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What are conservatoires for? Discourses of purpose in the contemporary conservatoire

Ford, Biranda (2010) What are conservatoires for? Discourses of purpose in the contemporary conservatoire. PhD thesis, Institute of Education, University of London.

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ABSTRACT This thesis is a study of a modern day UK conservatoire. In the context of recent debates on the purpose of higher education, I look at how discourses of purpose are constructed, confirmed and contested in the contemporary conservatoire. The analytical strategies I use to construct my research account follow a Foucauldian conception of discourse, an approach which allows me to combine historical and contemporary material to develop categories of discourse. By historical account, I show how the conservatoire model founded at the start of the nineteenth century embodies an institutionalisation of the discourse of classical music. Using interview texts and institutional literature gathered from my empirical setting, I identify continuities with the discourse of classical music in the contemporary conservatoire, concluding that the student is produced as a performer and interpreter of canonical works. I find the discourse of classical music challenged by more recent discourses on higher education, particularly that of higher education for employability and higher education for personal development. I argue that an over-reliance on these discourses produces a limiting approach to music in higher education by promoting technical and transferable skills over a critical and creative engagement with music. I advocate a return to practices which support discourses of new music and antispecialism, which challenge the performer as reverent interpreter and allow for engagement with a greater range of repertoire, new interpretative pathways, improvisation and composition. In doing so, the conservatoire could better fulfil its claim to being part of an education which is both musical and 'higher'. I locate my research within the field of higher education studies, and my research forms an original contribution to the sociology of music in higher education, a lesserused disciplinary approach to a newly burgeoning field.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Depositing User: IOE Repository Editor (10)
Date Deposited: 15 Mar 2013 14:09
Last Modified: 05 Jun 2015 13:35
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