Lessons from the World: A Cross-Cultural Guide to Music Teaching and Learning, by Patricia Shehan Campbell

October 1, 1991

campbellLessons from the World: A Cross-Cultural Guide to Music Teaching and Learning, by Patricia Shehan Campbell. New York: Schirmer Books, A Division of Macmillan, 1991. xv + 331 pp. ISBN 0-02-872361-9. 

This volume represents the first truly global view of music education under one cover. Campbell, as one of a small cadre of educators working to knit together the fields of music education and ethnomusicology, is well qualified for the venture that she undertook. She is an experienced teacher in public school music and higher education as well as a well-traveled field researcher in ethnomusicology. She is co-editor of Multicultural Perspectives in Music Education (published by the Music Educators National Conference), along with other ethnic teaching materials, and currently serves as chair of the Education Committee of the Society for Ethnomusicology. The list of acknowledgments to persons who reviewed and advised on the manuscript of this text includes prominent people in both fields. One can be confident that the book is authoritative.

The breadth of the material is evident in the extensive bibliography. Campbell has drawn not only on the literature of music education and ethnomusicology, but also from music history, applied music, education, anthropology, and psychology.

The scope of the book, however, has been delimited by a clearly defined purpose, as stated in the Preface:

This book examines the importance of ear-training and the creative process of improvisation in the history of European art music, in a sampling of world cultures, and in the making of young musicians in contemporary music education settings. It recognizes the value of listening skills without diminishing the importance of notation as a teaching instrument and memory aid. Moreover, it recommends ear-training and creative experiences that lead to the greater musicianship of students in various stages of their development.

The ultimate aim of these chapters is to recognize improvisation as a key component of music performance, to note the role of aural training in developing one's creative capacity to improvise, and to recommend ways of stimulating the creative musical expression of students. Most music educators and instructors agree that there is more to music than can be notated, but the matters of how to realize the score, how to enliven printed music with personal feelings, and how to invent new music spontaneously are sometimes puzzling and problematic. The extent to which observation, imitation, repetition, vocalization, and solmization are employed in the instructional process is surveyed over time (history) and distance (world cultures); then recommendations are made for the application of these teaching and learning techniques to classroom and studio. The instructional strategies emphasize aural training and the oral transmission process; along with performance techniques and an understanding of notation as a learning aid, they lead directly to improvisation and a truly creative musicianship (xii).

The latter part of the last sentence is not an abstract goal. In fact, the development of improvisation and creativity is the primary focus of the book. Many concrete examples are given of learning processes for improvisation in diverse cultures, and specific classroom and studio procedures are illustrated for developing improvisation and creativity.

Campbell defines the audience to whom the book is directed:

This volume is intended for music teachers at every level, but in particular those engaged in teaching kindergarten through twelfth grade (K-12) general music, conducting choral and instrumental ensembles, and offering private studio instruction. It should be a helpful addendum to books that present the foundations of music education history, philosophy, and contemporary curriculum practices. Its use as an ideas and issues resource in undergraduate methods courses as well as in graduate seminars will inform readers of the nature of music teaching and learning in many contexts (xii).

The breadth of cultures that Campbell explores is one of the strengths of the book. She has left few stones unturned in her survey of both Western and non-Western approaches to a musical education. Some readers who already are quite thoroughly schooled in the history of Western music, in the Orff, Kody, and Dalcroze procedures, or who are experienced teachers in the studio, may become a bit impatient with her review of familiar ground. Nonetheless, it does not hurt to take a fresh look at the familiar from the specific perspective of the development of aural skills and creativity, and to compare that with methodologies of other times and places. The book should be especially helpful to the teacher-in-training and younger teacher in the field, as it broadens one's view of music education, provides a synthesis of many areas of study pertinent to the field, and focuses on an aspect of music training that has been neglected but underlies much of what musicians do—the development of the ear. Campbell notes that, for all the increasing emphasis on performance and musical literacy throughout the twentieth century in America, "the matter of ear-training, although invariably acknowledged as a curricular objective, was often peripheral rather than central to the daily music class, rehearsal, or lesson" (72).

