Musical Performance and Scholarship in Higher Education

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In higher education today there exists an apparent dilemma involving the role and function of the performing musician as a member of the university community. The purpose of this article is to present and explicate the problem and to suggest a way to solve it. The position taken here is that the problem is significant and insidious, and that its effective resolution depends on a reconstruction of the role of musical performance in the context of music as an academic discipline having its basis in a sound philosophy of scholarship.

Musical performance currently serves as a vehicle through which applied music teachers play several different roles. They serve as providers of (1) cultural enrichment and aesthetic satisfaction for the university and its community, (2) training for aspiring performers, and (3) entertainment. Each of these roles has a relatively long history and each is commonly justified on the basis of its apparent value both to the university community and to society as a whole.

These roles emerged around the middle of this century as conservatories became attached to universities. In the United States the marriage of the conservatory and the university was based on mutual advantage and assistance. For the conservatories, universities could provide financial security, academic responsibility, and benefits in the form of existing education and liberal arts courses and programs. For the universities, conservatories could provide ready-made music training programs as well as cultural enrichment, and as a bonus, public relations services.

While performers have been conscientiously playing their special roles, their colleagues in other areas of the discipline—musicology, music education, and theory-composition—have continued to carry out their separate responsibilities of research, teaching, composing, and the preparation of their students to carry on these activities. (While this dichotomy is not always operative, it does exist in a significant number of cases.) Both "practical" musicians and their "pencil-pushing" colleagues have been comfortable in their separate roles; the profession as a whole has perpetuated this system which has worked reasonably well within the framework of traditional post-secondary education.

But this arrangement was—and still is—based on the assumption that musicians are bound to serve the university as music-makers in return for salary and fringe benefits. As a result musicians are sometimes regarded by their more "academic" colleagues as interlopers in the academic community—tolerated, patronized, and sometimes ignored.

Curiously, the traditional status and function of musical performance in the university have been accepted, supported, and perpetuated both by academics and by performing musicians. Recently, however, with the growing emphasis on productivity and accountability in higher education new criteria and requirements for scholarly contributions have emerged and a new importance placed on old ones, making necessary a reexamination of music's role in the university community. The current emphasis on scholarly productivity implies the emergence of a more integrated relationship among musical performance, research, and teaching. It is creating an environment in which musicians in the university community are forced to become not only willing members and servants of, but full participants in the community of scholars. It is creating an atmosphere in which a need is felt for a reconstruction of music's role in higher education.

Because of more rigorous requirements for professional advancement, the emphasis on accountability, and the fact that many faculties have a high percentage of tenured members, performers are finding that recital and concert work is not enough to earn adequate reward. Just as teaching alone is not sufficient for advancement, artist/teachers on music school faculties are finding that they are expected to produce works of scholarship in order to reap the rewards of the system to which they have attached their careers.

However, at the same time, these expectations have served to exacerbate long-standing professional differences which have always existed. There have always been philosophical differences between the performer and the educator, the performer and the researcher, and the educator and the researcher. Performers have been criticized for not teaching effectively, researchers have been criticized for not performing, and music educators have been berated for not doing much of anything worthwhile. The philosophical and personal differences which separate these "factions" in university schools of music have caused and contributed to unfortunate personal rifts.

Actually, the ostensible marriage between the conservatory and the university was never completely consummated. Musicians generally have tended to operate on the periphery of the university community, regarding university governance and scholarship as a wasteful use of artistic energies.

In addition, intellectual and cultural élitists—the community connoisseurs—have always aggravated the situation: music, like athletics, has its "Sunday afternoon quarterbacks" and would-be coaches. A well-educated musical scholar would not presume to lecture a scholar of literature on Shakespeare, but many such scholars do not hesitate, however subtly, to lecture musicians on Beethoven's last quartets or even the merits (or decadence) of contemporary music. In most cases such exhibitions of knowledge or the lack of it by scholars from other disciplines are merely personally irritating. In other cases, however, when such academics serve as members of committees having responsibilities related to decision-making with college-wide consequences, other matters may be affected: promotion and tenure decisions, even curriculum and program development.

