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Tuesday, July 2 • 2:15pm - 2:55pm
Sound waves and semantic waves: LCT in African music curricula

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This paper discusses the curricularisation of African music. It examines one South African tertiary African music programme and asks what knowledge is outlined, how it is validated and how connections are made between different knowledge types, experiential, conceptual, epistemic and axiological. The recontextualisation of ‘oral’ or ‘traditional’ knowledge is a thorny problem in the field of music education, where what counts is hotly contested. Lamont and Maton attributed the unpopularity of school music to changing specialisation codes through different levels of schooling (2010). Philosophical debate in the wider field considers the extent to which music education should be based on disciplinary knowledge about music, or procedural knowledge embedded in the act of ‘musicing’ (Elliott & Silverman, 2014). The influence of competence modes in education is reflected in a focus on creativity and self-actualisation (Sarath, Myers, & Campbell, 2017), while recent scholarship draws on critical theory to highlight democracy (Woodford, 2005), anti-racism (Gould, 2008), or anti-colonial approaches that give voice to previously silenced epistemologies (Bradley, 2012). The question of indigenous knowledge is included in this latter theme. Despite their emancipatory intension, African music curricula, for the most part, retain the conservative curricular model established for Western art music, and simply replace Western with ‘indigenous’ content.

Considering curricularised African musical knowledge in terms of semantic gravity allows us to explore several important questions. First, where content is drawn from sites of oral acquisition, what is the potential for context independence? Second, what is the nature of such abstract, context-independent meanings? Third, as conceptualisation is most often tacit in oral learning, how should these meanings be articulated in formal curriculum? Finally, and importantly, how are connections made across different knowledge types, and semantic shifts enacted to allow cumulative knowledge-building?

The research examines course outlines and teaching and learning, focussing on the articulation of conceptual and experiential knowledge and the nature of the boundary between these. In this tertiary programme different knowledge types jostle for curricular space; it includes skill-based performance, epistemic knowledge of musical structures, and contextual information encompassing physical and metaphysical aspects. Because the grammaticality (Muller, 2007) of these varies greatly, acquisition depends upon how students negotiate boundaries within and between knowledge areas and knowledge types.

The study shows the importance of making visible these boundaries, but more importantly, it shows the need for mechanisms to negotiate them. Where boundaries are weak, for instance where abstract concepts are subsumed into procedural enactment, or everyday language is construed with disciplinary language, students have difficulty recognising what must be acquired. Consequently, they are more likely to rely on axiological meanings embedded in their own experience. This seems to downplay knowledge, but Green (2005) argues that axiological meanings play an important role in musical knowledge-building and in the acquisition of epistemic meanings. Thus, in the case of music, enacting semantic shifts within and across experiential, axiological, and epistemic knowledge content calls for specific translation mechanisms. The study demonstrates the need for deeper theorisation of African music curricula, to better understand how knowledge should be conceptualised, and the intricate relationship between ‘getting into the groove’ and conceptual mastery.

The theoretical findings of the study have implications both for African music curriculum development and the wider field of music education where diversity, agency, identity, anti-colonialism, etc., are all very much a part of current discourse. For LCT, the research extends our understanding of how semantic waves might work where understanding draws on both axiological and epistemic meanings.


Tuesday July 2, 2019 2:15pm - 2:55pm
Room B45

Attendees (3)