsen, and Zwilich and create something else with them...