This post is part of a series from IU Press Journals 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 will primarily be written by journal editors and contributors.
A couple of years ago, I attended a lecture on music education in China by a rather senior Chinese professor of music. During the lecture, the professor categorically declared, “Music education in China is praxial, not aesthetic.” That jolted me. Having read about the aesthetic-praxial debate in the West during my doctoral studies in the United States, and studied classical Chinese philosophy, an inner voice within me started probing: Why was this professor of this view? Is there a similar aesthetic-praxial debate in China? Is Bennett Reimer’s notion of music education as aesthetic education fundamentally at odds with Chinese philosophical thinking?
After the lecture, I approached the professor to clarify what he had meant. As it turns out, an American scholar in music education had visited his university, and had impressed upon him that the notion of music education as aesthetic education is a strictly Western construct. Unfortunately, time did not permit a longer discussion. I left the lecture hall feeling really disturbed, yet inspired at the same time to do something about it. True, music education cannot be just about aesthetic education. Still, surely the human reaction to aesthetic beauty in music ought to be able to transcend cultural boundaries.
What followed were months of re-reading all three editions of Reimer’s A Philosophy of Music Education (1970, 1988, 2003), dipping into the writings of leading scholars on Confucian aesthetics, and re-examining the classical Confucian texts themselves for how Reimer’s ideas may resonate with Confucian aesthetics. Although I had read Reimer’s texts and studied Confucian philosophy, this was a whole new project altogether. After six months of reading and thinking, I ended up with 80 pages of notes! I then took two additional months to organize the paper and pare it down to a journal article.
With the benefit of hindsight, this paper could very well have been titled “Confucius through Reimer’s Lenses” as much as the other way round. By reading Reimer through the lenses of Confucius and vice versa, I found myself understanding more of both the Western and the Chinese aesthetic traditions. Each illuminates the other. Picture for a moment, a French Impressionist artist and a Chinese painter looking at and drawing the same mountain. Each painter will capture something different; yet, they are both awed by the beauty and majesty of the same mountain. This is precisely what I hope to have captured in this piece. Despite differences in the ways of doing philosophy, whether in the West as construed by Reimer or in Asia as evidenced in the Confucian texts, music education can certainly be understood in terms of an aesthetic education.
Once More unto the Breach
Markand Thakar’s book, Looking for the “Harp” Quartet: An Investigation into Musical Beauty, explores philosophical issues related to musical composition, performance (including the conductor’s role), and listener appreciation. It and my review are provocative: Our positions would be denounced by followers of David Elliott for being elitist and outdated but found relevant and intriguing to lovers of classical music in the Western tradition. I think Bennett Reimer would appreciate our views even while finding them too narrow.
New appointments to the PMER Board of Editorial Consultants!
The Editors are delighted to announce the appointment of Professor Jenefer Robinson, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, University of Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, and President of the American Society for Aesthetics, and Professor Alexandra Kertz Welzel, Professor of Music Education, Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich, Germany, as members of the Board of Editorial Consultants of the Philosophy of Music Education Review.
We also acknowledge with thanks the long service of Peter Kivy, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA, who is retiring from the editorial board having served since the journal’s inception in 1993.
Professor Kertz Welzel will also serve as Book Review Editor and will replace Mary Reichling, Professor of Music Education, University of Louisiana, Lafayette, Louisiana, USA who has served in that role since the journal’s founding. We appreciate Professor Reichling's devoted service to the Philosophy of Music Education Review and look forward to her continued presence as a member of the Board of Editorial Consultants. Professor Kertz Welzel will be joined by Leonard Tan, Assistant Professor of Music Education, National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.