Music, emotion and learning

Henley, J. (2018) Music, emotion and learning. In: The Routledge Companion to Music, Mind, and Wellbeing. Routledge Music Companions . Routledge, Abingdon, pp. 277-290. ISBN 9781138057760


This chapter explores the relationships between music, emotion and learning. Learning is a process that has content (curriculum) and form (pedagogy) however it is a common assumption that the links between musical development and emotional development lie solely in the content of music learning. Music learning has been differentiated by the assumed outcomes of a learning activity – learning music results in musical outcomes, learning though music results in extra-musical outcomes. Similarly, curriculum and pedagogy are commonly confused resulting in a reification of learning and the elevation of the status of the learning content and separation of content and form. This manifests in both educational practice and research that is based on the assumption that emotional content is universal and inherent in the object of music and is transferred to the learner as a result of engagement with a curriculum that is often confusingly described as a pedagogy. This chapter critiques the notion that emotional development occurs as a result of engagement with emotional content embedded within music, and suggests that it is not the type of music or musical activity that is learnt, rather it is the way that music is learnt that gives rise to emotional development. Furthermore, the chapter asserts that the separation of musical outcomes and extra-musical outcomes through describing music education practices as either learning music or learning through music reinforces the notion that emotion is inherent in music and puts forward the argument that musical and emotional development are symbiotic and rise from the same learning processes.

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