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Playing for Change

Music Festivals as Community Learning and Development


Michael B. MacDonald

Playing for Change – performing for money and for social justice – introduces a critical pedagogy of arts-based community learning and development (A-CLD), a new discipline wherein artists learn to become educators, social workers, and community economic development agents. Challenging the assumption that acculturation into a ruling ideology of state development is necessary, this book presents a version of CLD that locates development in the production of subjectivities. The author argues that A-CLD is as concerned with the autonomous collective and the individual as it is with establishing community infrastructure. As a result, a radical new theory is proposed to explain aesthetics within arts movements, beginning not by normalizing music cultures within global capitalism, but by identifying the creation of experimental assemblages as locations of cultural resistance. This book offers a new vocabulary of cultural production to provide a critical language for a theory of anti-capitalist subjectivity and for a new type of cultural worker involved with A-CLD. Drawing from a four-year study of thirteen music festivals, Playing for Change forwards A-CLD as a locally situated, joyful, and creative resistance to the globalizing forces of neoliberalism.
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Chapter 6. Critical Pedagogy of Aesthetic Systems


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From the earliest theorizations of aesthetics and aesthetic education, the production of a “proper” subjectivity was key. Frederick Schiller (1795/1954) argued that by learning to understand beauty, the “handmaid of pure intellectual culture” (12), morality and consciousness develop. From the 1950s to the 1980s, Canadian music education was guided by this humanist philosophy of aesthetic education (Wasiak 2013, 29). It has since been argued that aesthetics has an overly narrow focus on the “musical work” (McCarthy and Goble 2002), does not include a multiplicity of musical practices (Regelski 1996), cannot be inclusive (Bowman 1993), and that “a truly musical experience is not aesthetic in its nature or value” (Elliot 1995, 125). Feeling that aesthetic education was too philosophical, critics have offered an action-based (or “praxial”) music education philosophy that is “thriving in music education circles despite wishful thinking to the contrary by its detractors” (Regelski 2011, 61). Heidi Westerlund (2003), however, while recognizing praxialism as a highly relevant approach, has suggested that “a reconstruction of the aesthetic may be possible without losing the important perspective of music as praxis” (46).

Unlike Westerlund, I do not think it is necessary or advisable to reach back to humanist aesthetics in music education while also disagreeing with ← 125 | 126 → Regelski (2011) that “aesthetic speculations and abstractions are simply not needed to account for music’s obvious affective appeal and for its manifold paraxial functions” (72). There is simply...

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