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date: 24 August 2017

Philosophical Issues in Music Education

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article.

One of the major premises regarding music education is that creating music by singing or playing an instrument is active, whereas listening to music is passive. However, while common sense assumes that “making something” involves learning, there is less attention to the importance of active listening in the development of learning skills, creativity, and imagination. Akin to other subjects, when students read a book passionately, or listen to an interesting class, they are actively engaged in the learning process even though they are silent.

The case of listening to music is similar to contemplating complex ideas. Challenging students to grapple with complex nuances of musical pieces, listening to different layers of the melody and harmony, and connecting these elements to cultural and historical aspects provides students with the opportunity to reflect upon the social and cultural contexts in which they live. In addition, active listening has the potential to promote one’s creativity. While it is common to associate creativity with active playing or composing, the ability to provide meaning requires creativity. Indeed, playing and composing music fosters creativity and stimulates new modes of thinking. Yet, listening carefully to music also creates new perception and stimulates imagination.