“Music history” used to be fairly straightforward: a chronology of significant composers and their works, tracing developments such as the rise and fall of diatonic tonality, and with a self-explanatory focus on western art music as written by a select cohort of white, mostly European males. As such, music history reflected the historiographical and critical biases of the nineteenth century. Since the late twentieth century, however, the philosophy and remit of music historiography has changed significantly, informed by postcolonial, feminist, Marxist and postmodern theories among others. Nowadays, social and political history are regarded as equally important to the history of form; the contributions of women and musicians of colour are being explored; and historians have expanded their remit far beyond “art” music, narrowly defined, to all those other types of music that our common ancestors made, used and enjoyed.
How, though, to approach this expanding historical universe in terms of teaching? Most undergraduate music programmes teach music history, but what exactly do they teach, and why? Are music history courses still fit for purpose? And if not, how do we redesign them?
In this week’s Music Research Seminar we’ll have an opportunity to discuss different approaches to teaching music history in higher education, to hear about examples of best practice, and to brainstorm some ideas about what music history teaching aims to achieve, and how it can achieve this. This is designed as an interactive event, so please come along and share your experience and ideas, and help influence curriculum development for university students of the future!
Part of the Music Research Seminar Series 2018.