The combination of (1) scholars from other disciplines regarding musicians as "hangers-on," (2) the reluctance and inability of many musicians to participate actively in academic affairs, and (3) the assumption of expertise in music by scholars from outside the discipline are symptoms of and contributors to the main dilemma confronting music in higher education—that which Donald Grout has described as "The Divorce of Music and Learning" (see Perspectives in Music Education, Source Book III, ed. Bonnie C. Kowall. Washington, D.C.: Music Educators National Conference, 1966, p. 131). Grout criticizes the apparent divorce, first by restating and exploring Bacon's antithesis of "concern with wisdom rather than power" as a starting point; then he posits the current existence of a similar distinction which has the study of music as an isolated cultural and historical phenomenon on one side and the "practical study of music" (performance) on the other. He refers to these two positions as errors of detachment (in the first instance) and attachment (in the second). He views these two errors as "impediments" to a remarriage of music and learning, and suggests that the gap between them can be removed through the understanding and deliberation of musician-scholars who will develop a program of humanistic education.

Grout's argument is sound, but only to a point. The problem with the argument is two-fold: (1) the solution which he proposes is based on a view of the humanities as history only, and (2) because of the article's early date, it does not take into account two pressing problems vis-à-vis the arts which the academy faces today: (a) how to deal with the multiplicity of artistic value-systems current in world society (see Leonard B. Meyer, Music, The Arts and Ideas. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967), and (b) how to resolve the creative artist/academic scholar dichotomy which exists within higher education.

The problem of the current multiplicity of artistic values is summed up by J.D. Sloan (although he does not intend such a summation) when he maintains that "we have come to a point where it is difficult to distinguish art from ape-doodles" ("The Scholar and the Artist," in Art Journal, Fall 1973). If members of the intellectual community cannot distinguish art from ape-doodles, American higher education is failing in its responsibility to produce knowledge and to educate. If we are now experiencing an artistic credibility crisis, it is due to the existence of one or more of the following conditions: (1) ineffective artists, (2) poorly educated audiences, and (3) non-valid or ineffective systems of evaluation. A reconstruction of music's role in higher education must take this into account.

The existence of the academic scholar/creative artist dichotomy can be confirmed by the fact that those who dispense rewards in most universities are willing to consider "artistic creativity" as "equivalent to research." This willingness, however, is born of the frustrations of dealing with the problem. It results in condescension and patronization; it leads to decisions and the cultivation of attitudes which suffer all the ills of the separate-but-equal syndrome: token rewards and "toleration" of ideas. The reconstruction of music's role in higher education must have as one of its goals the resolution of this dichotomy.

Because of the prevalence of the Bacon-Grout distinction, most members of the university community have chosen until recently to ignore the latter two problems. But these very difficulties are keys to solving the basic dilemma.

An answer to the problems outlined above lies in a conscious and deliberate reconstruction of the role of musical performance in higher education toward one that focuses on the need for significant relationships between musical performance, research, teaching, other disciplines, and individual professional development. Such reconstruction should serve to bridge the gaps which now separate musical performance, production of knowledge, significant learning, and professional academic advancement. What should emerge ideally are philosophies of musical scholarship that are consonant with the main purpose, function, and idea of a modern university—philosophies which recognize the obligation to educate aspiring professors for full participation in the university community. To this end such philosophies must include principles which will define and establish the nature of music as an academic discipline.

After decades of service in the American university, music is still not yet accepted by many academics as a valid scholarly discipline. The reasons are several: (1) some scholars still feel that the "creative mind" and the "research-oriented mind" are mutually exclusive, (2) others claim that musicians produce aesthetically pleasing sounds but do not operate within a system of logic or syntax, (3) still others, especially musicians, believe that music is an art which becomes debased by the application of thought and traditional scholarship.

