Finding a home in the Branches of Music

This Blog is on finding a home in the branches of music.  I have noticed that Students have a perception of what a Musician is and some don’t believe that they fit in.  Music is about performance and to be a musician, you must be good at playing pieces and going on Stage: right?  That assumption is not entirely correct.  I write this to present the differing branches of Music.  One branch is Performance, but there are others.  Every Student fits in and can find a home.

I am a Teacher: I look at music and think, “The best way to present this is in a lesson”.  Others might think the best way to present their ideas is in a Performance or Composition.  I am developing an interest in researching the Public Perception of Music.   Each lesson, I teach, explores low level Composition and Musicology: in addition to traditional Performance training.  This teaches Students and Parents that music is a broader Subject than the popular perception.  My Research is an Hobby.  I Blog, to explore ideas.  My writing style is directed at the Public, hence the use of the first person and colloquial terms.  If I were to develop my Research to bridge a gap in knowledge in the field of Musicology, I would assert that the Public’s understanding of Music has altered over the years – as Historic views on Aesthetics have altered and reached the Public Readership – and the influence of changing Perception of Music has diminished its importance in Education.  I would refer to an Historical viewpoint, show how modes of proof altered in post-Cartesian thought and establish an argument for moving forward, incorporating both Grecian and Modern Philosophies. My writing style would alter for the Journals in which you might find such writings, but that’s best left for another time. This Blog teaches that there are three branches of Music.  Students who understand the three branches can better direct their energy.

Music gets its name as it comes from the Muses.  The picture is of the Muses – Ancient Greek daughters of Zeus, concerned with Physical Gestures, Sound and the Written Word. There are arguments for 3 or 9 Muses. I use 3 as the 9 broadly cover 3 skills: Rhetoric, Sound and Non-verbal Communication. Any Student who knows me will hear the phrase, “Music is the Art of Convicting the Unconvinced”.  The subject of Music is the Study of Communication.  Mastery of Music develops pathways in the brain which are called upon when communicating effectively.  An Education in Music assists the Student in getting the right job and moving up in that job. The point that I am making is that Music is bigger than most people’s perception.  Other Blogs explain how the subject of music educates good communication.  This Blog teaches that music is wider than the Public’s perception.  It presents the branches and helps Students find their home.

A Student of Science understands that there are branches of Science..

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Mathematics gaining most time, resources and gravitas: followed by Physics and Chemistry.  Biology is seen as the least of the hard sciences, or the greatest of the “Soft Sciences”.  Psychology and the Social Sciences receive less time, resources and gravitas; leading to reduced uptake in the upper years of Secondary School and reducing further into Tertiary School.  “The Arts” are squeezed in, with the least time, resources and gravitas afforded to them.  My Research seeks to redress this imbalance.  This Research is an hobby.  If I were to develop it for Professional purposes, my PhD would be in Musicology.  This Blog is written to highlight that there are branches of Music, draw attention to branches which Students may not have considered and alter the perception of the importance of Music.

Whilst this Blog does highlight the Branches of Music and suggests that not all Branches are afforded the same respect; I do not write from a feeling of angst, I am merely musing.  Angie Hobbs – Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield – comments, whilst speaking on a programme about the Muses, that self inflicted “Time Poverty” means that we no longer muse.  Here is a link to the Radio Programme, to which you can listen after reading this Blog.

I am musing on the point that there are branches of Music and the Public Perception of Music does not account for these Branches.

The Branches of Music

The three Branches of Music are Composition, Musicology and Performance.  These are covered in Secondary School under the titles Composition, Listening and Performance.  Students who are not good enough are given Listening as a focus.  At no point do the Musical Staff stand in from of the Class and explain how Staff Members fit into the different Branches of Music.  Performance is pushed, Composition follows and – so called – Listening (which is an obscure form of teaching Musicology) is seen as something to do, if the Student can’t do anything else.  The Science Department has the same view of Biology, but at least it presents the different Branches of Science.

In the first two years of Secondary School I studied “General Science”.  A broad Education was presented.  Approaching third year – the time to choose specialisms – the Science Staff gave a presentation.  One Teacher said, “I’m a Biologist.  If it breathes, it’s Biology!”, another, “I’m a Chemist.  If it blows up, it’s Chemistry!”  The last said, “If it doesn’t work, it’s Physics!” and everyone laughed, although only some knew why.

It might be said that; if you ask questions about living things and you like answering by dissecting things, you are a Biologist.

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if you ask questions about chemical connections and you like answering by exploring reactions, you are a Chemist.

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if you ask questions about the the natural behaviour across a spectrum and you like answering by theorising from the infinitesimal to the infinite, you are a Physicist.

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It is understood that Scientists cover a general knowledge of Science, specialise and develop an interest in one Branch of science – Biology, Chemistry or Physics.  The public perception of Music is that studying leads to Performance. This Blog is written to present the branches of Performance, Composition or Musicology.  You may find that you are struggling to see how your interest in reading about Music fits into Performance.  Rather than giving up, believing that you don’t fit in, explore which Branch fits your interests.

If you ask questions about interpretation and answer by Performing your interpretation, you are a Performer.

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If you ask questions about the structure of sound and answer by presenting in the form of Piece, you are a Composer.

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If you ask questions about the connection between disciplines and answer by presenting a talk or book, you are a Musicologist.

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I like to think “Logically” about “Music”.  Words with the suffix “ology” use systems of thought – Logic.  Musicology is the field of applying systems of thought to Music problems.

A well balanced Music Staff might present the Branches of Music to the Students as,

“If I play your Music, it’s Performance”, “If you play my Music, it’s Composition” and “If I talk about how Music fits within an Interdisciplinary field, connecting History, Theory, Philosphy, Education…’s Musicology”.  “And we are not the Biology of the Music world”. “So there!”

In Lectures, we became accustomed to hearing jibes like, “Musicologists don’t know where the play button is”.

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In fact a fellow student leveled the question, “Are you a Musicologist?!” at me and the tone of there voice was not complimentary.

I could jibe back: if you believe everyone should look at you, you are a Performer and if you believe that your music is the most important, you are a Composer, but if you can define the value in “Great Works”, you are a Musicologist.  That would be a jibe, though and not entirely true.

The issue is not that Musicologists know how to read, but not listen: it is that we know how to listen and like to write about what we have heard.  To those who put on concerts – either in which they Perform or have their music performed – it seems that actual music isn’t actually happening, in Musicology.  That is like saying that Biology is not actually a Science.  Music has branches and each branch asks and answers questions in different, but equally valid ways.

I Performed 144 times in 2007, I have a Masters Degree in Composition, so I can do those fields.  My passion is the Public Perception of Music.  I encourage Students to explore Musicology and Composition.  Traditionally, lessons train Performers.  Students often believe that they are never going to make it to the Stage and give up.  My lessons balance Musicology, Performance and Composition.  I have written this Blog to encourage a change in perspective.  There are various branches of Music.  explore all of them, find your niche and enjoy that.  You are making a contribution.


Music was originally the Subject which trained Communication.

As Philosophy altered, it placed greater emphasis on Scientific enquiry that the Humanities (whose proof is found by comparing and contrasting the opinions of Humans).

Providing and Education in Music develops Communication being Humans.

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