Can Music Performance Be A Liberal Study?
Published online: 1 October 1971
- PDF: https://www.jstor.org/stable/40373280
If two legs of the college musical tripod—literature (history, appreciation) and theory (analysis, composition)—rest today on relatively firm ground in the liberal arts setting, the third—performance (that is, "practical" or "applied" music)—seems as wobbly as ever. While no one has to my knowledge suggested that performance is anything less than essential to music itself, the argument over its accrediting in a liberal college, so eloquently carried before by Archibald Davison, Randall Thompson, George Sherman Dickinson and others, has continued undiminished to our day.1 Among other principal documents touching the subject since, we have had those of Edmund Jeffers and G . Wallace Woodworth and, between them, the so-called "Cincinnati Report".2 Nearly every issue of the College Music Society's Symposium has supplied fuel for one fire or the other, perhaps the driest tinder being the essays of Martin A. Sherman, William S. Newman, Putnam Aldrich, and Klaus Liepmann.3
As a practicing performer with an abiding faith in liberal education and, more recently, as a music administrator, I have spent many years in more or less direct dialogue with this issue, in situations running the gamut from a student petition calling for more credit for performance study to the deepest kind of existential questioning of my own identity and purposes, of my Weltanschauung as a hybrid citizen in the college community. With no great hope of adding much originality to a long conversation which has engaged scholars and musicians of far more experience and scope than I, I should like at least to share some thoughts, and to help to push forward an important discussion. For it seems to me that the basic problem has not changed, nor have its implications for liberal education; and, furthermore, certain attitudes are re-appearing with the current college generation, in sufficient strength to require re-examination of our own values, toward a considered response to those of our students.
Although there remains the sort of bewildering diversity in its administrative treatment that Randall Thompson observed (with some despair, one might guess) nearly forty years ago,4 performance study has not merely held its position in the liberal curriculum—it has thrived where it had a place, and has established as well a strong position in an increasing number of colleges where formerly it had not been an accredited area.5 Even where administrative officers and some professors retain misgivings on the side of educational philosophy, the irrepressible thrust continues, bearing with it necessary increases in staff, physical equipment, and campus musical events, the ever high expense (compared to that of most other college departments), the considerable traffic with development, promotion, and public relations, and an increasing appeal to outstanding student performers who, only a few years ago, would have unhesitatingly entered a conservatory.
The situation is far from simple, and I would not pretend to explain it in depth. Surely a portion of the picture is the work of conscientious music faculty who, with or without clear liberal ideals, have devotedly supported and nurtured what they considered to be an essential, perhaps previously maligned aspect of college music. And this devotion on the part of competent faculty members has no doubt influenced many an enlightened president or dean to still the voice of his own academic conscience out of respect for their expertise in a particularly esoteric discipline. Once this pattern has been established—respected educators given free rein by an open-minded administration—it follows as the night the day that other agencies in the college must become involved. Music lessons necessitate recitals and concerts; and this in turn brings the need for intensified publicity work. Then follows eventual recourse to alumni and friends without whose financial support ambitious music programs are, in a day of tightening budgets, ever more unfeasible.
Once the performance ball (pushed along by its accredited status) starts rolling, it is virtually impossible to stop it, slow it down, or re-direct its course. Music professors, whose ostensible raison d'être is the life of the mind, find themselves inextricably occupied in what is widely recognized today as a specialized field, namely concert management. Given the inherent glamor and excitement and tangibility of live music, the whole enterprise attracts a wide audience. It soon leaves the realm of educational philosophy and, indeed, of rational discussion. The pressure on those few high-calibre liberal arts colleges which have not as yet accredited performance study must be tremendous. I doubt that they can long resist.
If I appear to confuse campus musical activity with the existence of academic credit for performance study, it is because I believe that (to use contemporary language) they are part of the same bag. To be sure, some notable colleges have enjoyed vital music-making without the added incentive or recognition of credit. But they are an exception to the rule; and they have built, in all instances known to me, on a solid base of student tradition and organization, often of many years' standing.