Although generated by three different attitudes of mind, these three notions are based on two common assumptions: (1) the existence of the creation-thought dichotomy cited earlier, and (2) the myth of the "inspired idiot" or at the least the presumption that "the artist creates but does not know what he is doing."

The first assumption, like all dualisms, is fallacious. It has its roots in the Cartesian mind-body dualism which has been disproved both by philosophers and psychologists. In the 1930s John Dewey assailed the creation-thought dichotomy. He pointed out that artists do not think differently from scholars in other fields—their subject matter is different. Rather than verbal abstractions and relations, the artist uses qualitative data as subject matter. Extending Dewey's thought we can conclude that—like scholars in other fields—the artist works and develops conceptual structures and logical forms within various qualitative systems. Inquiry into the structures, forms and systems, by any one of several different approaches, constitutes one area of musical scholarship.

Now the assumption that one working within such a syntactical system is operating on "intuition" alone is based on ignorance, snobbism, or both. As far as the "inspired idiot" or "intuition" myth is concerned, it is necessarily debunked by the creation-thought dichotomy.

Recognition of music as a discipline with its own syntax and subject matter and the recognition of the proper role of artist-scholars in relation to their discipline should lead to the emergence of clear philosophies of music scholarship and help to resolve the main problems which scholars in the university today face vis-à-vis music as an art.

Unfortunately, performing musicians themselves have delayed the acceptance of music as a legitimate discipline. Traditionally they have viewed speculative thought with suspicion and have preferred to refrain from participation in the development of philosophical foundations for their endeavors. Some ridicule and attempt to inhibit efforts by others to do so. Now it is imperative that we develop sound philosophical positions which will include rationales for music as an academic discipline.

To this end all aspects of the discipline must be defined, integrated, and synthesized into a whole in which performance, scholarship, and teaching are dependent one on the other. It is important that such a synthesis take into consideration the problem of musical value; it must stress the importance of the functioning of an interactive aesthetic process which involves (1) competent artists, (2) informed and capable perceivers, and (3) the functioning of active processes of aesthetic evaluation.

The responsibility for reconstruction lies squarely with musical scholars. They might develop theories that will recognize, support, and sustain the following basic premises: the fact that art produces, reveals and contributes to knowledge; and the fact that the artist has a responsibility to contribute to knowledge and education not only by making art and by teaching its history and structure, but also by contributing to the knowledge and the understanding of its aesthetic underpinnings—that is, its role and function in the intellectual community as well as its nature as a discipline.

As we develop philosophies of musical scholarship there will remain the problem of how to evaluate and what rewards to bestow upon performers who are not scholars in the traditional and conventional sense of the term. For example let us imagine a concert artist of proven ability, with a national reputation, who does not hold a terminal degree and remains unpublished (in prose). With his strength residing in performance and presumably in an ability to evaluate the performance of others, such a person is highly qualified to guide students in their quest for performing independence. Actually such a person should be an excellent candidate for a senior professorship in performance. But because he lacks written scholarly products, he is not qualified to direct doctoral dissertations, not in some cases masters theses. Situations such as this have frequently led to manifestations of the "separate but equal" syndrome. Performing musicians are often viewed and treated as if they are not as important as scholars. They are called "professor" without having all the privileges of the professorship.

Considering all these problems the university community has three possible courses to follow: (1) accept the creative artist/academic scholar dichotomy and dispense with "equivalency" considerations, rewarding performers on the basis of matters relating strictly to musical performance; (2) continue with the present situation; or (3) recognize artistic endeavors within the context of scholarship.

The first alternative suggests a conservatory system within or attached to a university. Of course few universities can afford to support conservatories. Of those which can afford it, only a few should be pursuing that course, mainly because it is an expensive operation designed to produce trained specialists. There are not enough artist/teachers (performers who have shown the level of independence mentioned earlier) available to staff all of the conservatory-oriented university music schools and departments in the United States.

The second alternative is no answer at all.

