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A Brief Overview of Music & Music Education in the History of Ideas --from Antiquity to the Present James F. Daugherty, Ph.D. University of Kansas. Question:. What do Stadium Australia and the 2001Sydney Olympics have to do with the history and philosophy of music education?.

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A Brief Overview of Music & Music Education in the History of Ideas

--from Antiquity to the Present

James F. Daugherty, Ph.D.

University of Kansas


What do Stadium Australia and the 2001Sydney Olympics have to do with the history and philosophy of music education?

film clips
Film Clips:

Opening Ceremonies

Advance Australia Fair

doctrine of ethos
Music contributes to:

Character formation

Moral education






Doctrine of Ethos


for the Greeks, a combination of music, poetry(text), and dance;

broadly, any human activity

governed by the Muses



virtue, excellence

some examples of ethos
Some Examples of Ethos
  • Platonic Tradition
    • Plato
    • Aristotle
    • Allan Bloom, Closing of the American Mind
    • Censorship of Contemporary Rock Lyrics
    • Debate over religious music in public schools
letter to the editor
Letter to the Editor

--from THE TALLAHASSEE DEMOCRAT (March 6, 1995):

My daughter was thrilled to try out for Sable Palm Chorus that fourth-and fifth-graders only are allowed to participate. She approached me with the idea a week ago about tryouts, in which I encouraged her. I thought chorus would improve her self-esteem.

Unfortunately, she and others were not accepted for chorus, and she was heartbroken. I’m not aware of the criteria for acceptance in chorus, except for singing abilities. Let’s be reasonable. These are 9- and 10-year old students with singing voices that have not developed, as opposed to teen-agers.


Years ago, when I was in school, whomever was interested in joining the chorus would simply sign up. There wasn’t any such of a thing as tryouts. Chorus is a school activity, which enhances kids to become sociable, to build self-confidence and to learn team effort. Any and every student who desires to join the elementary chorus should be able to, regardless of their singing abilities.

If the issue is about limitation on students in the chorus, then there should be two groups, in addition to other types of activities for students that would perhaps build their confidence.

Carmelita M. Williams

the music man
The Music Man

What’s the solution to trouble in

River City?

from ethos to symbolism
From ethos to symbolism
  • Plato, although an exemplar of ethos, was also influenced by his 6th century predecessor, Pythagoras.
  • Plato’s thought is also indebted to Pythagoras and especially his mystical numerology (e.g. Timaeus)
doctrine of symbolism
Doctrine of Symbolism
  • Idealism
  • Music as metaphysical or cosmological; a reflection of supernatural truth
  • Dualism
pythagoras of samos 6th c b c
Pythagoras of Samos (6th c B.C.)

His “influence on the ideas, and thereby on the destiny, of the human race was probably greater than that of any single man before or after him.”

--Arthur Koestler, The Sleepwalkers

pythagorean thought
Pythagorean Thought
  • Mysticism and Science
  • The “Great Theme” (James): the cosmos is a sublimely harmonious system guided by a Supreme Intelligence
  • Music and the human soul are both aspects of the eternal
  • Inter-relatedness of all human knowledge
pythagorean table of opposites


















Pythagorean Table of Opposites
importance of number
Importance of Number
  • The Pythagorean system expressed these concepts with numbers
music and number
Music and number

The Pythagoreans, as they are called, devoted themselves to mathematics; they were the first to advance this study, and having been brought up in it they thought its principles were the principles of all things. Since of these principles numbers are by nature the first, and in numbers they seem to see many resemblances to the things that exist and come into being; …since, again, they say that the attributes and ratios of the musical scales were expressible in numbers; since, then, all other things seemed in their whole nature to be modeled after numbers, and numbers seemed to be the first things in the whole of nature, they supposed the elements of numbers to be the elements of all things, and the whole heaven to be a musical scale and number.”