I referred earlier to current student attitudes and ideals as forcing us to re-examine the principles by which we operate. Among these, I see two which become more pronounced each year. First, we encounter a growing reluctance on the part of most students to undertake an endeavor without credit. Insofar as this arises from a pragmatic realization that credit does indeed signify time blocks, and that those blocks must be set up in some systematic fashion, in order that anything of value be accomplished, then I understand and approve. In some instances, though, the desire for credit would seem merely the result of an upbringing and earlier education full of ill-conceived rewards of the lolly-pop variety, instituted by hapless parents and teachers for reasons of immediate exigency in the absence of any concept of inner reward for accomplishment. In these latter cases, I deplore the misuse of academic credit as a prize for students who have no more substantive motivation. But, in any case, whether I approve or not is essentially irrelevant. This insistence upon academic credit for any kind of sustained activity, regardless of its nature, is with us to stay: it is an earmark of the "now" generation.6
A second attitude, much more important because it is as deep and old as man himself, is basically a manifestation of what one writer has termed "the new unreason".7 This attitude—with its ultimate faith in feeling—accounts, I think, for much of the current stampede to musical performance, as it likewise accounts for the larger swing away from certain traditional disciplines (classics, languages, and history in all areas) and toward other, more "relevant" ones (psychology, government, and sociology, especially urban studies and anthropology). It is not simply that the now-popular disciplines deal with the present, and thus promise to bear more directly upon the individual life-adjustment problems of this subjective, egoistic, romantic student age. In a more subtle way, these fields, despite their academic trappings, appeal ultimately to the activist as opposed to the contemplative inclination, to emotion and intuition rather than reason. Music performance, with its obviously active orientation, may not promise much as a solution for sociological and personal problems—albeit that I expect Hindemith's ideas on the ethical power of music to be picked up and employed before very long—but it proves, in its emphasis upon doing rather than thinking, quite irresistible to a generation which is rapidly losing its faith, for some good as well as some weak causes, in the Emersonian ideal of Man Thinking, an ideal which lies at the very foundation of our liberal institutions. And the argument is compelling enough in any context, i.e., when the rational going gets rough (as it always does sooner or later), cop out into action, which is what really counts, when all the talking is done.8
These, then, are some of the larger pressures we face when we attempt to discuss music, and especially musical performance, as a liberal art. But it is precisely because these pressures are upon us—precisely because of the icebergs of which they are only the deceptive peaks—that I feel we must continue to watch sharply and rationally and (as much as we can) objectively the whole terrain of liberal music. We cannot of course correct, or maybe even come to grips with the gathering forces of anti-intellectualism which challenge the academic world in the 1970's. But, in a small way, where the pressure for accredited performance study is one outgrowth of these forces—and I do not claim that it always is—then it is in our little bailiwick, and it must be to us to face the threat squarely, and, if necessary, fight it.
Whatever concept of liberal education one evolves or adopts—and there is room for personality, as there is in every man's education—it would have to say something about thought and feeling, and about the study of man's cultural heritage, however much this last has become an educational cliché in our time. It is difficult to improve upon Whitehead's famous summation, which includes also the desirability of depth within breadth, "concentration" within "distribution", we might say:
Culture is activity of thought, and receptiveness to beauty and humane feeling. . . . What we should aim at producing is men who possess both culture and expert knowledge in some special direction. Their expert knowledge will give them the ground to start from, and their culture will lead them as deep as philosophy and as high as art.9
Activity of thought and receptiveness to beauty and feeling: neither member, thought or feeling, can exist alone in the genuinely liberal mind. Refinement of the aesthetic intuition, sharpening of the capacity for emotion, the development of taste, the unleashing of an empowered imagination—all of these proceed, ideally and eventually, from the liberal education. But all flow from and are made possible by the first element, activity of thought, i.e., reason. Even in the realm of art, where feeling tends constantly to overshadow reason, and where (especially in music) the art itself is so abstract, so removed from ideas as they are customarily conceived—even here, deliberate, analytical thought illumines the way to a richer aesthetic life.