The appropriate remedy to the situation seems to lie in the third alternative: the recognition of artistic endeavors within the context of scholarship. This is made particularly evident by the fact that the acuteness of the basic problem is revealed most clearly by the "equivalency" question. In earlier writings I made the point that "creativity is not equal to research; it is research." ("The Sounds of Science," The Chronicle of Higher Education, Vol. XII, No. 13, May 24, 1976, p. 40; reprinted with additions and modifications as "The Creative Artist Is a Researcher, Too," Music Educators Journal, Vol. 64, No. 2, October 1977, pp. 42-46.) But we cannot merely make the claim; the claim must be rationalized and explained in a way that is publicly defendable. In addition our creative music research must meet the requirements of any other research and must have its basis in a sound philosophy of musical scholarship.

Creative research can be the catalyst for a healthy integrative relationship among musical performance, research, and teaching. As an example take the case of a faculty trumpet artist who decides to include on a forthcoming recital a work by an American composer, and discovers a suitable and worthy composition by an obscure turn-of-the-century musician. Let us suppose that in his efforts to learn something about the composition, its composer, and related historical circumstances, he finds that the piece is an adaptation of an earlier work composed anonymously for the Kent bugle. Such a discovery will ideally lead the performer to investigate the nature, origin, technical possibilities, and demise of the Kent bugle. His research will lead him to study an aspect of the musical culture of the early nineteenth century, adding to his knowledge of the military music of the period, and providing him with the opportunity to learn something about the period's acknowledged master of the Kent bugle, Francis Johnson. In the process he would add to his knowledge of the American band movement and become conversant with neglected aspects of American social history. If he decides to perform the work on the instrument for which it was originally composed, it would be necessary for this performer to acquire or build such an instrument and apply in practice what he has learned about its technical traits and performance peculiarities as well as the performance practices of the period.

After having performed his research and prepared the composition for performance, he might then present the work in a public concert, make a commercial recording, and publish the results of his research in the form of an article in a scholarly journal or as part of a book, adding significantly to the knowledge in his field. Naturally his effectiveness and astuteness as a teacher would be enhanced and his students would profit from his scholarship in the classroom and studio.

An example closer to the subject of this article is that of an artist/teacher who, unsatisfied with currently accessible methods and materials in his performance area, finds it necessary to develop and write special exercises for his students. After having developed and used the exercises over a number of years, proving them to be effective with a significant number of students, this artist/teacher assembles them into a logical and coherent teaching program. In order to determine if his exercises will be suitable for use by others, he makes them available to several colleagues in colleges, universities, and conservatories across the country. After his materials have been used, tested, and evaluated by his peers he will revise his work further and submit the resulting manuscript for publication.

This kind of research is as valid and as important as any other; it should be recognized as such. Applied music teachers should be expected to perform such research and to publish the results in order to share their knowledge and experience with as wide an audience as possible. (Cf. my article "Productivity Models for Applied Music Professors" in SYMPOSIUM, Vol. 18, No. 1, Spring 1978, pp. 105-108.) This is what the university is all about: the production, development, and sharing of knowledge.

