Music in three dimensions: an integrative perspective on the aesthetic, praxial and social dimensions of music

Camlin, D. A. (2017) Music in three dimensions: an integrative perspective on the aesthetic, praxial and social dimensions of music. In: International Society for Music Education World Conference, 25-29 July 2016, Glasgow.


This paper outlines a perspective on music and music education arising from the experience of Sage Gateshead, a large cultural institution in the north of the UK. More specifically, it is a perspective which has emerged from the process of situating undergraduate music learning within Sage Gateshead’s artistic programme. A process of action research undertaken by the author between 2011-2015 helped to develop a critical understanding of the organisation’s practices which in turn has helped to underpin the undergraduate curriculum. This particular situation has given rise to a conception of music which might be broadly described as integrative, emphasising the integration of three musical dimensions which have often been considered as separate or contesting – if closely related – fields of musical practice, namely; the ‘aesthetic’ and ‘praxial’ models of music which have long been the subject of much debate; and the idea that there are specific and measurable ‘social’ – as well as physiological, psychological, and other – benefits associated with music, which has informed much cultural policy since the late 1990s in the UK. The perspective of Sage Gateshead – and the model described herein – suggests that music is at its most potent when all three of these dimensions – the aesthetic, the praxial and the social – are engaged, not to the exclusion of the other two, but held in a kind of ‘creative tension’ with them. The idea that music operates on a number of levels simultaneously is certainly by no means radical or new. However, what I hope can be gleaned from a better understanding of the situation of Sage Gateshead is the kind of creative tension which exists when these three dimensions of music’s power are engaged in practice. In particular, an integrative model of music has implications for the training of musicians, as it infers that musicians need more than just the traditional skills of musicianship if they are to form and sustain long-term careers in music. Rather than the common perception of becoming a music educator as the ‘negation’ of a professional identity in music, the integrative model of music sees musicians as more holistic agents, with the knowledge and skills to be able to operate competently and effectively across music’s different dimensions. **** The full text of this paper is available open access as part of the conference proceedings document at the 'Official URL' link below. ****

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