Creativity and ‘the contemporary’ in music education – a sociological view

Authored by: Panagiotis A. Kanellopoulos

The Routledge Handbook to Sociology of Music Education

Print publication date:  March  2021
Online publication date:  March  2021

Print ISBN: 9781138586369
eBook ISBN: 9780429504631
Adobe ISBN:


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This study examines the cultural, aesthetic, and educational aspects of the language of legitimation that was constructed by Creative Music in Education [CMinED] – a term that refers to a cluster of music education experiments that in the 1960s and 1970s sought to redefine the relationship between contemporary music, music education, and creativity. It is suggested that the legitimising language created by CMinED operated on the basis of three ‘invisible authorities’: (1) universalism, (2) egalitarian creativity, and (3) a restrictive framing of ‘the contemporary’. More specifically, CMinED adopted a view of the young person as a natural inhabitant of a condition of freedom, coupled with a view of avant-garde music as a radical form of music experimentation that ‘naturally’ fitted with the young person’s openness. This was made possible through the adoption of a new framing of the notion of creativity. Creativity as a mental process of spotting and solving problems and of envisioning novel formations, allowed education to initiate practices that boosted children’s agency. At the same time, this ‘new’ conception of creativity allowed for contemporary composers’ experimentation with compositional formats that permitted performers to make compositional decisions, demanding their creative response. Moreover, Creative Music in Education inherited a way of looking at young persons’ musical endeavours from the tradition of the child art movement. It should be noted, however, that CMinED favoured a particular approach to the ‘contemporary’ that neglected or appropriated a variety of radical musical practices, and also disregarded a wealth of musics that many students cared deeply about in their life beyond school. Thus, the emphasis on the young person as a creative agent was accompanied by a rather narrow view of what counts as ‘relevant’ music; yet, it is argued that CMinED’s achievements have not lost their relevance today.

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