What I am proposing is not new. First-rate musician-scholars have made such contributions through history. Gioseffo Zarlino, composer and theorist, wrote a treatise entitled Le istitutioni harmoniche (1558); Vincenzo Galilei, lutenist and composer, wrote his Dialogo della musica antica e della moderna in 1581. Thomas Morley, organist and composer, completed his A Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke in 1597. Johann Mattheson, organist, harpsichordist, singer and composer, wrote his Das neueröffnete Orchestre in 1713. In 1725 Johann Joseph Fux completed his Gradus ad Parnassum. Joachim Quantz wrote his Versuch einer Anweisung die Flöte traversière zu spielen in 1752. Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, clavier player, organist and composer, saw his Versuch über die wahre Art das Klavier zu spielen published in 1753 (Part I) and 1762 (Part II). In 1849 Richard Wagner completed his Das Kunstwerk der Zukunft. More recent examples are Paul Hindemith's Unterweisung im Tonsatz (Vol. I in 1937, Vol. II in 1939), Arnold Schoenberg's Models for Beginners in Composition (1942), and Stravinsky's Poetics of Music. In 1959 George Russell's book The Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization was published. In 1964 Lejaren Hiller and Robert Baker produced their composition Computer Cantata, and followed it with a journal article titled "Computer Cantata: A Study in Compositional Method" (Perspectives of New Music, Vol. III, No. 1, 1964). David Cope's New Directions in Music was published in 1971 and in 1974 David Baker saw his Contemporary Techniques for the Trombone in print. In addition to these and many other major treatises, practicing musicians have contributed numerous articles to modern scholarly journals such as the Musical Quarterly, Modern Music, The American Scholar, Music and Letters, Music Journal, Perspectives of New Music and others.

Earlier in this article the idea of musical value was touched upon. Although teachers and performers constantly make choices which require value judgments, the study of musical values remains neglected. Since we must make musical choices for others (e.g., our students), these choices should be based not only on our subjective preferences but also on informed judgment. I am not suggesting that a particular system of judgment be foisted upon teachers and students. I am suggesting that opportunities and means be provided for all musicians to develop publicly defendable criteria for musical judgment—criteria that work for the individuals using them—based on their individual concepts of art (see for example my article "The Musical Work of Art" in Music Journal, XXXVI, No. 4, April 1978, 12-18).

On confrontation with a musical work of art we all respond to some degree, either positively, negatively, or indifferently. We form impressions and make decisions, even if unconsciously, about the work's value. These notions are later transmitted both consciously and unconsciously to our students. This process of mindless value indoctrination, although inadvertent in some cases, runs counter to the idea of free and responsible intellectual inquiry. There is a danger of impressionable students being indoctrinated or overly influenced by the criteria of their applied music teachers. (Actually the danger has always existed, even though the indoctrination process was unconscious and insidious.) But the existence of well-rounded, integrated music programs will allow for sufficient exchange of ideas, and a variety of systems of judgment which will preclude such eventualities. The probability of resolving the art vs. ape-doodle dichotomy is well worth the risk.

Only a reconstruction of our academic programs will make possible the realization of goals such as these. Hence the need for rationalized philosophies of musical scholarship which will provide answers to questions or provide the means for such answers to be sought in the following areas: (1) the nature of music as an art, (2) the nature of academic scholarship in music, (3) the multiplicity of aesthetic values current in world society, and (4) new knowledge in the field of music and the need for the continual discovery, development, and interpretation of knowledge.

There is a growing literature in each of these four areas, with capable scholars diligently working to solve problems peculiar to each of them. Therefore the task of developing philosophies of musical scholarship should not be formidable; it will require some familiarity with the current state of knowledge in all areas of music, willingness to accept the current truths that do exist, and operational principles based on the realities of the state of the art and the academic community. The condensation and digestion of the current state-of-the art knowledge should result in answers to questions regarding the role of music in higher education and the responsibilities of the scholar in the academic community.

Earlier in this article it was suggested that the separation of music and scholarship has been perpetuated by suspicion and neglect. Another important contributing factor, now appropriate to discuss because of its implications for reconstruction, is the fact that existing degree programs in music are tied directly to, and have served to solidify the roles which performers play in the university community. These roles, outlined at the beginning of this article, are reflected in the various "concentrations" or areas of specialization available to students in degree programs in most schools of music. Most degree programs offer specialization opportunities in music history and literature, music theory and composition, music education, and performance at the bachelor, master and doctoral levels. Consequently, since the competencies of music professors are usually limited to one of these concentrations, each professor's interest naturally is heavily vested in his/her particular concentration. Obviously, reconstruction must begin with the restructuring of our existing undergraduate degree programs along the lines of a solid, integrated discipline. On the undergraduate level, specialization should be severely restricted; students should study a core of courses designed to provide them with the broad perspective of the musician/scholar. Any specialization the student desires should be acquired through elective courses or through means external to the university (private lessons with professional musicians). This does not mean that excellence in performance will be compromised, but that students should regard it not as the primary purpose of their education, but as a part of their professional preparation.