This concern with the importance of the ear as the basis of musicianship has led her to state the following limitation:

This book is not an ethnomusicology text . . . nor is it designed for teaching the world's music. It does not attempt to describe instruments or genres of various world traditions nor to suggest strategies in multicultural music education; there are numerous volumes that address these matters in detail. Instead, the emphasis in these pages is given to the aural and creative components of music teaching and learning as part of a shared human experience. Historical as well as cultural vignettes provide a sampling of music across time and distance as it is experienced through listening, creating, and re-creating (xiii).

Certain themes and issues are carried throughout the book and are the basis for the organization of many of the chapters. Campbell describes them this way:

Issues concerning the techniques of aural learning and imitation, notation and improvisation, vocalization and solmization, and memory strategies are discussed in theory and as they are presently employed; their widespread use suggests that there may be cross-cultural similarities in the way music is taught and learned, regardless of style or culture. The comparison here of traditional techniques of many cultures with current practices in the training of professional musicians in Western-styled schools, universities, and conservatories is designed to present a balance of Western and world tradition and innovation in music education (xiii).

The text is divided into three parts. The first is "Music Learning in the West." The opening chapter sets the philosophical foundation for the contemporary curriculum through a review of a number of innovative projects and symposia, including the Young Composers Project, the Yale Seminar, the Comprehensive Musicianship program, the Manhattanville Music Curriculum Program, the Tanglewood Symposium, and the Ann Arbor Symposia. Campbell concludes that "of particular interest is the extent to which creativity and musicianship, including ear-training, music literacy, performance skills, and listening were advocated by expert musicians and educators alike" (8). She examines the current status of the curriculum in respect to the teaching of performance skills, music reading, aural skills, solmization and vocalization, and creativity.

Chapters 2 and 3 review the history of ear-training and the creative process in European art music from the ancient Greeks and Romans to the present. Campbell covers such subjects as the early choir schools, the development of notation, apprentice musicians, the growth of academies, universities, guilds, and conservatories, and the development of improvisation and virtuosity as evidenced in early times and in the application of such techniques as basso continuo, ornamentation, appoggiaturas, cadenzas, and solmization up to aleatoric modern music. She notes that "the art of classical music in the West thus encompasses not only the composer's genius but also the performer's gifts of listening and expressing creatively" (38).

Chapter 4 traces the history of the teaching and learning of music in America, and Chapter 5 reviews various theories of music learning. The latter chapter distinguishes between enculturation, training, and schooling, then gives summaries of cognitive psychology; developmental psychology; behavioral approaches to learning; aural, visual and kinesthetic modes of learning; theories of creativity; and creativity in musical improvisation and composition. What is most striking about this review is the sense that there is no one "correct" theory of learning, but that some aspects of each of these theories can inform the curriculum. Campbell's discussion also identifies many areas for further research.

In concluding the section on creativity, she states:

Children possess the potential for creative musical behaviors although these abilities may often be held in reserve. School music instruction seldom encourages divergent or critical thinking; instead it emphasizes the convergent thinking needed for performance and knowledge about music . . . . When divergent thinking is encouraged . . . creative music-making through improvisation and composition is well within the capability of elementary and middle school children, as it can also be nurtured in secondary school students (96).

Part II of the book is titled "Music Learning in the World." Chapter 6 looks cross-culturally at the subjects of aural learning and imitation, notation and improvisation, practice and rehearsal strategies, and musical style and oral tradition. Chapters 7, 8, and 9 examine aspects of traditional music learning in Japan, India, Thailand, China, Indonesia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and the jazz world. The material is far too detailed to review here in any depth, but the following are some of the subjects covered for the various cultures: philosophical foundations (that is, the connection between music and religious principles); aural learning; the relation between teacher and student, including the teacher as model; the use of notation as a memory aid; oral transmission; various schools of tradition; the vocal foundation of learning and performance; the bases of improvisation; the social context of music; types of lessons and training; the learning progression; concepts of the sources of music; music as life experience; the importance of listening in learning; the kinesthetic aspect of learning and performance; the use of mnemonics; and the meaning and function of text. Among the conclusions that Campbell draws from this world-wide survey are the importance of observation, imitation, repetition, and vocalization as prominent learning strategies (157); the predominant role of the teacher as a source of knowledge, as a model, and as the preserver and transmitter of musical culture (135, 157); and the wide-spread use of improvisation based upon a well-trained ear. "Learning to listen and listening to learn prepare performers of diverse musical cultures and styles for improvisation as the ultimate level of musical performance" (185).

