Something more than accessibility and engagement makes a music education

Have you heard ?

That three note vocal call and its variants is what I heard on my recent rail travel in France and I have been enchanted by it ever since. Is it the vocal timbre, the grain of the voice?

It got me thinking.

I thought about other calls to attention and the doh, me, soh – bong-bong-bong often heard and then Gladys Pugh’s chime bar call in the Hi-de-Hi sit com of the 1980s.

So beguiling was that call to attention on my travelling in France that on one occasion I got on the wrong train, a fast train that fortunately stopped after 20 minutes of travel in the wrong direction.

So music can enchant, beguile. Well, not music itself. Music alone has the power to do nothing. Tia DiNora puts it like this:

‘ On its own, music has no more power to make things happen than does kindling to produce combustion. In both cases, certain catalytic processes need to occur.’ [1]

Music is in society and there are complex catalytic factors involved in making ‘musically animated agents’ and for us to become ‘latched on’ as I am in this case.

The way music functions in society is occasionally of interest to music teachers. [2] The ‘music and adverts’ unit of work has had a long and dismal history, for example. But as I thought about that short call to attention I wondered how those few notes had been crafted, and who had crafted them, and why those notes.

Could it have been made with Rhasberry Pie? And if Rhasberry Pie releases the music-maker to control and shape all musical parameters of sound, then perhaps yes. Or is it simple a case of sampling? Or both?

The sonic sphere in which we live ensures that music creates desire. If our pupils are to become critically engaged in music and society, and if music education is to have a critical purpose and engender ‘critical musicality’ as the informal music making movement claims, then getting inside those three notes with critical intent might be a start.

Something more than accessibility and engagement makes a music education.


[1] DiNora, T. (2000) Music in Everyday Life. Cambridge University Press.

[2] That a GCSE course in music requires no attention to music’s societal functions seems to me to be remarkably regressive.

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