Instead of going around the world in 80 days, Patricia Shehan Campbell of the University of Washington and Trevor Wiggins, an independent musician and music educator, take us around the world of children’s musical cultures across 636 pages, spanning all continents, and as many cultures as one could imagine. The Oxford Handbook of Children’s Musical Cultures is a testament to the fact that children are makers of musical expression within their diverse cultural traditions.
Campbell and Wiggins engage us in a volume that “represents an interdisciplinary inquiry into children and their musical worlds—their songs, chants, rhythmic speech, movement and dance routines, listening interests, socio-musical interactions, and creative expressions alone and together” (p. 1). The 35 authors of these articles are advocates for the study of children’s culture as their work continues to debunk the stereotype of the culture-less child, a project shared by folklorists since the mid-1900s.
The Handbook’s authors do not apologize for the gap between their work and the work of children’s folklorists. Rather, they show us what exists as they know it. To this end, their book is divided into three parts: “Engagements with Culture: Socialization and Identity,” “Personal Journeys in/through Culture,” and “Music in Education and Development.” The three parts are kaleidoscopic. Articles in part 1, “Engagements with Culture: Socialization and Identity,” show how musical engagements are connected to socialization and the formation of identity. Cohen’s article on Jewish songleading in a Reform Jewish summer camp demonstrates the creation of the small group through the teaching of expectations in singing Jewish songs. Along the same lines, Pitzer points to the various expectations evident within youth presentations of Yakama music by studying students’ musical performances in contexts where the teachers are expected to be mentors as well as encouragers.
In part 2, “Personal Journeys in/through Culture,” four scholars explore the development of self-identity through traditional music in their own lives. By way of an erratic geography from Puerto Rico to the Northern Territory of Australia and over to Tennessee, the authors in this section acknowledge the aesthetic in their respective personal lives as makers and students of music, from maintaining Aboriginal song in light of the white attempts to drive the tradition out of the students, through the strict environment for classical music making in Singapore, and the loose play behavior in Tennessee and South Africa. It is unfortunate that there are only four contributions here. If there were more, a better balance of cultural explorations could have shaped to fit within the other three sections. But these discussions were interesting.
In part 3, “Music in Education and Development,” the treatment of children’s music becomes a little more complicated as the authors delve into the developmental nature of children’s cultures. This section casts aside stereotypes about children, and we can see the child as a truly expressive human being. As a case in point: Carlos R. Abril’s article, “Perspectives on the School Band from Hardcore American Band Kids,” demonstrates how “music plays a central role in the lives of adolescents, serves to mediate peer group relations, and contributes to the formation of identity” (p. 437). At the school Abril observed, the music takes a shape from the practicing to the well-practiced and [End Page 112] performed. There are many steps in this process. Abril show how it takes place when a child becomes an adolescent, and he further explores this development in relationship to band membership in adolescence. The shift between practicing and full performance is a matter of experimenting with a tension between knowing about band culture and actually experiencing band culture through practice and performance as an adolescent band member. Although this process is explained in terms of development, developmental psychology is not the topic. Rather, children and adolescents take their traditions and shape them according their own concepts of what are aesthetic and moral values.
The Oxford Handbook of Children’s Musical Cultures is a refreshing journey...