Music Education in Sweden

  • PDF: https://www.jstor.org/stable/40373934

In May 1976 the Organization Committee for Higher Music Education (OMUS) gave its official report Music—Man—Society to the Swedish Government. It is to be the basis of a total reformation of higher music education in Sweden.

There are mainly two reasons why such a reformation should be brought about just now: in 1974 the Swedish Parliament unanimously passed a bill of principles for a new cultural policy. Last year a new organizational structure of the whole higher education at colleges and universities was laid down.

Both these reforms aim at a more democratic development. The cultural policy should affect all citizens in all levels of society and all parts of the country, and inspire them to cultural activities of their own. Swedish higher education in the future is to be more closely connected with changes in society and varieties in professional roles. Initiative, responsibility, decision will be allocated locally to teachers, students, and representatives of professional life at each college.

If one wants to start a reformation of this kind in a country, it is necessary to try to examine in a total survey how music is in reality functioning in Swedish society today. And because the students generally do not begin their professional work until four years after starting their studies, a reformation committee must try to find out how music will probably function in Swedish society in the 1980s.

Present trends in Swedish music life can be summed up in five points:

  1. Immense expansion of technical resources which increase the influence of mass media.
  2. Stronger, more efficient commercial forces, more centralized in huge multi-national units.
  3. More frequent confrontations of diverse ethnic groups from all parts of the country.
  4. A new cultural democracy which cuts across conventional barriers between classes and groups in society.
  5. New protest movements against the growing influence of technical controlling forces and commercial power concentrations—there is a trend for an active, creative attitude towards music.

Some special observations of music life in Sweden during the seventies may be of interest.

The Swedes take a strong interest in music; this interest is on the increase. There were for instance seven times as many gramophone records bought during 1975 as during 1965. The interest in active singing and playing seems to be rising as well. A partly unique Swedish feature is the study-group activities in educational organizations for youth and adults, mostly connected with folk movements such as Christian organizations, Workers Educational Association, etc. Since 1970 the number of music groups of that kind has risen about 50% to 36,000. About 400,000 Swedes are active musically and 200,000 of them sing in choirs.

A central problem in music education will be to train leaders and teachers in the municipal music schools that have arisen rapidly the last ten years. Approximately 300,000 children now learn to sing or play instruments in these voluntary schools. Music is a compulsory subject in most classes of our nine-year elementary school, but a serious lack of teachers has hindered a possible development of school music within the school system.

Some more positive features in Swedish music life today ought to be mentioned. There has been a sudden, almost explosive revival of folk music and folk dancing. Young people have revived the aural traditions of playing, even of building folk instruments. Folk music is often combined with jazz and pop music in free and fresh ways.

A special "movement for alternative music" outside of institutions and established organizations has grown up during the last few years all over Sweden. Local so-called music forums are created by young people as a form of principal protest against worldwide oppression and imperialism.

The groups of immigrants that have come to Sweden as refugees or workers from different parts of the world have often given stimulating contributions to our music life as well.

A survey of Swedish music life is contradictory. On one side there are several encouraging positive features; on the other side there is also an alarming trend towards conformity caused by mass media and the expanding music industry. Especially alarming is sound pollution, including the soft music that pursues one everywhere in shops, factories, lifts, airplanes. In Sweden a debate is going on about the effects the so-called Melody Radio will have when it serves a "sound wallpaper" of light music round the clock.

The OMUS Committee argues Sweden is now at a historical turning-point, a critical juncture, to choose what will be predominant in the future: music as mere merchandise, something you buy and consume. Music education might counteract the negative effects of commercialism.

The committee formulates in its report the aims of higher music education, based in turn on the eight general aims of the program for the new Swedish cultural policy.

  1. Real freedom of expression.
  2. Opportunity for everybody to achieve creative activity and enjoy social contacts.
  3. Counteraction versus the negative effects of commercialism.
  4. Decentralization of initiative and decision in the cultural field.
  5. Policy to fill the needs of groups hitherto neglected.
  6. Artistic and cultural innovation.
  7. Guarantees for preserving and revitalizing culture of earlier times.
  8. Promotion of international exchange.

OMUS has tried to transpose these points into the field of music education. Here are some examples:

Music education should work independent of the limitations of genres with an open researching attitude, as a free form for musical experiments. What is musical quality? Vital discussions and continuous research should be stimulated on the various esthetic, psychological, and social aspects of musical qualities.

Higher music education shall include also the study of instruments and genres that have hitherto been under-represented at colleges in proportion to their importance in music life: e.g., folk music, jazz, pop music. Students should be made aware through musical analysis of the use of music commercially to make certain effects.

Students should be given an understanding attitude towards those who have special difficulties as to musical activities. The so-called unmusical are a particularly interesting group.

There are certain fundamental problems connected with the organization of higher music education in Sweden. The administrative structure may for instance get too strong.

An important principle is therefore to make continuous innovation part of the system:

OMUS proposes that students are to have practical experiences of their professional roles even the first term of their studies. They go out to do periodic practice teaching during their college years, culminating in a long final period of perhaps one term as a sort of apprenticeship. Thus their experiences will give them motivation to demand the training necessary for their respective roles as musicians, teachers, composers, etc. In the new scheme of all higher education, the so-called programs and courses shall be governed by a committee where teachers are represented by one third of the members, students by one third, and professional aspects by one third.

What is to be the governing principle at a college for higher music education: the predominant opinion of musical quality among the staff of college teachers? Or the outlook of musical life as a pyramid where the solo artist and the great conductor sit on the top while all those who are simpler souls have to accept humble tasks, e.g., teaching? Neither is possible to combine within the cultural policy of Sweden. A synthesis must be made of the individual talents and interests of the student with the actual demands of society and music life.

A great deal of evidence has been collected by experts in various groups as to what can be actually needed in professional roles.

The committee proposes four general lines, one for musicians, one for music teachers, one for church musicians, and one special line for communication in the field of music. The communication line includes training for professions where music is only part of a combination, e.g., technicians, journalists, producers of radio and TV, librarians, therapists, etc.

The contents and methods of these courses adapted to professional roles are still being discussed and tested. Here are some practical examples:

All future teachers should be required to take Methodology when playing and singing with children under school age. Working with children makes the teacher understand how music functions in all stages of human development.

Among children in the nursery age teachers must use creative methods indeed. One learns creativity from the children.

As to the training of musicians, it is important to avoid limiting instrumentalists to the orchestral literature because small ensembles will have great importance in the future.

OMUS especially stresses some teaching methods that should be tested and practiced in higher music education methods for

  1. Teaching in groups.
  2. Teaching beginners of all ages, how to generate early enthusiasm.
  3. Inspiring creative activities: aural training, improvising, eurhythmics, simple composing.
  4. Stimulating a communicative attitude with audiences, make them active in listening, playing or singing.
  5. Promoting connections with other arts, such as drama, film, dancing, painting, sculpture, etc.

Very important parts of the report deal with the preparatory training and what may be called life-long education of the professionals.

The need is great for international pedagogical research and documentation, especially.

The reformation scheme should be fully integrated in the Swedish colleges by 1978. Pilot courses and various experiments are already going on.

This report is the result of the collective work of about one hundred and thirty experts in all fields of music. There is hope that the general public (and in that way the politicians) will understand that music is a necessary part of our daily life, that music is valuable for the development of the individual as well as for a means of social and political communications.

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Last modified on Friday, 09/11/2018

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