Research degrees in the conservatoire context: reconciling practice and theory

Pearson, I. E. (2014) Research degrees in the conservatoire context: reconciling practice and theory. In: Research and Research Education in Music Performance and Pedagogy. Landscapes: the Arts, Aesthetics, and Education, 11 . Springer, Switzerland, pp. 65-76. ISBN 9789400774353


In the context twenty-first century higher or tertiary education, Music Conservatoires offer opportunities to undertake a wide range of degree programmes, from Bachelors, through Masters as far as doctoral level (on the continent and elsewhere in this volume, these may be referred to as first-, second- and third- cycle degree programmes). These institutions, which were founded primarily for the education and training of practitioners, continue to embrace the practitioner ethos. This aspect is particularly evident in doctoral work at London’s Royal College of Music. Recent writers, however, remind us that ‘the project of institutionalising research in the arts, by putting it firmly into the established structures of higher education, is an ambitious undertaking’ (Nowotny 2010, xvii). By necessity, research degrees have become subsumed into these structures of higher education, a process which has brought with it the institutionalisation of various developments in the arena of what is labelled variously ‘practice-based research’, ‘practice-as- research’ etc. Drawing upon the research of Walter Ong, this chapter explores ways in which practising musicians are similar to persons from primarily oral cultures, thus foregrounding the pre-eminence of the practitioner in the Conservatoire. It also elicits research by others exhibiting strong and meaningful interfaces with that of Ong. Indeed, research supervision within the Conservatoire environment provides an opportunity truly, easily and profoundly to manifest the reconciliation of practice and theory.

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