And is it not primarily as bearer of the rational torch that the liberal college exists? As Prof. Palmer points out, and we all know from our own living, the emotional side needs no such constant attention to flourish quite healthily:
Somehow we must learn how to give recognition to the calm which Schiller talks about when he speaks of "an equilibrium of forces which arises not from a paralysis of the intellect but from fullness, not from a vacuum." This has much to do with the intellect in pursuit of wisdom—an intellect which works in harmony with passion like two well-yoked horses reined in by the soul as charioteer. Still . . . we should do well to look after the horse called reason. The other one seems bloody well able to take care of himself.10
That music has special education potential has been stated again recently by the late G. Wallace Woodworth, whose broad "world of music" few can match:
Music combines the educational values of a rigorous discipline and the communicative and regenerative powers of a fine art. This is the philosophical basis for all speculation on music education. . . .
In Whitehead's trilogy, the discipline of music is implicit in "activity of thought", whereas the communicative power of music begets "receptiveness to beauty" and "humane feeling".11
If this be valid for music as a humanistic study, how might musical performance—that technical, skill-oriented and talent-dependent component—thus involve the mind as well as the emotions, the orderliness of rational thought in conjunction with creative (or re-creative) passion? There is no thornier problem in the college curriculum. Let us examine in more specific terms the nature of performance study.
At a level more fundamental than that of the usual rhetoric and stereotypes (of the unmusical scholar, or the dumb performer, of talking about music "spoiling" it, or scale practice being a humanistic discipline, etc.), there seem to me to be certain basic facts:
(1) While it is true that "music is music", it is not an over-analysis of the art to observe that it has many aspects, and can be approached in various ways.
(2) The study of musical performance, especially at the lower levels, must of necessity entail a large proportion of time spent on purely mechanical matters of technique.
(3) Time spent on such mechanical matters, as contributory as they may be to the development of the whole person, is time not available for the idea-oriented pursuits central to liberal education, but rather taken up with a kind of activity which, however valuable as an emotional change of pace, has in fact nothing to do with conceptual thought. (The fact that music suggests visual images to some persons, and that, for them, even scales might conjure up waterfalls, is irrelevant to this argument!)
(4) The acquisition of musical performance skills is not really, as is often claimed, comparable to basic work done in science or language laboratories. Skills learned in these labs are presumably acquired to be used as essential tools for later, rational activity, either at the level of the induction of scientific principles or the reading of literature. Hopefully, the liberal arts language student does not continue to spend hour after hour polishing his pronunciation and speaking fluency. If he did, we would consider him to have missed the boat somewhere, as regards the purposes of his education. And yet, students of music performance seem to do something very comparable, as they go on to spend hours and years learning, playing and replaying, polishing, and memorizing for recital a handful of compositions.
That performance in the liberal college should have attained its characteristic ambiguous status is not surprising. In the relative scarcity of fine performer-teachers with a liberal background, colleges naturally turned (and turn still) for instrumental and vocal teaching personnel to those institutions which, unlike the colleges, are frankly charged with the professional training of performers, namely the conservatories. Even today, most performance teachers in liberal colleges are conservatory-trained themselves; and to a point, this is as it should be. They are the persons most likely to have the performing expertise, at least; and they are often very competent and demanding teachers as well. The problem arises in the fact that they of course teach as they were taught in the conservatory or privately, making some necessary (and frequently reluctant) concessions to the limitations a college curriculum places on student practice time. A few may wish to bring some "liberal arts" into their teaching; but more often, the limitations of time, the low level of student technical advancement, and indeed, their own standards of performing excellence make anything but a mini-conservatory approach unfeasible.
