Aesthetics in Music Education

The Aesthetic Experience For Every Student

Music teachers are familiar with the word Aesthetics when discussing music, but many do not know how to define it, how to explain the process of an aesthetic experience, or how to teach for one.
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First, what is the definition of an Aesthetic Experience?
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Second, what four elements are involved in an Aesthetic Experience?
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Third, how may the Aesthetic Experience process be explained?
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Fourth, how may a music teacher teach for the Aesthetic Experience?

What Is An Aesthetic Experience?
How Is An Aesthetic Experience Defined?

Definition: The Aesthetic Experience is one in which a person may "experience" art beyond the constructs of language. Music is linguistically the least discursive of all art forms, yet, paradoxically, it exists solely in sound. Music is unique in being the most direct channel for expressing the verbally inexpressible. One may attempt to describe an Aesthetic Experience with words such as, "The music was like the performer taking your heart out of your body, playing around with it like putty, and putting it back inside you. I really can't put it into words!" "The sunset was so spectacular, I really can't describe it to you. You just should have been there!" "I can't tell you what a feeling it was seeing the ocean for the very first time in my life in the moonlight!" We savor these moments for years after! What is happening inside us to create these wordless experiences? The Aesthetic Experience is the interaction of a certain balance of tendencies (or desires) within us that are fulfilled or denied. We each bring to the experience our own individual balance. In all of us, too much fulfillment causes boredom, and too much denial causes confusion and misunderstanding. Great art is that which achieves an acceptable balance between fulfillment and denial, across epochs of time. The Aesthetic Experience substantially justifies teaching music education, because music, when taught through the Aesthetic Experience framework, affords students unique and valuable experiences beyond all other arts AND sciences!

How May An Aesthetic Experience Be Described?
What Four Elements Are Involved In An Aesthetic Experience?

Description: Four elements are involved in the Aesthetic Experience: Art, Subjective Reality, Creative Ability, and Perceptive Ability. (1) Art is all the ways and means that people have contrived to organize materials to produce meanings inherent in the materials and their organization. Great art (such as famous music masterpieces, paintings, or sculptures) is that which achieves an acceptable balance between fulfillment and denial, across epochs of time. (2) Subjective Reality is every part of the human experience inside each human that is touched when the experience cannot be expressed in words. (3) Creative Ability is the ability to manipulate the elements of an art medium to achieve the desired tendencies with their chosen fulfillment or denial. In music, this could be a composer creating, arranging, manipulating, composing, and improvising. (4) Perceptive Ability is the ability to perceive the manipulation of elements to achieve an empathetic response to the tendencies of fulfillment and denial present in a work of art. (See Aesthetic Experience Diagram.)

How May The Aesthetic Experience Process Be Explained?
Connecting With Others' Subjective Reality?

Aesthetic Experience Process: How does one explain the Aesthetic Experience process? Here is one example. Mozart, using his Creative Ability through his Subjective Reality while creating Symphony 40, aesthetically interacted with the music elements individually as well as their composite whole. We listen to Symphony 40, using our Perceptive Ability through our Subjective Reality, and we touch Mozart and his Subjective Reality. An artist's Subjective Reality lives long past his/her life-time. In essence, we can connect with another human and his/her Subjective Reality and therefore be more human! (See Aesthetic Experience Diagram.)

How May A Music Teacher Teach For The Aesthetic Experience?
Is The Music Aesthetic Experience Confined Only To Concert Halls?

Teaching For The Aesthetic Experience: An Aesthetic Experience is much like the realm of relationships. One cannot create a relationship for another person, but one can creatively provide many opportunities for relationships to happen. Likewise, one cannot create an aesthetic experience for another person, but one can creatively provide many opportunities for aesthetic experiences. How does one teach for the Aesthetic Experience? It is a very short step from musical perfection into aesthetics. When students achieve a certain level of competency in rhythm and tonal music skills and performance skills, they become free to enter into the feel of music. A music teacher must consciously encourage students to open their hearts to feel music. For example, the first time the students experienced this freedom is utterly unforgettable. A fourth grade class became so artistically focused with playing, singing, and moving an Orff arrangement that they were overcome and awed by the beauty of the music. The performance was so artistic that tears involuntarily ran down my face. At the end of the performance, the students were so awed by the experience that they froze in their places in silence. One girl near the front of the class, not daring to break the awe, whispered, "Mr. Knauss, what happened?" (Described in more detail in Supplementary Books: Develop Spectacular Music Students by Unlearning: And Change Culture Around You.) The world of art is significant in music education because music educators can greatly increase students' Perceptive Abilities.

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