Seminar Explores Aesthetics in Higher Education
The new Academic Leader for the Cluster of Music at UKZN, Professor Chats Devroop, presented a seminar at the Centre for Jazz and Popular Music titled: “Sensing’ the Curriculum: The Role of Aesthetics in Higher Education”.
Devroop, who outlined the establishment of universities and the notion of academic freedom, says his views are rooted in developments since the start of the 20th Century, which embrace new media along the lines of Kittler’s text Gramophone, Film, Typewriter. ‘When I look at the field of music, it is clear that music has migrated from the written/published manuscript or book culture to recorded media - the gramophone.
‘In the 21st Century it goes even further with the process of digitisation, and now resides in various digital platforms – the computer being one such example. In order to engage with the challenge of migration and curriculum revision, we need to get a handle on where music and education is located in relation to the media – as Marshall McLuhan espouses “the medium is the message”’ he said.
‘The tension in South African music departments, and I stand to be corrected here, arises with the academy still being rooted in learning and engaging with music according to the ideals of 19th Century and its media system (the book), whilst students are pressing for demands for relevance and employability in an environment of rapid media shifts. Those few institutions that have got to the 20th century (let’s not go to the 21st Century), through programmes in Jazz and aspects of Music Technology are yet to acknowledge the media that has brought them to this realisation hence a full realisation of popular music and World Music is still absent in their curricula.’
The 19th Century Kantian university still is the one that determines the course, model and curricula approaches of universities in South Africa despite the progressive alternatives provided through Kittler, McCluhan, Virilio and others. The Aesthetic challenges brought with these visionaries helps remap the course of the 21st Century university.
Devroop acknowledged the University Teaching and Learning Office’s Dr Rubby Dhunpath for encouraging him to hold the seminar in order to open discussion, provoke and set the tone for future engagements on these issues.
The performance by Devroop on bansuri and Mr Neil Gonsalves on piano over a pop tune by Dusty Springfield illustrated ‘the syncretism of instruments, style and music transmission that have been opened through media intervention which exist outside the realm of book culture yet arise in the recorded media. What this performance highlighted is the impact of media, which traditionally arose out of efforts for the sensorally impaired repositioned in the new media reproduction environment – work that had been pioneered by Glenn Gould.
CEO of the Creative Industries Coalition, Professor Jean-Pierre de la Porte, said he found it ‘refreshing’ that a School of Arts in South Africa had hosted such a discussion and congratulated the University on such a bold and innovative initiative. ‘Perhaps the reform that universities need or the change or the ways of reflecting on themselves, might come from the way the Schools of Arts will continue to involve themselves with media.’
Dean of the School of Arts, Professor Donal McCracken, commended Devroop on his ‘marvelous’ presentation and its factual accuracy, which he went on to add encouraged him to now deliver a lecture to take the discussions further. He further added that it was about time that the School of Arts engaged with such themes within the broader discourse of the university and its relevance and engagement with change.
The seminar was hosted by the University Teaching and Learning Office and the School of Music.