--Aristotle, Metaphysics

pythagoras discovery
Pythagoras’ Discovery
  • an exact correspondence between the abstract world of musical sounds and the abstract world of numbers
  • the musical intervals produced by the hammers were exactly equivalent to the ratios between the hammer’s weights
musical intervals
Musical Intervals

Once as Pythagoras was intently considering music, and reasoning with himself whether it would be possible to devise some instrumental assistance to the sense of hearing, so as to systematize it, as sight is made precise by the compass, rule, and surveying instrument, or touch is made reckonable by balance and measure--so thinking of these things Pythagoras happened to pass by a brazier’s shop, where he heard the hammers beating out a piece of iron on an anvil, producing sounds that harmonized, except one. But he recognized in these sounds the concord of the octave, the fifth, and the fourth. He saw that athe sound between the fourth and the fifth, taken by itself, was a dissonance, and yet completed the great sound among them.

---Iamblichus’ biography






1-->unity, identity, equality

2-->dyad; principle of dichotomy

3-->emblem of beginning, middle, end

4-->number of points required to construct a pyramid, the simplest of the perfect solids

Adding together these four numbers=10, the basis of Pythagorean and our mathematics

3 types of music in pythagorean thought
3 Types of Music in Pythagorean Thought
  • ordinary music (made by plucking the lyre, blowing the pipe, etc.)
  • the continuous but unheard music made by each human organism, especially the harmonious/inharmonious resonance between soul and body
  • the music made by the cosmos itself (later known as “Music of the Spheres”)
  • In Pythagorean thought, music exists quite independently of human beings
  • “If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one around to hear it, is there sound?”
music as healer
Music as healer
  • since ordinary music and music made by resonance of the human organism are of the same essence, plucking the strings of a lyre could arouse sympathetic vibrations in the human instrument
  • Roots of Music Therapy

A young man from Taormina had been up all night partying with friends and listening to songs in the Phrygian mode, a key well known for its ability to incite violence. When the aggravated lad saw the girl he loved sneaking away in the wee hours of the morning from the home of his rival, he determined to go burn her house down.

Pythagoras happened to be out late himself, star-gazing, and he walked in on this violent scene. He convinced the piper to change his tune from the Phrygian mode to a song in spondees, a tranquilizing meter. The young man’s madness instantly cooled, and he was restored to reason.

--from a biography of Pythagoras by Iamblichus

pythagoreanism in ongoing language
Pythagoreanism in ongoing language
  • “Perfect” Intervals
    • Unison
    • Fourth
    • Fifth
    • Octave
  • Tritone
    • “diabolus in musica, the “devil” in music
music of the spheres
Music of the Spheres

Pythagoras believed that “the motion of bodies that size must produce a noise, since on our earth the motion of bodies far inferior in size and speed of movement has that effect. Also, when the sun and the moon, they say, and all the stars, so great in number and in size, are moving with so rapid a motion, how should they not produce a sound immensely great? Starting from this argument, and the observation that their speeds, as measured by their distances, are in the same ratios as musical concordances, they assert that the sound given forth by the circular movement of the stars is a harmony.”

--Aristotle, On the Heavens

  • Musica speculativa
  • Musica practica

Musica speculativa reflected still today in curricula of such institutions as

Harvard University

University of Virginia


A Case Study of Interactions Between Ethos & Symbolism

  • “Ars gratia republicae”: art for the sake of the republic
  • Beauty is not that which induces a pleasurable sensation, but that which enobles and leads a person to a just and temperate life
  • Supremacy of Reason
  • Doctrine of Forms
  • Doctrine of Recollection
  • Allegory of the Cave
  • Music is so powerful that it can mislead, or corrupt the path to reality, the true or ideal world
  • Music must be regulated, censored
  • Music itself is not a path to the ideal, but properly guarded, can prepare the soul to journey there
interaction of ethos symbolism some examples
Interaction of Ethos & Symbolism: Some Examples
  • Judaeo-Christian Tradition
    • Psalmody & Psalters
    • Augustine
    • Luther
    • Calvin
    • Singing Schools
    • Vatican II
1837 statement of the special committee on music of the boston school committee
1837 Statement of the special committee on music of the Boston School Committee

“Let vocal Music be examined by this standard….

