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Keywords:

  • musical autonomy;
  • musical experience;
  • musical meaning;
  • schooling;
  • social reproduction

Abstract

In this article I propose a theory of musical meaning and experience which takes into consideration the dialectical relationship between musical text and context, and which is flexible enough to apply to a range of musical styles. Through this theory I examine the roles played by the school music classroom which, despite the multiplicity of musical styles now incorporated into schooling, continues to contribute to the reproduction of existing social relations in the wider society. I consider how music itself can be understood to construct and communicate apparent ‘truths’ about ourselves and society and what role the classroom plays in perpetuating those ‘truths’. Finally I argue for a partial but necessary reinstatement of the much-maligned notion of musical autonomy as a critical moment in any attempt to change things.