There are two other impressions from these chapters that I would like to highlight. In the chapter on music learning in America, Campbell refers to the note versus rote controversy. No doubt, many teachers view rote learning as a rather mindless imitation of the teacher by students. However, in the rote form of teaching in India, "imitation is viewed as a higher-order aural perceptual skill" (127). "The phrases presented by the teacher in a lesson are used later in improvisations by students" (126). The idea of proceeding from rote to creativity forms the basis of the last part of the book in which Campbell presents applications of teaching techniques from world cultures.

The other pertinent point from chapters 7-9 is the significance of the context of the learning situation. These contexts vary from the intimate guru-student relationship of Indian classical music to the ensemble-based learning of the Indonesian gamelan orchestra to the communal observation-imitation-participation basis of learning in some African cultures. The context of the American school system is different, yet Campbell has done very well in extracting techniques from these various cultures that are adaptable to the American system. One might wonder whether all of the descriptions of the types of musical systems that Campbell covers will be completely comprehensible to persons who are not familiar with the music and who may therefore lack a frame of reference for comprehension. Nonetheless, she has been conscientious in defining terms and has stated clearly the principles and techniques that she has extracted.

In Chapter 10, "Tradition and Change: Cross-Cultural Comparisons of Music Instruction in World Cultures," Campbell focuses particularly on the impact of industrialization, urbanization, international communication, and Westernization on music and music learning in several cultures. She concludes: "But even as traditions change, certain elements are retained because their continued use makes sense to people within the culture. In the training of musicians, the development of aural skills and creative expression through vocalization and memory strategies appears constant across many cultures" (206).

Part III of the book is titled "Classroom and Studio Applications." After the review of learning in world cultures, one might expect that Campbell would propose a revolutionary approach to the curriculum, one that might be difficult to implement. But, in fact, she does not; she does a sensitive job of presenting techniques that can be blended into a curriculum quite readily.

Chapter 11 is "The Music Learning of Children." After brief comments on the current curriculum and basal series, she reviews the teachings of Émile Jaques-Dalcroze, Carl Orff, and Zoltan Kodály in terms of techniques for kinesthetic learning, aural skills, improvisation, imitation, retention, and notation. She then draws parallels from Western and world cultures. In the remainder of the chapter, she presents twelve "Focus experiences . . . developed with the intention of strengthening the student's listening and performance skills" (230). She notes that the experiences are intended for children in elementary grades, but are adaptable for other levels. The experiences include daily listening, imitation of brief phrases, use of a mnemonics system, pattern recognition and performance, question and answer phrases, tune identification, silent singing, and various improvisatory and creative activities leading to the creation of a complete song. Musical examples are provided, drawn from various cultures.

Chapter 12 is "Music Learning in the Ensemble Setting." Campbell reviews the history of school ensembles, theories of learning in performing groups, and the nature of musical behavior in world ensembles. Again there are twelve experiences, ranging from listening to memory development to improvisation. She suggests ways in which these activities can be accomplished in relatively brief segments of the rehearsal period, such as during the warm-up.

Chapter 13 is similar in format, but devoted to the private studio lesson.

Campbell closes the book with the following observations:

If there was a single message among the Focus experiences, it was that teachers have the potential within their daily schedules to develop a comprehensive musicianship in their students, regardless of the educational setting.

Without impeding music literacy, the use of modeling, imitative devices, improvisation, and strategies for strengthening the memory can lead to greater musical sensitivity in student musicians. This book does not advocate immediate short-cuts to music reading through excessive verbatim exercises, nor does it attempt to nurture functional illiterates who cannot realize rhythms or melodies without modeling, and who cannot think musically and creatively for themselves. Instead, the implication throughout these pages was that the key to musicianship must be a balanced diet of aural and literate exercises, with occasional opportunities for creative musical expression (308).

Lessons from the World is a book that blends well the theoretical and the practical. Readers will find it useful for its concise review of philosophy and learning theories, for its history of the teaching and learning process in music throughout the world, and for its applicability in teaching. It should also encourage many readers to explore a wider range of musics from around the world.

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