On 22 and 23 November 2017, the instrumental music education staff at the mdw’s Department of Music Education Research, Music Didactics, and Elementary Music Education (IMP), working under the conceptual guidance of Peter Röbke, Hannah Lindmaier, and Ivo Berg, held a symposium focused on music education in the context of social change.

All Stars Inclusive
All Stars Inclusive ©Christoph Falschlunger

Alongside two keynotes by Franz Kasper Krönig (Technical University of Cologne) and Barbara Hornberger (Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences), this event included impressive musical performances by the mdw’s All Stars Inclusive band and the Youth Symphony Orchestra of Tulln.

In his welcoming address, Peter Röbke quoted sociologist Andreas Reckwitz’s diagnosis of a tendency towards a global hyperculture in confrontation with a cultural essentialist backlash. This cultural essentialism, writes Reckwitz, brings together previous opponents as unlikely allies in an ongoing cultural war. Peter Röbke referred in particular to the situation in Austria and Germany, where inclusive music schools were originally thought to be a way of overcoming cultural essentialism, with protagonists of cultural education promoting values such as transculturality and openness to the world. But the real political situation, he said, also shows that precisely these values are once again being called into question. Röbke, referring to the concept of “participatory justice”, then suggested that the realisation of such justice takes place on a tense continuum between respect and condescension and went on to ask whether we, as protagonists of cultural education and as members of civil society, might in fact risk falling into certain traps.

This question was taken up by Franz Kasper Krönig in the first keynote address, in which he defined social commitment as part of a broader narrative: there are challenges, he said, that demand we take a certain type of responsibility that is followed by a certain type of commitment as a consequence. He pointed out how dealing with these “grand challenges” is only possible via the cooperation of different categories of protagonist (state, supranational and international organisations, companies, NGOs, civil society), which would theoretically open up the possibility of de-politicisation. On the other hand, educational governance—the control and influencing of educational structures and processes by various actors—poses major questions as to who actually shapes the narrative of the grand challenges and as to the political legitimation with which actors and large corporations work on them together with national governments.

In the evening’s second keynote address, Barbara Hornberger warned those working in field of music education to be sensitive to hegemonic structures. Protagonists of cultural education, she held, need to relinquish their prerogative of interpretation but not their expertise in terms of contextualising practical experience and engendering connoisseurship. She observed that music education to a certain extent still starts from a narrow conception of music based on the European art music tradition. She juxtaposed this with John Fiske’s broadly conceived notion of culture: “Culture is the constant process of producing meanings of and from our social experience, and such meanings necessarily produce a social identity for the people involved.” Starting from this, she defined culture as a medium of participation, appropriation, and transformation, then referring to how individuals themselves select the artefacts via which they do these things. Processes of cultural education, she said, therefore take place in a largely informal manner, which confronts music education with the challenge of asking itself whether it actually recognises such processes as education. She concluded her lecture by postulating that the emotional enjoyment of music is sufficient to construct meaning. And maybe, said Hornberger, enjoyment of and giving oneself over to music represents a crucial subversion of a society that is capitalist through and through.

The symposium’s second day was opened by Natalia Ardila-Mantilla (Cologne University of Music). Her lecture, “…die Weitergabe des Feuers“? Musikschullehrende zwischen Traditionspflege und Identitätsarbeit […Passing on the Flame? Music School Teachers Between Preserving Tradition and Identity Work], started from the music video “Soy Yo” [That’s Me] by Colombian band Bomba Estéreo. It portrays a 10-year-old girl’s search for identity and her courage to shape her own life authentically and creatively.

With reference to this example, Mantilla demonstrated the tension between successful identity work and the need for coherency in an era in which general patterns of interpretation are of diminished importance, with all of us challenged to continually redefine our own identities via daily decisions. This requires material resources, contexts of social recognition, abilities to negotiate with ourselves and others, and the tolerance to perceive and accept contradictions and culturally dependent differences.

Mantilla took a critical look at the contribution that music schools can make, here. And in the interest of striking a balance between serving individual needs and doing justice to various contexts of participation (communities of practice), it is important to also use non-school, non-institutional spaces for personal self-realisation as well as to do some things that may seem unimportant.

In the following discussion round, with the heading Zwischen Heimat und Identitätsbestimmung, Musikpädagogik und regionale Musikpraxen [Between Heimat and the Determination of Identity, Music Education, and Regional Musical Practices], Peter Röbke challenged the panel members (Natalia Ardila-Mantilla, Maria Jenner of the Perchtholdsdorf Music School and Brass Band, folk music researcher Daniela Mayrlechner [mdw], and Hanns Stekel of Vienna’s Johann Sebastian Bach Music School) to take up their own positions, which proved divergent but also mutually complementary. Terms like “Heimat” [which, in German, refers to one’s geographic place of origin along with its heritage while also sometimes bearing nativist connotations] can be politically toxic but also denote a place to feel at home and find well-being on a deep level, with the ability to shape one’s own life. The local band, exemplary for the upholding tradition, can convey a strong sense of belonging and provide motivation to practice—but selecting the eternally same 1920s-era marches, on the other hand, can contribute to musical narrowness. The participants were united in their view that neither music nor the human beings involved in communities of practice should be instrumentalised and/or exploited, and that the upholding of tradition need not exclude openness to international diversity.

