The language we use

‘Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way, but it is assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it. …  Underneath this lies the half-conscious belief that language is a natural growth and not an instrument which we shape for our own purpose.’ [1]

Orwell is writing about political discourse and the ways in which language is able to deceive and manipulate reality. We are reminded that it is we, in the language we choose to use, who create ways of thinking about things.  The way we speak and write about music education is no different.

When I write my blogs I am fully conscious that I am contributing to the discourse of music education albeit in a modest way. I consciously choose to write about ‘music making’ rather that ‘music’, for example, and whenever I come close to anything related to assessment I make sure I use the word ‘valuing’ rather than ‘measuring’. Yes, in a sense I am a propagandist for particular ways of thinking about music education.

It would seem that the term ‘music making’ has come into common use and I think this is a good thing. It connotes the idea of active participation and suggests, in an inclusive way, a wide range of musical activities. It is process orientated. We could also speak of ‘music made’ but I am yet to see this.

Perhaps in some future manifestation of the National Curriculum for Music ‘music making’ will have prominence and in the GCSE specifications music making will replace the performing-composing dichotomy.

In last week’s blog I highlighted an expression new to me – ‘creative instruction’ and I proposed that this was worth looking into and perhaps determining what could be understood by it.

In general our music education discourse is impoverished. Do we really know what each other are talking about? There is the potential for a richer discourse and consideration about when we should move from connotation to denotation.


[1] Orwell, G. (1962) Politics and the English Language. Inside the Whale and Other Essays. Penguin Books. Page 143.

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