Where does this leave us? Must we simply close our eyes to this anomaly in our midst, either finding some means of rationalizing away the inherent differences between performance and everything else in the curriculum; or deciding that the advantages (public and student good will, favorable publicity, the fun and practical—if not academic—relevance of performance) outweigh the educational sell-out; or simply adopting a laissez-faire attitude, on the assumption that somehow (through collective wisdom—the "group grope" approach so popular today) everything will come out all right in the end, with each person "doing his own thing"? Or must we go to the other extreme, despite its overwhelming practical difficulties, of trying to snuff out this spreading fire, which everyone else is fueling?
It is not sheer cowardice which brings me to an intermediate position. As troubled as I am by the present state of affairs, I remain hopeful that performance, this admittedly essential and perspective-giving element of music itself, can be made also congruent with other members of the liberal community, as are its fellow components of the art, music history, and theory.
How can we conduct such an integrated program, assuring appropriate dimensions without jeopardizing health and quality? Let me suggest some guidelines:
(1) We must keep clearly in mind the distinction between college and conservatory, remembering that professional performance training is the task of the latter, and that college music should have a very different nature, with a different end: the cultivation not of one particular compartment of the human being at the expense of others, but rather of the whole person, through a rational-aesthetic experience of music in the broad cultural context of man's present and past.12
(2) From this distinction follow three procedural consequences: a) We should be very honest about and to students with a burning interest and exceptional ability in performance: perhaps, in fact, they should go to a conservatory, despite the glory they would bring a college music department! In any case, they should not be misled concerning the amount of practice time available, or about the probable consequences for their performing careers of less practice at this crucial time in their mental and physical development. b) It is important, in a time when colleges are tending to decrease course requirements and increase flexibility of election, that we be careful to preserve in our curricula the balance between performance and other courses of study. If a music concentration (major) takes up, as it probably does on the average, about one-third of a student's total course load in college, then it would seem reasonable to limit the amount of credit work in performance to something like a maximum of one-eighth of the college total. This might assume between eight and twelve hours of practice a week, plus a lesson, receiving a half-course credit. The danger of superficiality and the limitations of time make it unadvisable for a student to study more than one instrument at a time, whether for credit or not. c) We must not feel any need to apologize to or for those performance students who do remain at the college. Some of them will in fact be or become very good performers, by conservatory standards; but this is to impose a false criterion. What we hope is not that their fingers be nimble, but that their minds be expanded, their imaginations kindled, and their lives enriched throughout by their study of music through performance.
(3) We can symbolize the shift of emphasis away from the sheer performance per se, and toward the student's own education through the music, by a careful administration of the concert calendar. Although performance for an audience (other than the teacher) is an inevitable part of any performance program, we must broaden the spectrum of recital-types, to include a heavier proportion of informal solo and ensemble presentations (student organized, at times and in places convenient to the primarily student audience, and without the usual concomitants of programs, spotlights, fancy dress, and an extra-campus audience).13 Although there is every indication (from attendance figures, etc.) that the "old-fashioned" formal solo recital is going out, at least temporarily, some of these should be retained, even if attendance is slight: faculty recitals (even if in relatively informal, intimate settings) have critical pedagogical and professional value; and there will continue to be a very select minority of students capable of giving senior solo recitals. Even in these minority cases, though, the student should not be conditioned to conceive of the senior recital as the most important part of his musical education, as is frequently the situation at present. This kind of creeping professionalism is positively detrimental to the humanistic aims of a liberal college.
(4) Despite nationwide trends toward permissive grading, we can attempt to bring performance course grading practices into line with those of other courses, in justice to the student and to the discipline. I say this in full awareness of how difficult objective evaluation becomes in the one-to-one teaching situation.
(5) We must work to bring about a greater degree of understanding between the "academic" and the "practical" members of any given music department, to the mutual edification of all. Perhaps I have been uncommonly blessed at my college with an ideal performance faculty; but I have found that there is often a good deal of understanding of liberal ends on the part of performance teachers, be they of conservatory training or not. After all, such training does not preclude wider intellectual interests, as much as it may restrict them for some years. And, as we know, the possession of an A.B. degree does not insure that of a liberal mind!
