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 Rosemary Golding, author of “Seeking a Philosophy of Music in Higher Education: The Case of Mid-nineteenth Century Edinburgh” in issue 24.2 of the Philosophy of Music Education Review.
Some twelve years ago I was engaged in a small study of the work of William Crotch, Professor of Music at the University of Oxford for most of the first half of the nineteenth century. Crotch had left records of lectures given at the University during the period 1799-1806, but what fascinated me was the audiences for his lectures: rather than a cohort of undergraduate students, Crotch was lecturing to local well-to-do women, musical amateurs, and some of his teenage piano students. Music students were conspicuous by their absence. It was clear to me that music in higher education took a completely different form from the modern day subject, and I have spent much of the time since then investigating the different ways in which music was taught, studied and examined at British universities during the nineteenth century, and the ways in which this contributed to and interacted with music’s status in society.
One of the key points at which the identity of music as an academic subject became problematic was at the University of Edinburgh during the 1850s, when a breakdown in relations between the Music Professor and the University’s governance led to an investigation into music teaching at the Higher level. I decided to focus on this incident and to add a new angle to my work by publishing outside my usual sphere of the historical journal, making a foray instead into the philosophy of music education. My historical work has always found much interest among fellow academics and this was an opportunity to find another wider audience. In addition to the historical narrative, I was fascinated to read some of the contemporary debates about the status of music as an academic subject, and the relative merits of performance, composition, and theory. At the same time, I hope to have raised with PMER readers some of the big questions about music’s place and identity in higher education and opened the floor for further debate.
Publishing in PMER has invited me to pin down the kind of comparisons between historical and modern-day circumstances that had remained unwritten, though often the subject of conference conversations. Much is being written and discussed on the subject of music’s form and identity in higher education; few scholars know that these same (or very similar) conversations were taking place up to two hundred years ago. It is my firm belief that studying the past offers the opportunity for new light on modern ideas, perhaps illuminating fundamental assumptions that would otherwise go unchallenged. From my perspective as a scholar in the UK, the wide spectrum of music courses available forms a stimulating starting point, but I would be equally interested to hear from international colleagues who can offer further reflections.
Read Rosemary Golding’s article “Seeking a Philosophy of Music in Higher Education: The Case of Mid-nineteenth Century Edinburgh” in issue 24.2 of the Philosophy of Music Education Review, which is available now on JSTOR and Project MUSE.