Just in time for the beginning of spring semester, Sara Haefeli (Ithaca College) offers us a thoughtful essay about why we canonize certain musical traditions in music history classrooms and why other traditions fail to gain traction. Why do we prioritize symphonies and not chamber music? Why is German music so dominant in our narrative? Why do we care so much about music preserved in written form? These are just a few of the compelling questions Dr. Haefeli addresses in her first feature essay.
Here’s a teaser:
“At the very beginning of the music history survey, right before diving into the music of the early Christian church, I play examples of chant from all over the world: a Ramayana Monkey Chant from Bali, a Muslim devotional chant from Ethiopia, and a Native American Pow Wow Grand Entry. It is remarkably easy to find samples from every continent, and a similar type of musical practice exists in almost every faith community. After this brief overview, I attempt to explain why, from this point forward, we will focus exclusively on Western music. Students often have difficulty grasping this concept because for many of them the assumption is completely invisible, so I pose the question directly: Why do we choose to study only one of these musical practices and the music that follows?…”
Read the full essay here. Instructors, please encourage your students to ask questions and join the discussion!