Morally: There is,-- who has not felt it--, a mysterious connection, ordained undoubtedly for wise purposes, between certain sounds and the moral sentiments of man….It is an ultimate law of man’s nature….Now it is a curious fact, that the natural scale of musical sound can only produce good, virtuous, and kindly feelings….And, if such be the case,, if there be this necessary concordance between certain sounds and certain trains of moral feeling, is it unphilosophical to say that exercises in vocal Music may be so directed and arranged as to produce those habits of feeling of which these sounds are types….These qualities are connected intimately with the moral government of the individual. Why should they not, under proper management, be rendered equally efficient in the moral government of the school?”

letter to the editor1
Letter to the Editor

--from THE NEW YORK TIMES (February 9, 1997):

To the Editor:

Bernard Holland in “Listening Is Either/Or. Or Is It? (Feb. 2), asks, “Does one turn the pages of ‘A Man Without Qualities’ while making love?” Perhaps this would indeed require being in a sexual position unknown to Masters and Johnson, but where is the lover who is not carried away, whose ardor is not enhanced, by the sound of a violin or a guitar? Where is the soldier who is not encouraged by the military march or patriotic anthem? Where is the pious man unmoved by the sound of the organ or choir?

Music has always been an accompaniment to other activities, and, far from lowering the status of music, this situation has usually raised it.


Old governments that understood their purpose to be the formation of human character rather than the protection of rights knew that certain kinds of music lend themselves to certain kinds of activities and to certain forms of soul or character. Therefore, they took music seriously and even practiced censorship.


Mr. Holland’s real complaint is that classical music is now an accompaniment to shopping rather to other, more serious activities, and, with this, Mr. Holland makes a fair point about the silliness of modern life. But I wonder if he would prefer to return to political orders in which the question of character (and, therefore, music) is of primary importance and in which consumerism does not exist. If Mr. Holland likes liberal democracy, then he must stop whining about Mozart being piped into Bloomingdale’s for democracy and consumerism are concomitant.

John Coumarianos

Brookline, Mass.

music as science
Music as Science

Music as Art

Music as Fine Art

seven liberal arts martianus capella









Seven Liberal ArtsMartianus Capella
music and science
Music and Science

“Pythagoras’ discovery of the arithmetical basis of musical intervals was not just the beginning of music theory; it was the beginning of science. For the first time, man (sic) discovered that universal truths could be explained through systematic investigation and the use of symbols such as mathematics.”

-J. James, The Music of the Spheres

music as art
Music as Art
  • Renaissance Humanism: Back to the Greeks, but also:
  • Literary Model: Music as human expression (On to “man as the measure of all things”)
  • Vitality of Texted Music
  • Music begins shift from the quadrivium to the trivium
today st john s college curriculum
Today: St. John’s College Curriculum
  • Based on Hellenistic principles and Renaissance models
  • All students take chorus as a required subject their sophomore year
music as fine art
Music as Fine Art

Emergence of “aesthetic” philosophy


Opposite of “anaesthetic,” or non-feeling

“Aesthetic” not a term in the human vocabulary until Baumgarten in the mid 1700’s.

music as fine art1
Music as Fine Art
  • Fine Arts: music, painting, architecture, sculpture, poetry
  • “Ars gratia artis”: art for art’s sake
  • Focus on pure Form of the musical Work
  • Vitality of Absolute Music
  • Increasing marginalization of music in schooling
  • More dramatic shift to music as “individual” rather than “social”

Is the Music Education Division at the University of Kansas better lodged in the School of Education, or the School of Fine Arts?

