This post is part of a series that takes a closer look at the scholarship in the articles and issues of IU Press journals. Posts may respond to articles, provide background, document the development process, or explain why scholars are excited about the journal, theme, or article and are primarily written by journal editors and contributors.
By Alexandra Kertz-Welzel, author of "Daring to Question: A Philosophical Critique of Community Music" in issue 24.2 of the Philosophy of Music Education Review.
When I was a high school teacher in Germany, teaching philosophy, I enjoyed awakening my students’ philosophical curiosity. Philosophy classes were the only places where students could ask the real questions they had, without being told to be quiet or stick to a certain topic. Questioning the meaning of life, god, or human beings’ cognitive faculty was liberating for them. It empowered them to discover who they were, and who they wanted to be. Philosophy classes were a transformative experience both for me and my students. This convinced me of the power of philosophical questions, particularly regarding those topics which have never been critically analyzed such as community music.
Community music has always been a fascinating topic for me, from the very first time when I met Lee Higgins in 2005. Community music’s notion of everybody’s musicality and easiness of music making interested me. Its notions of social justice, hospitality and cultural democracy seem to provide powerful visions of transforming music education. However, when I attended community music conferences, I was astonished: critical questions were not welcome. Community musicians rather preferred celebrating the wonderful visions of music for all, of social justice, hospitality, and inclusion as ways of making the world a better place. Some community musicians even told me that I, as a trained music educator and scholar, was an outsider and could therefore never understand what community music really is. I became interested in learning more about the reasons for these reactions.
My article, “Daring to Question: A Philosophical Critique of Community Music,” is the result of this process. Certainly, there have been many aspects in my paper that I would have wanted to explore further, such as anti-intellectualism, or Kitsch. I think that both play major roles in music education, advocacy, and policy, and not only in community music. It would be interesting to apply some of the questions raised regarding community music to other fields of music education. Another issue that I would have liked to investigate more deeply is developing visions for a refined notion of community music in relation to music education. Philosophical critique can have a tendency towards destroying what we have without aiming at building something new. Whenever we try to show that a concept or an idea has its shortcomings and needs to be refined, we should consider providing new visions.
I would have preferred more room for presenting new ideas regarding community music and music education. But in this article, which was dedicated to philosophically criticizing community music, there was not enough room. I think that in general, it is important to consider that philosophical critique is not about destroying but about refining. If we take this into account, we deprive anti-intellectualism of a powerful argument: that thinking might destroy what is important to us and leave us without anything to rely on. Philosophical research needs not only to criticize but also to provide new visions. Then, anti-intellectualism loses the power is has over people, no matter if in music education or in the society at large.
Read Alexandra Kertz-Welzel's article "Daring to Question: A Philosophical Critique of Community Music" in issue 24.2 of the Philosophy of Music Education Review, which is available now on JSTOR and Project MUSE.