Does this Work [of Art] Invite Me into [Intersubjective] Dialogue? Discussing Relational Aesthetics in Music Education

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Torill Vist
Kari Holdhus


Some artistic and educational practices in music have yet to be defined within the dichotomy of referential and autonomy aesthetics. However, there has been an ongoing shift towards more interactive, social and relationally founded aesthetic practices, which often originate in other art media but influence music as well. In this article, we investigate relational aesthetics’ place and further potential in music education, taking Nicolas Bourriaud’s term ‘relational aesthetics’ as a point of departure. Originally a theory concerning a specific postmodern genre within the visual arts, we identify and discuss certain elements of Bourriaud’s relational aesthetic theory that are relevant for music education, particularly the role of intersubjective relations. We further explore the traces and relatives’ of relational aesthetic theories that may already exist in and around music education, such as musicking and communicative musicality. As a result, certain aspects of relational aesthetics become more explicit than in Bourriaud’s theory, particularly care in intersubjective relations. Furthermore, we discuss the potential importance of relational aesthetics in music education practices, exemplified by teacher education, school concert visits and piano teaching. Finally, we conclude with some remarks on relational aesthetics as a resource in music education and arts education in general.

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Author Biographies

Torill Vist, OsloMet – Oslo Metropolitan University, Departemen of Ealy Childhood Education

Torill Vist is professor in music education at OsloMet – Oslo Metropolitan University, Departemen of Ealy Childhood Education. Until recently, she held a similar position at The University of Stavanger. She holds her bachelor and master degrees as well as her PhD in Music Education from the Academy of Music in Oslo, and has another master degree in piano performance from SMU, Dallas. Torill Vist has special research interests in early childhood (music/arts) education, and has recently completed her work in the NRC-funded project Searching for Qualities - Relations, play, aesthetics, learning. She also has a research interest in music and emotion knowledge, and in arts->based methodologies. Her recent publications reveal that the ideas of relational aesthetics are relevant in all these three research fields.

Kari Holdhus, Western Norway University of Applied Science (WNUAS), Campus Rommetveit.

Kari Holdhus is associate professor in Music Education at Western Norway University of Applied Sciences. She holds a Ph.D. in music education from 2014.

Kari’s research interests are relational aesthetic practices and aesthetic learning processes, community music and equity based music education practices in and outside school. Holdhus is a contributor and co-researcher within the project Improvisation in teacher Education (IMTE), where she has explored pre-service teachers’ teaching for creativity.

Currently, Holdhus leads the 4-year innovation project School and concert – from transmission to dialogue (DiSko), developing and researching new approaches to Norwegian visiting school concerts. DiSko runs from 2017 to 2020 and is financed by the Norwegian Research Council.