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Abstract

The ambiguity in the first half of the paper’s title – “Engaging music and media” – is intentional. Music is engaging in the sense that it implicates our hearts and minds. Music can also be engaged by and with media. And, of course, engagement is core to effective learning.

The role of music education is always in flux. Aesthetic aims sometimes take primacy, while at other times music is taught as a means to some other end. As in ancient times, today music is taught largely for its ancillary benefits so that, in a curious twist, ancillary aims have become central and aesthetic aims have become ancillary to the study of music.

There is another dimension to this discussion – now more relevant than ever – that I’ll frame interrogatively. Where do media and new technology posit music learning along the aesthetic/ancillary continuum? Does technology aid teachers in realizing primarily musical or extra-musical goals? The simple answer is that it does both, but the reality is more richly layered than this. In fact, these questions raise wider issues concerning the relevance of music education in a technologically driven world.

The present paper builds on my previous research on lifelong learning, diverse learner populations and community music, by considering music learning of all sorts in light of Jacques Ellul’s statement that “[Technology] is, of necessity, … our universal language” (The technological society, 1954, p. 132).

technology: the infinite development of the opposable thumb in the human head.– Arrigo Lora-Totino, Pertinent Points.

The ambiguity in the first half of the paper’s title – “Engaging music and media” – is intentional. Music is engaging in the sense that it implicates our hearts and minds. Media can be engaging because it fascinates and even transfixes us. Music can be engaged by and with media. Media can be engaged by and with music. And, of course, engagement is core to effective learning.

The word “media” in the paper’s title, and the word “technology” throughout the paper, is employed inclusively and expansively, to embrace software and internet technologies, but also all other technologies old and new. Media, technology, and media technology encompass learning and teaching modalities assisted in any way and to any extent by machinery or equipment, no matter how simple or complex.

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