In our iBook Learn Pharrell Williams’ Happy, we make the statement that music can be used to teach practically every other subject through music education. Perhaps the exception is P.E., but then again you need muscles and cardio to carry around equipment. Either way, we fully stand behind our claim that music is the heart of education. Let’s take a closer look.
Music’s Relationship to Other Subjects:
The connection between music and mathematics is a fundamental one. You can’t have music without math. Think about what goes into producing music and you’ll begin to see that music is concerned with numbers and patterns of change. Obviously, the same is true of math.
A student, for example, clapping two half beats instead of one whole beat is beginning to understand the principles of fractions. Learning half time, quarter time, and eighth time only furthers the student’s knowledge of patterns and changes.
From Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” to Nas’ “N.Y. State of Mind,” music tells as powerful a story as any Shakespearian play or Yeats poem. If you take a minute to listen to the lyrics of many songs, you begin to understand that music captures cultural context while embracing the literary, the social, and the political in many of the same ways literature does. Don’t just take our word for it, in 2016 Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
When you think about it, what is the difference between lyrics and a poem? Is it solely that one is accompanied by musical instruments and the other is not? That seems too easy of an answer. The difference lies in how we perceive the two. It is easy to write off the popular song as not being poetic, while making the argument that a Robert Frost poem reaches literature highs lyrics might not. The key when dissecting lyrics is remembering that they can often carry the same weight as a poem.
Considering some universities acknowledge this connection and now offer Music and English Literature degrees, shows that we are bridging the gap.
We have already stressed the importance of Bob Dylan once, so let’s keep him as an example. Take a look at his catalog and you probably recognize more than a handful of songs. But without context, these songs are just something you bob your head to. This is where music education and history meet. A place where you can look into a time period and read about it in his lyrics.
Let’s dive deeper into this example and briefly examine his music from the 1960s. A lot of very important things are happening – so much so that this time frame is often called “the revolution.” Jim Crow was demolished, the beginnings of the movements to end communism in Eastern Europe are occurring, the Vietnam War, Civil Rights protests, etc. There is a lot of deep history in the ’60s and you can see these influences in “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Maggie’s Farm,” and “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” Music is rich in history and ready to be explored in the classroom.
There is power in music education and these are just some of the basic concepts. If you have particular strategies for implementing music into your program, we would love to hear them.