(6) We have an obligation to choose new performance faculty with great care, and with an eye not only to performing excellence and teaching promise (the standard desiderata) but to liberal understanding as well. Thanks to the otherwise tragic flooding of the academic job market, it is now possible to do what Randall Thompson thought unlikely in the 1930's, that is, to secure faculty who are not only fine performers, but have had both undergraduate liberal education and graduate experience in some aspect of music, be it musicology, theory, or composition.
Within an administrative framework of this kind, how can we "liberalize" performance study, especially above the elementary level, enriching it on the humanistic side without emasculating it practically? There would seem to be several ways:
(1) By introducing into performance teaching obviously relevant elements of analysis, performance practice, style history, and even criticism,14 not to mention the basic interpretational problems of approaching a musical score.15
(2) By encouraging the student to think along these lines as well, assigning small analytical and style-critical tasks as part of the lessons.
(3) By being aware of and emphasizing applicable work done in theory and history classes, material usually consciously or unconsciously shut out of performance lessons.
(4) By indicating the larger literature from which performance assignments are drawn, perhaps through small-scale repertory studies, in which, e.g., the student is invited to read through the other Bach inventions, or some other pieces in the Mikrokosmos) or Beethoven symphony movements which bear similarity (or do not do so, for that matter) to the sonata under study, etc. This introduction to the literature through first-hand experience is certainly one of the greatest potential contributions of liberal performance study.
(5) By cutting down on the memorizing-for-a-recital syndrome, assigning only occasionally a piece to be memorized (for the experience), using the freed time to learn or become familiar with more music.16
(6) By encouraging reading of scores, not merely for the instrument concerned, but open scores as well, to develop both familiarity with the repertory and that ability which is indispensable to the student's self-exploration.
These are only some possible ways of liberalizing performance study; others might include bringing to bear relevant insights from disciplines outside music, ensemble performance, workshops and demonstration-recitals, etc., depending upon the abilities and orientation of the individuals involved.
To answer my original question, I do think that music performance can be a clearly defined liberal study, without the abandonment on the one hand of performance standards, or, on the other, an easy and mindless preoccupation with technical perfection. However, if my argument is to be anything but word-games and the very rationalization I have tried to avoid, there must be a deep transformation in many quarters. This transformation cannot be accomplished in a short time, naturally, since it involves basic ideas of education and the rich mixture of sensitivities, backgrounds, and viewpoints which comprise the typical music department. Since it depends to a large degree upon administrative continuity, it is difficult to see how anything but short-term changes can occur in institutions where chairmanships and other faculty positions rotate every few years. But if conviction and cooperation are present, beginnings can surely be made.
If the performance program is to be an honored and integral part of the department's offering to the college, it cannot continue as the gluttonous, gemütlich cousin someone invited to dinner long ago, who has simply grown so fat over the years that he cannot be removed, and whom we thus simply tolerate. If performance is to become in reality a special gateway to the unique world of man-made beauty we know as music, as we tell others it can be, then we must see that it is approached with the mind as well as the heart, in the truly liberal style. Only then can our students, in the words of St. Paul, "sing with the spirit, and with the understanding also."
1Archibald T. Davison. Music Education in America: What Is Wrong With It? What Shall We Do About It? (New York 1926; esp. Chapter Five: "Music Teaching in Colleges"); Randall Thompson. College Music: An Investigation for the Association of American Colleges (New York 1935; esp. Chapter IV: "Courses in Applied Music" and Chapter VII: "Music in Performance"); and George Sherman Dickinson. The Study of Music as a Liberal Art (Poughkeepsie, N.Y. 1953).