The impulse for the second discussion on the topic of inclusion was the lecture by Katharina Bradler (BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg), entitled Vielfalt als Chance. Auch (k)eine Lösung?! Aspekte inklusiver Musizierpädagogik [Diversity as an Opportunity. (Not) A Solution?! Aspects of Inclusive Music Pedagogy].

In her look at the present-day postulates of understanding “diversity and heterogeneity as an opportunity” as well as “inclusive” teaching, she challenged listeners to critically question terms that sometimes function simply as trendy terminological shells. She urged contemplation of our use of language, for instance of how individuals can be stigmatised simply via use of the term “I-Kinder” [integration children] or of how the term “we” can amount to a subtle expression of exclusion. And finally, she pointed out that it would be important to refrain from establishing explicit target group orientations, to conceive of content and teaching in the most open possible manner, to be cautious and alert, to downplay the idea of “inclusive” (which in itself entails limitation), and above all to think of teaching as a relational network.

The discussion that ensued (involving Volker Gerland of the Verband deutscher Musikschulen [Association of German Music Schools], Michaela Hahn of the Konferenz der österreichischen Musikschulwerke [Conference of Provincial Austrian Music School Associations], Christoph Falschlunger of the mdw’s Inclusive Music Education programme, and Katharina Bradler) was moderated by Ivo Berg and began with an exchange on the strong anchoring in tradition of music school work in Austria, which—in contrast to the situation in Germany—reaches one out of every three children on average. Additionally, there was controversial discussion on a range of topics running from music schools’ “core mission” (namely, nurturing young musicians and helping them advance to a sophisticated level) to cooperation with institutions of obligatory schooling and on to the diverse music-making offerings focused on the individual that teachers can explore on their own. Particularly in the case of people with disabilities, who are sometimes unable to speak for themselves, music schools must not shirk their responsibility to help all individuals realise their right to musical and artistic expression. And the political level, as well, is called upon to treat the terms and notions at issue with care and not instrumentalise them for its own ends.

Four best practice models at the interface between universities of music and marginalised social groups were presented in the third panel discussion, Zwischen universalistischer Phantasie und handfester Zuschreibung. Musikpädagogische Initiativen angesichts von Flucht und Migration [Between Universalist Fantasy and Concrete Attribution. Music Education Initiatives in Light of Forced Displacement and Migration]. Realising openness at exclusive universities of music requires a paradigm shift and, in certain places, breakage of the structures inherent in systems. Those responsible for the project at issue (Dietmar Flosdorf from the mdw, Andrea Gande and Silke Kruse-Weber from the Graz University of Music and Performing Arts, Bianca Wüstehube from the Anton Bruckner University in Linz, and Marko Kölbl from the mdw) gave impressive introductions on how open learning spaces can be constructed and designed, as well as on how music-making situations under the premise of intersectionality, interculturality, and inclusion can be successful. The opening statement, “You’re all special education students,” proved provocative and also provided a direct lead-in to the problematic aspects of valuation via terms and their connotations. The discussion that ensued looked at how students can develop a consistent stance despite their temporally and spatially limited experiences, how one can do justice to individual notions of music and aesthetic ideals in heterogeneous groups, how such projects need to balance the collective with the individual, and how political expectations can be dealt with.

The fourth panel discussion’s motto was Humanistisches Heilsversprechen oder lokales Engagement? Musikalische Großprojekte im Zeichen sozialer und politischer Verantwortung [Humanist Promise of Salvation or Local Involvement? Large Musical Projects in the Context of Social and Political Responsibility]. In her lecture Transformation oder Reproduktion? Die Musikschule der Barenboim-Said-Stiftung und ihr Anspruch auf gesellschaftliche Veränderung [Transformation or Reproduction? The Music School of the Barenboim-Said Foundation and its Aspiration to Societal Change], Marion Haak-Schulenburg (Berlin) devoted herself to the possible value of musical projects for processes of social transformation and the “Promises of the Aesthetic”. The Barenboim-Said Music Center Ramallah in the West Bank is one institution that refers to this “promise”: it seeks to anchor (classical) music in society as part of humanist education and to contribute to peace, dialogue, and reconciliation through music.

But how does this grand idea match the concrete needs of the people living there? And might its “world of musical projects”, instead of encouraging societal transformation, much rather just reproduce social inequality? In the follow-up discussion with Andy Ocochea Ocochea (of the El Sistema-inspired project “Superar”), Hans-Peter Manser (who leads the Youth Symphony Orchestra of Tulln), and Franz Kasper Krönig (who works in community music projects), the question was pursued as to whether and when projects involving complex musical and social interaction not only end up pursuing specific cultural or pedagogical ideals but also run the risk of degenerating into ideological extremes.

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