What is the Discipline of Music Appreciation? Reconsidering the Concert Report

Jennifer L. Hund


In an article on music history pedagogy, Douglas Seaton gave two principles: “Music history ought to investigate musical experience,” and “Music history students must not merely imbibe and regurgitate music-historical information but engage actively in the discipline.” These principles provide a starting point for an examination of the concert report, a traditional assignment in which students of music appreciation “investigate musical experience” by describing musical style. This type of assignment reveals a music appreciation discipline greatly influenced by the fields of music theory and history, studies that educators believed could achieve more immediate results than fields that require more time to gain specialized knowledge and hone skill sets such as composition or performance. In recent years, teacher-scholars have pushed against the reigning pedagogical methods to search for alternatives, and this desire to move the discipline is reflected in changes to the traditional concert report assignment.

This paper provides a brief history of music appreciation in the United States to better understand the position in which the discipline finds itself but also to tease out its own identity. Two defining features of the discipline are its focus on listening and its response to social and cultural changes experienced by its students—the general public. In the past sixty years, only the former feature has been explored and reinforced in textbooks, while the latter has been largely overlooked. An alternative concert report assignment is discussed, one that opens the discipline of music appreciation beyond the models provided by music theory and musicology and is more in line with the two predominant features of the discipline as described in the literature.



Music Appreciation; Concert Report

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ISSN 2155-109X