Canonic Maintenance: Who Keeps the Cycle Going?

In Philip V. Bohlam’s article “Epilogue: Music and Canons,” one can gather a better understanding of the role a musicologist plays in the preservation of musical subject matter. Simply put, musicologists “communicate to others the importance of musics as diverse forms of human expression.”  With so much research being done on composers, old and new, the part of the musicologist is vital in keeping the canons in check.  But should music teachers also be given some credit in supporting this endeavor?

In this article, there was a section titled, Musicology’s Canons Today. This portion discusses canonic maintenance.  “The social background of canon maintenance today exists as a complex community of professionals and nonprofessionals, those who keep a repertory alive and those who continue to go back to the concert hall to hear more.  It is implicit in the political economy of modern music that, without those who purchase, read, study, and talk about musicology’s texts, canon formation would at best be inchoate.”  After reading this article it got me thinking about the root of this maintenance.  Obviously, we would have to go back thousands of years to trace the origins of musical canons which probably has already been done by some awesome musicologist out there.  Instead I will focus on the word “exposure” to prove my point when dealing with the livelihood of music.piano-lab

So, what happened? To keep a repertory alive, someone exposed someone else to music.  As the quote states, what preserves this exposure is the ongoing purchasing of music, reading about it, studying it and passing on what we have learned.  It is a cycle.  Thus, where does this exposure happen?  Usually the first introduction to music happens at a young age in the home.  But sometimes that isn’t enough to truly educate someone about music history, theory, etc.  The next best place for exposure would be the school system.  Young people find their first real music education by joining a band, choir or orchestra program (these are the most popular programs available).  Here is where the cycle begins.  Student participates in a music class.  Student decided to study music in college.  Student becomes a music teacher or a musicologist.  And in turn either the student, now a teacher, exposes a new generation to music or as musicologist writes about a new composer and shares their findings with others.  Then that new composer can by introduced to a new group of children. 1432306760609

How does this tie into the universal narrative of Mexican composers? As an example, I will use myself.  Now that I have been introduced to Silvestre Revueltas and Carlos Chavez, my students have also received a taste of their history.  I have shared some music samples with them and talked about some of the topics we have discussed in our 20th Century Mexican Music Seminar.  The topper…I have students from Mexico that had never heard of these composers either.  Being a boarder city with Mexico has proven to be a plus when discovering these Mexican composers.  So it was nice to give these students something extra to be proud of.  As educators we must not forget that music history goes beyond the European composers.  Of course Beethoven and Mozart hold a high rank in the history of music but it is also a teacher’s job to introduce young people to those composers that are often overlooked.  Exposure to different styles and cultures is vital in developing a well-rounded musician.  Do music teachers play a role in the maintenance of canons?  I think yes!

-Laura Aguirre


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