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  • Editorial
  • Estelle R. Jorgensen

It is sometimes surprising when miscellaneous articles on a variety of specific subjects and assigned to an issue in order of their acceptance turn out to have a compelling and common theme. As editors, we sometimes have the sense of a zeitgeist, of a collective unconscious that bubbles up in the topics that compel our authors to write. As this issue goes to press, we are in a global pandemic that we hope will soon abate. We face an array of political, social, racial, ethnic, and economic conflicts and challenges that contribute to unsettlement and even despair for our collective well-being and the welfare of our planet. We are surrounded by a mediated environment in which expertise and truth are too often denigrated, ignorance and foolishness seem to fester and even prosper in public spaces, and frustration, anger, and violence are all too evident. Given this context, it is no wonder that our writers are also troubled by and skeptical of ideas and practices that have been promoted uncritically in music education and that seem not to meet this moment. Even better when they offer us constructive and creative criticism that also suggests alternative ways forward. This is as it is with the articles in this issue.

Guilia Ripani critiques notions of “flourishing” proffered by advocates of music education that she views as individualistic and elitist. Instead, she advances the archaic Greek notion of metron or “right measure” that connotes dynamic balance and self-regulation as a more modest and “medium term” music educational objective. She hopes that students will be able to imagine their future flourishing and gain knowledge of themselves and their social agency through musical experiences and “critical reflections” on them. Our readers may notice the consonance of the idea of metron coming from the ancient West with ideas from the ancient East such as yin and yang forwarded by such writers as Victor [End Page 1] Fung and Leonard Tan—that are enjoying renewed interest in music education philosophy.

Elizabeth MacGregor is concerned about the supposed benefits of music education for wellbeing touted by advocates of music education. Instead, she observes that students’ experiences of music education run the gamut of emotional responses to these experiences; they are not always conducive to wellbeing as too often assumed. Drawing on Judith Butler’s notion of “linguistic vulnerability,” she forwards a theory of “musical vulnerability” that she argues needs to be considered by music teachers. Her critique addresses the problem of simplistic understandings of the relationship between music and wellbeing and suggests instead the need for more nuanced understandings of the ways in which teachers and students open themselves to music.

Wilfried Gruhn critiques what he sees as a “digital turn” in music education ongoing for some time but forwarded more recently by music teachers’ responses to COVID. He contrasts this embrace of technology as a means of music education that emphasizes virtual and cognitive musical experience with recent advances in cognitive science, learning, and related fields that suggest the importance of the intersection of mind and body in holistic musical learning in the phenomenal world. While technologies open opportunities for music learning, he suggests that they are also limited and even detrimental. This reality leads him to believe that this digital turn should be revoked, and music teachers should continue to emphasize physical experiences of music making in the phenomenal world.

Antía González Ben worries about the epistemic suppositions that underlie music educational curricula. As a case in point, she digs beneath the International Baccalaureate High School music curriculum, widely used around the world, and examines the assumptions evident in this curriculum. Among other things, she critiques the notion of “musical culture” employed in this curriculum, its Euro-Americentrism, its musical formalism, its view of musical cultures as fixed and distinct and the roots of this idea in nineteenth century thought. Drawing on Michel Foucault’s notion of “power-as-effects,” she suggests an alternative transformative approach to music curriculum that would take account of “systems of dominance and oppression” that are operative in the musics of the world.

Albi Odendaal and Heidi Westerlund fault music education for taking too...

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