Sunday, September 07, 2014

Day 60 - There are no words

My former teacher Christopher Fox, posted a link to this article on Facebook today: Q&A with Stuart Dunlop | People | Times Higher Education pointing out that the interviewee had just been appointed as a director of music in a university that had shut down its music department.

How does one direct music in a university without a music department? The answer is quite simple, and the reasoning behind it can be read between the lines in the interview. He states that the UEA has made a 'substantial commitment to music', which may seem like a contradiction in light of the departmental closure, but it depends on how you define 'music'.

Stuart Dunlop states clearly that he believes that music 'should have a place in the heart of every university' but dodges questions about whether music is a serious academic subject. In fact, his dodging of the question is so left field (anecdote about a Stuart Bedford programme note) that it masks his real answer which is 'of course music isn't a serious academic subject - it isn't an academic subject'. He believes that reading about music (or presumably thinking about it) is missing the point. Music is all about the listening.

For a performer, this is a bit of a strange thing to be saying, but seems to be at the heart of his mission - it's not about teaching performance; it's about creating an outward-facing visible musical presence for the university, rather as corporations might hire a string quartet for a function or sponsor the local music festival.

And although one could interpret his response to the question about 'Eureka moments' as a rather weak attempt at a joke, it also contains a rather anti-intellectual barb that seems peculiar for someone who is supposed to be working alongside academics. The disjuncture between the questions and the answers is striking, with the questions aimed at an academic and the answers replied to by someone who see himself more as part of a professional services/outreach team.

It is also interesting to read this in the light of a provocative question I asked at yesterday's NMS day as to whether universities should be functioning as knowledge hubs for the wider community rather than simply servicing their 'paying customers'.

In case there is any confusion, this is not what I meant.

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