Is the Department of Music more appropriately lodged in the School of Fine Arts or the College of Arts and Sciences?

peter kivy
Peter Kivy:
  • No longer is there a convincing rationale for the place of music in a liberal arts education
john butt
John Butt:

Conclusion to his study of practical music in German elementary schools, 1600-1750:

the more “practical music was cultivating an agenda of its own,” the more “music sowed the seeds of its ultimate demise as a fundamental element of education”

John Butt, Music Education and the Art of Performance in the German Baroque (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 13.

other basic ideas lenses
Other Basic Ideas/Lenses:

Largely modern, but with some obvious historical roots

music as trait
Music as Trait
  • There exists an indwelling proclivity, either innate or due to environmental influence, or both, responsible for individual musical activity
  • It is distributed unequally among the population
  • musical “talent”, “aptitude”
music as communication or expression
Music as Communication or Expression
  • Music is fundamentally a mode of human emotional communication
  • Emotions aroused externally by a musical cause
  • Emotivists: “sad music makes us feel sad”
  • Cognitivists: “music moves us”
  • Reimer: absolute expressionism
  • Elliott: referential expressionism
music as behavior
Music as Behavior
  • No mentalism at all in music
  • Music is a rewarding behavior learned by successive approximation and reinforcement
  • The consequences of music are also its causes
music as supernatural
Music as supernatural
  • genesis of music is essentially non human, pre-existing in another reality
  • by contrast, cognitivists argue that music is naturalistic, an invention of human thought
contemporary statement
Contemporary Statement

“…a spark of perfection, just a glimpse, remains with man (sic) enough so that he may recognize his Creator. It comes in different shapes and forms. One of those forms is the gift of music. It’s the only form of art that will exist in heaven. God gave it to us so that we can praise Him.”

--Eph Ehly, UMKC, as interviewed in Quest for Answers, ed. Carole Glenn (Chapel Hill, NC: Hinshaw, 1991), 125-126.

music as perception
Music as Perception
  • music is a product of the raw materials of sound processed by the ear and brain; processing of external stimuli
now on the scene music as cognition
Now on the Scene:Music as Cognition
  • Human intelligence/thought/cognition/knowledge is not unitary, but multi-dimensional
  • There exists within the human brain a geography of cognitive domains and processes specific to the various intelligences available to human beings
  • Music is a unique type of cognitive human activity
music as cognition
Music as Cognition
  • Music viewed as an evolutionary product of human thought
  • Cognitivists argue that musical sound is the consequence or product of non-discursive thought
  • Music is cognitively generated, not just cognitively processed; it can occur mentally in the absence of physical sound
  • music has to do primarily with internal mental processes that have evolved over time
  • Debate among cognitivists: music as “auditory cheesecake” (Pinker) versus music as an evolutionary development tied to survival needs such language, mating/reproduction (Levitson, et al).
food for thought
Food for Thought:
  • Ideas have consequences for the practice of music education.
  • Major ideas rarely die. They mate, reproduce, and become embedded in newer webs of belief.
  • “How do we know what we know?” This central epistemological question is an ongoing one for music educators.
food for thought1
Food for Thought:
  • As a discipline, music education entails hybrid phenomena. How “music” and “education” relate (genus/species, dialectic, etc.) remains a primary issue.
  • This issue is complicated by no one definition of “music” on which there is widespread agreement. “Music” remains largely an indeterminate concept.

“For music, despite the saw about its being an international language, is many things to many people, places, and times.”

--James R. Oestreich, The New York Times, Sunday, January 22, 2001, p 30 Arts & Leisure (on why the 1980 edition of Grove’s decided not to have an entry on music).

stanley sadie
Stanley Sadie:

We “could find no one person who could have written on ‘music’ and the changing significance of the term through the ages.”

--Editor of TheNew Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians

  • “…the deliberate, systematic, and sustained effort to transmit or evoke knowledge, attitudes, values, skills and sensibilities”

--Lawrence A. Cremin

  • Involves configurations of education, e.g. family, church, school, community
  • Can involve shifting configurations figurations over time, and the impact of one pedagogy upon another
  • The history of education is not simply a history of institutional schooling