The graduate level is the level of study for specialization; it should continue to be so. However, broader and more integrated programs are necessary in order to insure progress toward our goal of a community of musician/scholars. For such change to take place on the graduate level, attitudinal changes are necessary, but these would come about naturally during the process of reconstructing our approach to musical scholarship and the restructuring of our undergraduate offerings.We would need to reorient ourselves in the early stages of the reconstruction, but as more musician/scholars enter the university community; a smooth transition would take place.

The foregoing is not meant to be the answer for our dilemma. It is presented only as a way of approaching its resolution. It might be argued that these suggestions reflect a bias toward my own philosophy of music education. No doubt this is true; but any ideas or concepts from which my suggestions are derived certainly would be denied, confirmed, or modified by other existing or emerging philosophies. Such is the nature of scholarship. Efforts at reconstruction would not result in a single all-encompassing belief system; as in other disciplines there will be differing "schools of thought" with differing approaches to scholarly inquiry. Such diversity of thought and function, a manifestation of academic freedom, is healthy; it is necessary for maintaining and perpetuating a vitally functioning discipline.

The scope, magnitude, and importance of the problem are too great for a scholarly individual to presume to proffer specific answers; hopefully we can agree that the preparation of musician/scholars should be the primary concern of schools of music. It is important that such preparation transcend the artificial boundaries of the discipline so that the participation of music faculty members in university academic and governance proceedings and activities will result in significant gains for the discipline of music. The reconstruction of the role of musical performance in higher education should constitute the beginning of the process. The performance program should have as its purpose not only concert and recital presentation; it should also serve as a laboratory for scholars, providing an environment in which performers, teachers, and researchers can set up experiments, test hypotheses, develop research and teaching tools, and prepare new knowledge for distribution to the world-wide community of scholars, including performers. We are obliged to mesh teaching, performance, and research into a single program in which the three mutually support one another.

A redirected focus, away from performance, research, and teaching as ends in themselves and toward general music scholarship as a mediating factor which will unite the three areas, will not stifle creativity. On the contrary, making central a new dimension—integrated scholarship—it will serve as a means of invigorating and revitalizing the entire field of music, inspiring all musicians toward more quality and quantity in production.

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Last modified on Thursday, 25/10/2018

Samuel A. Floyd, Jr.

Samuel A. Floyd Jr. is Founder and Director Emeritus of the Center for Black Music Research, which he established in 1983 at Columbia College Chicago. While a member of the Fisk University faculty, he launched the Black Music Research Journal in 1980 and served as its editor until his retirement. During his tenure at the CBMR, he co-authored two books (with Marsha Reisser [Heizer]) including Black Music in the United States: An Annotated Bibliography (Kraus International, 1983) and Black Music Biography: An Annotated Bibliography (Kraus International, 1987). Floyd also edited Black Music in the Harlem Renaissance: A Collection of Essays (Greenwood Press, 1990), which received the Irving Lowens Book Award from the Society for American Music and the International Dictionary of Black Composers (Fitzroy-Dearborn, 1999), which was named one of the Twenty Best Reference Books for the year 1999 from the New York Public Library, and received an “Outstanding Reference Source” award from the American Library Association in 2000 in addition to a Choice Award as an Outstanding Academic Title.
In 1995, he published his monograph The Power of Black Music (OUP) and launched Lenox Avenue, a Journal of Interarts Inquiry, for which he served as editor.
His articles have appeared in a variety of publications including 19th-Century Music, American Music, Black Music Research Journal, Black Perspective in Music, Chronicle of Higher Education, and the College Music Symposium, to name a few.
He has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society for American Music and has been named an Honorary Member of the American Musicological Society.

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