Libraries gave us power

Camlin, D. A. (2016) Libraries gave us power. In: International Centre for Community Music Student Research Conference, November 2016, York St. John University, York. (Unpublished)


The practices of Community Music (CM) have tended to evolve in very practical ways, amongst communities of practitioners and their communities of participants (Camlin 2015b, p.236). Because of this, developing a ‘theory’ of CM practice through research has been elusive, and the endeavour of doing so viewed with suspicion by some of its practitioners. Reflecting on my own experiences of developing a professional praxis - building a critical understanding of my own practice through doctoral study - I suggest, however, that this kind of praxial development can help establish CM as a ’polyphonic truth’ within the Academy. There are a number of reasons for wishing to do so; as well as increasing the value of CM’s diverse practices as cultural capital, it also helps give our field more of a voice in current debate. The emergent turn in cultural policy toward more sophisticated methods of understanding cultural value (Crossick & Kaszynska 2016), participation and ‘everyday creativity’ (Hunter et al. 2016) speaks directly to CM practices, and it is important that as a field, we are able to contribute to and inform the shape of this discourse from a position of confidence and authority. One way of seeing the fundamental changes to the field of music - and consequently music education - brought about in recent years by the transformation of music’s economic value through online distribution, is that of a ‘hysteresis’ (Bourdieu 1977, p.83; Hardy 2008, pp.126–144), where there is a time lag between changes in the field, and changes in the ‘habitus’ of the field’s occupants. However, while this ‘hysteresis’ is not confined to the field of music, building a critical understanding of what happens to our field as it undergoes the radical transformations it is currently experiencing, will potentially give us useful insights into our future cultural lives. The massive social, political, economic, environmental, cultural and technological transformations currently disrupting human experience across the globe will almost certainly increase in complexity over time, and what ‘music’ means to citizens thirty years hence is likely to be radically different to what it meant to citizens thirty years ago. If we are to develop a critical understanding of music – and music education – practices in such a rapidly changing cultural landscape, the role of the musician-as-researcher is therefore one to be encouraged. As an emergent voice in the Academy, CM has a great deal to offer this discourse, because its practices are broadly emancipatory, inclusive and accessible, all of which are key concepts in understanding the future role and value of music in society.

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