Issue: October - December 2008
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20 Years ago in Bandworld

Why Instrumental Music?

by Edwin Kruth Bio
Vol. 4, #2, p.17 (November - December, 1988)

Lasting music appreciation comes from understanding, and understanding comes from active participation.

With the constant re-evaluation of the educational system, frequent assessments of the role of instrumental music within the educational system is necessary. It is important that the objectives and content of instrumental music be clarified in the minds of parents, students, teachers and administrators. Educators should also discuss with students and parents the value of musical experience previous to college or occupational pursuits and explain what colleges and society expect from high school graduates.

So often in our currently scientifically-oriented society, the arts and the objectives they are attempting to attain are misunderstood–especially the role they should play in the public school. Let us, for the purpose of this discussion, channel our thoughts in the direction of music, although many of the following statements will relate to the other arts as well.

At the outset, I hasten to emphasize caution in defining music as we know it in the public schools as “Art.” Here we are forced against a brick wall of semantic complexity that eventually leads us nowhere but deeper into the mysteries of the aesthetic. Music may be defined simply as “sound with definition moving in time.” Here we have a definition devoid of the artistic connotation which could even compare with the definition to read “the science of sound with definition moving in time with mathematical precision.” Here we have, by definition, restricted music to a mechanical, disciplined, scientific process. Surprisingly, this is exactly what should be happening in the public schools in the early stages of the musical training of young musicians. The all important fundamentals must become part of every young musician’s life. Embouchure, breath control, rhythmic and technical discipline form the rock-solid foundation upon which the structure of artistic musical performance is built.

We too often accept the idea that music has some intangible aesthetic value which will feed and enrich the soul if we expose ourselves to the stimulus of musical sound. There is nothing further from the truth. Lasting music appreciation comes from understanding, and understanding comes from disciplined participation. Through active participation and experience with good teachers who emphasize the importance of fundamentals, a young person develops a sensitivity to tone quality, pitch definition, dynamic control and musical interpretation. This sensitivity to a musical “feedback” and the resultant instantaneous responses will continue to mature in a musical environment if the intellectual disciplines of music are constantly emphasized. The aesthetic grows from the early fundamentals and discipline.

If persons who are not musicians watch and listen to the members of a fine ensemble perform, they will sense a feeling of magnetic sensitivity between the players and the conductor. The importance of intonation, attack, release, rhythm, and dynamic texture are only a few of the tangible factors which are immediately evident even to the non-musician. The artistic aspect or the intangible commodity which makes the scientific, mathematical and technical aesthetic is learned sensitivity, insight, and in general, a perception to the black and white of the paper that only comes from hours of experience, training and practice. First a dedication to the disciplines which make music—then comes the art. This sensitivity is transferable to all other aspects of life.

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