2Edmund Jeffers. Music for the General College Student (1944); G. Wallace Woodworth. The World of Music (Cambridge, Mass. 1964; esp. Chapter II: "Schools, Colleges, and Conservatories''); and David D. Boyden, et al. "Report of the A.B. Committee" (Bulletin of the National Association of Schools of Music 42:9-12, January 1957).
3Martin A. Sherman. "Music in the Liberal Arts Curriculum," in: College Music Symposium III, Fall 1963; William S. Newman. "A Vote for Applied Music in the Undergraduate Liberal Arts Music Program" and Putnam Aldrich, "Musical Performance as a Humanistic Study," in: CMS Symposium IV, Fall 1964; and Klaus Liepmann, et al. "Cross-Fertilization of Conservatory and College on the American Campus," in: CMS Symposium VII, Fall 1967.
4"At one college, for instance, Applied Music will be recognized as a skill; and, at another, will be rejected precisely because it is a skill. At one college, Applied Music will be given credit because it is believed to contribute to the student's ability to use his brain and, at another, ruled out on the ground that it does not. . . . One college rejoices in granting the academic palm to Applied Music because it affords an emotional outlet for its students; another stoutly refuses to consider any of its course offerings in such a light.
. . . In most colleges where Applied Music is taught, a belief in the value of Theory to the student of Applied Music is reflected in the existing prerequisites or co-requirements in Theory. The interrelationship of theoretical and applied music, together with the divergent opinions about the academic weight of the applied branches, has produced a great variety of regulations and restrictions. No other aspect of college Music exhibits so many variations of practice or so widely divergent" (Thompson, op. cit. p. 47).
5Even at the time of Thompson's survey (1932-33), only six of the thirty colleges he visited did not offer any credit for performance study, although three others granted such credit only to music majors (Thompson, op. cit. pp. 48-58). One of those six, Amherst College, which did not even have a music major then, has been granting credit for performance for many years now, and, with a luxurious new music building, is attracting unprecedented numbers of talented musical performers in its incoming classes.
6Anyone who has served on any college committee dealing with educational matters will no doubt be able to verify this assertion by examples of desired credit for mini-courses, field work in various departments, physical education, travel abroad, summer jobs, etc., or for increased credit for performance study, practice teaching, etc.
7Robert B. Palmer. "The New Unreason: Its Implications for Phi Beta Kappa," in: The Key Reporter 36/3, Spring 1971. However tempting it may be to link the attitudes of our present, post-Sputnik student generation to the larger forces of anti-intellectualism discussed by the late Richard Hofstadter (in his famous Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, New York 1962), I think that these attitudes are actually more akin to the literary-artistic romanticism of the early nineteenth century than to the currents traced by Hofstadter, e.g., the life-adjustment educationists' campaign against intellectual values during the 1940's and 1950's. Nevertheless, the two share certain distinctive characteristics, among them the thorough-going distrust of intellectual training as a means to solving problems of "real life".
8At the college where I teach, for example, I have seen several indications of what I would interpret as an anti-intellectual attitude. A senior music major (who would like, I think, to devise for herself a piano major), when asked for suggestions concerning the conduct of an upper-level music history course, requested that we "just listen to the music in class, instead of talking about it". Another senior major, in a touching and appreciated attempt to explain to me why most of her fellow majors had not elected my criticism seminar, said that the students were afraid that the seminar would consist mostly of talking about music, whereas they were much more interested in doing it.
9Alfred North Whitehead. "The Aims of Education" (1916).
10Palmer, op. cit.
11Woodworth, op. cit. pp. 50-51.
12I am sufficiently convinced of the inherent differences in function of the college and the conservatory that I must take a very skeptical view of Klaus Liepmann's envisioned combination-Utopia: "The cleavage between mens et manus—between academic music subjects and applied music—ought to be bridged once and for all. Make extracurricular music serve as a laboratory for the music courses and consider the latter in turn as a means of supplementing and elucidating the active music-making. [With that I would agree—C.T.R.] Demand of every future composer, musicologist and music teacher extensive and skillful participation in singing and in the playing of musical instruments. And let the 'points' and 'credits' fall where they may" (Liepmann, op. cit. p. 114).
