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Spirituality and Music Education

Perspectives from Three Continents


Edited By June Boyce-Tillman

This book is the product of a long journey by a company of academics and practitioners sharing a common interest, titled the Spirituality and Music Education Group (SAME). It started at the International Society for Music Education Conference in Bologna in 2008, with its first gathering in Birmingham in 2010. This book is a product of the various meetings of this group. Since the group formed, the notion of spirituality has been struggling to find a way through the dominant ideology of secularisation in the West to a place in a post-secularising world.

This book concentrates on examining this issue from the position of music educators on three continents. This process can be defined as both separate from as well as part of the dominant Christian and humanist traditions, whatever is appropriate in a particular culture. The book represents a fascinating array of lenses through which to examine the many and complex strands within the concept of spirituality.

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4 Under the Aspect of Eternity: A Perennialist Interpretation of Free Improvisational Aesthetics and Pedagogy (Matthew Sansom)


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4 Under the Aspect of Eternity: A Perennialist Interpretation of Free Improvisational Aesthetics and Pedagogy


The educational context for the reflections that follow is twenty years of teaching group-based acoustic free improvisation in UK higher education institutions and, more recently, a digital equivalent.1 They are informed by my own experiences, not only as class tutor and participant, but also as an improviser in professional performance contexts and through the role of improvisation within my broader professional arts practice. This chapter extends the reach of empirical research I conducted previously exploring the psychological characteristics of improvisation and their significance (Sansom 2007) to offer a broader reading of these and related aspects as they might pertain to spirituality. As such, it presents self-reflective observations from pedagogical and arts practice-based contexts informed by a theoretical position which, although emanating from empirical research, shifts gear to the realm of traditional metaphysics as a means of shedding its own particular light on the challenge of understanding spirituality in music education.

My previous research applied post-Lacanian psychoanalytic theory, in particular that of Julia Kristeva, to consider aspects of musical meaning that serve in the construction and representation of identity. From ← 67 | 68 → a series of studies using qualitative research methods, a particular kind of experience came to the fore in the most heightened and meaningful episodes, and provided empirical evidence for what is often associated with experiences of music’s ‘spiritual’ dimension: where...

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