Notes from a distant drummer

13th September 1996 at 01:00
WORLD MUSICS IN EDUCATION Edited by Malcolm Floyd Scolar Press, Pounds 29.50.

One of the contributors to this book, Anthony Noble, criticises the "band wagon approach to world musics", but the book itself is firmly established on the band wagon in that it seizes on well-established aspects of world music and explores them often in a thoroughly Eurocentric way.

Take Judith Deeble's chapter on the key stage 1 curriculum, for example. Deeble proposes teaching two melodies, one from China and the other Ameridian (sic), both of which are already well known in this country. Having notated the Native American melody, Deeble asks: "How can we add a steady rhythm to this music to add more interest to our performance?" (my italics). Her answer is, first, to bring the melody firmly into the European classical fold by emphasising the first beat of every bar and, second, to add to it a fast and syncopated accompaniment, all without reference to how the cultural inheritors of this dignified melody might themselves perform it.

A chapter on materials for schools reviews more than 30 publications, some of which are only tentatively connected to world music. But the research method used to establish availability (writing to publishers in the hope of a response) is flawed. And, as a result, much (including, for example, Folkworks's useful series of materials on English traditional music) is omitted from a section of the book which could have been of real value to teachers.

The editor, Malcolm Floyd, contributes an interesting article on approaching the musics, in which he argues that, although music is not a universal language, links may be established between different cultures by comparing common functions and uses of music within those cultures.

June Boyce-Tillman's discursive Framework for Intercultural Dialogue charts "journeyings into more distant cultures, one's own musical background and experience and the current multicultural scene in the West". Symptomatic of her approach is that it provides classroom teachers with "ways of unpacking a culture" which include asking pupils questions such as: "What title would you give it?" when they first hear music from that culture.

Aptly prefaced by the proverb "A Zebra does not despise its stripes", James Flolu's Music Education in Ghana argues for a greater emphasis on indigenous styles within the Ghanaian curriculum (an argument, incidentally, which could equally be applied to traditional musics within the UK). And the book concludes with a World Musics in Higher Education section which lists some of the UK undergraduate courses on offer.

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