A similarly intriguing but (as it stands) vague combination-education is proposed by a well-known university president; his words are not aimed at any particular discipline, but they beg application to music performance: "Colleges and universities have a great opportunity to achieve a new synthesis of liberal and professional learning and to respond to a new cultural spirit in students by doing so. These are the tasks: transforming professional education for undergraduates and graduates alike by making it more humane and intellectual; adding to the intrinsically valuable [?] academic studies that devotion to social purpose which is so typically a part of the spirit of service of the professions (by so doing we may give those students who find the traditional studies empty of purpose a sense of their ultimate relevance); and providing a new path to liberal education through some of the methods, insights, and research of transformed [?] professional education. It is time we realized that a sense of vocation can be supportive of our commitment to the liberal learning." Martin Meyerson. "New Paths to New Destinations", in: Saturday Review, January 10, 1970).
I am much more sympathetic to the comments (themselves admittedly skeptical) of Martin A. Sherman, on the unique diversity of music and, inevitably, college music: "Few have seriously questioned the fact that vocational and recreational goals are irreconcilable with the aims and ideals of a liberal education, yet music professors, willingly or not, are engaged in efforts to achieve a rapprochement where none is possible . . . . many college music programs nominally participating in an A.B. program offer, in reality, a B.M. program; and many institutions provide such an odd mixture of the two that it is not always possible to recognize where one leaves off and the other begins. Commonly there exists, therefore, a kind of hybrid music department that, unless one is prepared to defend and able to demonstrate that music is so unique that such a department is both desirable and necessary, he would have to concede that it is time to purify the species. Plainly, the college music teacher, wherever he may belong on the spectrum, must admit that, too frequently, he is a participant in the program where the humanistic, vocational, and recreational functions are so hopelessly intertwined that confusion and misunderstanding are accepted as normal. Not the least confused are the undergraduate students who in many cases do not really know exactly what a given music department has to offer . . . . The kind of music department that attempts to be all things to all men—humanities department, professional department, conservatory, entertainment bureau, student activities center—is an anomaly that should be banished from the college music scene" (Sherman, op. cit. pp. 78-82).
13Another facet to control is the number of musical events. At my small college, the music department produces an average of two more or less formal musical events each week throughout the year (with the usual log-jam at the end). Not only is this an administrative headache and an unfair burden on the college calendar; it is an inappropriate focus for student and audience alike, aiding a universal misunderstanding of the department's identity and purpose. It is easy to assume, as many observers must, that playing and singing (and their instruction) are the main business of the department, and that everything else in the program is secondary to or supportive of performance, the latter being seen as the ultimate goal and justification of all work in music.
14Most American undergraduates are presumably either completely lacking in background for analytical criticism, or have learned something about it from faculty other than music; it is to my mind regrettable that this important area of humanistic learning is so frequently ignored by college music departments.
15Although it would seem to be "activity of thought" at the most elementary level, how many of our performance students have developed an intelligent approach to a musical score, including basic questions about authorship, chronology, editorial procedures, problems of performance practice (ornaments, medium, etc.), form and texture re: performance, use of pre-existent material, tempo, etc.?
16Memorizing is seemingly, by tradition, an inviolable ethical principle, for pianists especially. While some wide-ranging passages must be memorized, most memorizing would appear hardly worth the time the average liberal arts student must expend on it, in view of two often overlooked ironies: First of all, memorizing does not necessarily insure, and may in fact prevent a better performance; for it may be completely muscular, mechanical, or otherwise unreliable, and thus tension-creating. Secondly, encouraging looking at the hands (as it does for keyboardists), memorizing actually slows the all-important process of score-reading, by taking the eyes intermittently off the score. All in all, it is a practice better left to the conservatory, an Achilles' heel of many a liberal performance program.
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