Swiss research deeply flawed;Music for the millennium;Letter

15th May 1998 at 01:00
THE THREATENED marginalisation of music as a curriculum subject is worrying enough, but Anthony Everitt's defence of it (TES, April 24) contained errors and simplistic assumptions.

To start with, music is not "more than an art", and if it was, its potential for reaching "beyond aesthetics into ethics and the nature of intelligence" that Everitt claims it possesses does not make it so. Nor is it true to say that scientific research in the 20th century has "revealed that music plays a key role in the functioning of the brain ... and that it can aid the learning process".

The Swiss research to which both he and Diane Spencer (TES, May 1) alludes is fundamentally flawed and lacks clarity and focus. I have spent two years investigating such claims as part of a higher degree in music education and conclude that we should treat them with the greatest circumspection.

The main benefits of the Swiss Extended Music Teaching were of an affective nature: openness and an increased self-expression among the pupils was noticeable. There were no tangible, measurable scholastic effects. Nowhere in such reports is it suggested that the perceived benefits of music learning might have more of a therapeutic explanation behind them. The stimulation of an optimum therapeutic arousal level in pupils seems to be nearer the mark.

Richard Staines6 Bader Court Martlesham Heath, Ipswich

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