Music, Mind, and Education – A Book Review

Music, Mind, and Education is an enjoyable and easy read for any Music Education enthusiast.  Swanwick takes the reader on a journey through the sociological and psychological experiences of students in a music classroom and sheds light on how children make music on their own.  This journey into the nature of musical experience will enlighten even the most seasoned educator and will perhaps spark the desire for additional research into the curricular development of school music programs.

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            A two-year music education study suggested that the content and curriculum of school music across Great Britain was vastly diverse.  Some schools never had students “play” any music, while others rarely sang.  Many of the music programs did not expect students to sight-sing while many others did not expect students to compose ever.  This experience led Swanwick to recognize three “central pillars of music education: a concern for musical traditions; sensitivity to students; awareness of social context and community,” (10).

Although Swanwick recognizes the importance of early psychological studies in music, he is more focused on the actual experiences of music, “the expressive gesture…the play of musical structure… the coherence and sweep of musical passages,” (24).  Swanwick explores ways in which children develop mastery, imitation, and imaginative play and how these contribute to the intellect.  The connection between the arts and linguistics is brought to the forefront as Swanwick describes the supra-verbal nature of the arts, including the rich articulation, the layers of experience and insight, and the powerful ways of knowing when experiencing the artistic development of the mind.

The sociological capabilities of music are also essential considerations within Music, Mind, and Education as Swanwick reflects upon the role of music in daily life.  Swanwick makes a connection between the music one listens to and the life one leads.  This is an important consideration for music educators as the music we choose represents something to our students.  It is essential to find ways to choose relevant music to our own students and to gradually find relevance with music that is not their “own.”

Throughout this enlightening book, Swanwick encourages the music educator to explore musical procedures, encounters, and inter-cultural relationships with the goal of raising consciousness in mind.  Additionally, Swanwick encourages community activities to engage the members of the community in creating and sustaining musical events in order to achieve a rich and artistic environment in which to educate students and residents.  I hope you will take some time to peruse the masterful writings of Keith Swanwick in Music, Mind, and Education.

Swanwick, K. (1988). Music, Mind, and Education. London: Routledge.

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