Monday, October 19, 2009

IRME Research Strategy Overview

The IRME Strategy guides a stream of proposed music research projects to be coordinated through the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland. The purpose of IRME is to advance new knowledge and innovative practices to support the development of effective music education systems that are increasingly pluralistic and representative of a rapidly changing society.

As introduced in our article “Pluralism and Minority Rights in Music Education: Implications of the Legal and Social-Philosophical Dimensions” (Heimonen & Hebert, 2010), the following outline offers a tripartite model for initiatives that address the complex issues of music rights in education through international policy development: the Information-Sharing, Research and Music Education Strategy, or "IRME Strategy".

Starting with consideration of the potential role of international law as a foundation for this endeavor, Phase I of IRME consists of a rigorous international-comparative evaluation of the actual effects of "soft law" treaties on music education in various nations. Notable examples of such treaties include the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, and United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and to some extent we suggest that careful examination of how the European Charter for Minority and Regional Languages is implemented may also provide a relevant model for future developments in the sphere of music.

The following is a concise outline of the IRME Strategy we have developed:

1. Information-Sharing
One of the most important means for enhancing the influence of music-related soft law is to systematically inform both policy-makers and the public about existent declarations and guidelines. United Nations organizations (e.g. UNESCO) have criticized Finland, for instance, for not having widely disseminated information regarding its Convention on Children's Rights. It seems important to determine the extent to which musicians, professors, and music pedagogues even know about the contents of UN conventions that are related to music. Moreover, authorities of National Boards and Ministries of Education, state authorities and municipalities that are responsible for both cultural policy and financial backing of the arts and education should be provided information on soft law treaties related to music and related arts. This issue is particularly a challenge for enormous nations, such as the United States, in which educational policy is mostly decided at the local rather than national level. Innovative procedures that make use of the latest technologies may need to be developed for the wider dissemination of relevant information in this field (Ruthmann & Hebert, in press). Development of a Virtual Center, for example, with formal relationships to relevant organizations and educational boards, appears to be an especially promising proposition that could harness the latest technologies for information-sharing, leading to measurable improvements in this area.

2. Research
As our review has determined, systematic research is sorely needed on music education practices among minority cultures, with particular attention to the complex issue of music rights. Moreover, research is needed on the effects of various soft law treaties on music and other arts. How is "intangible cultural heritage" interpreted in practice in various societies, for instance? The content of soft law treaties seem to include numerous aims that are admirable in theory, yet little is known regarding their actual effects in practice. Specific themes to be rigorously examined through empirical research include the following:

  • Under the conditions of globalization, how do changing patterns of migration, new media technologies, and cultural hybridity affect the musical identities of minority youth in schools?

  • In what ways, and to what extent, do the legal and educational systems of contemporary societies contribute to the sustainability of both mainstream and minority musical traditions?
Research findings must also be more effectively communicated to the public, which is why this Research branch of the IRME Strategy naturally integrates with the aforementioned Information-Sharing branch, particularly through the use of new technologies that enable rapid and global dissemination of ideas through the internet.

3. Music Education
Music education at all levels - namely, guidance and effective support for innovation that engenders measurable improvements to the actual practice of music teaching and learning - is one of the most vital aspects of this strategy. Music education requires creative innovation in order to remain relevant to the contemporary world (Campbell & Hebert, 2011), and dissemination of information and rigorous research is necessary in order to provide robust foundations by which to guide systemic curricular and pedagogical improvements that serve to strengthen the practice of music education. In higher music education, particularly in the education of professional musicians and in music teacher training, the contents of soft law treaties – at least the most important ones – may need to be explicitly discussed with students. In fact, it is the teachers that in many cases will apply these treaties in practice, in classrooms and studios, if these documents are to be of any practical value. Moreover, in the education of future cultural administrators and politicians, and in arts management, it is most important to provide reliable knowledge of soft law. This is partly because convincing justification for investment in the arts can be found within these international conventions.

Implications and IRME Approach to Research

We have determined that further research and policy development are sorely needed on music education practices among majority and minority cultures in the Nordic region with particular attention to the complex issue of music rights. Due to the inherent epistemological threats associated with the interpretation of diverse studies, we propose that research in this field would best be implemented in a coordinated fashion with unified methodologies and analytical procedures, in the context of carefully designed international-comparative projects.

Therefore, the research we propose for IRME is both multi-phased and multi-faceted in methodology, requiring a synthesis of philosophical and empirical approaches, the former consisting of (1) hermeneutic and content analysis of both legal and curricular documents and their conceptual foundations, and the latter of (2) online questionnaires that are statistically analyzed to assess correlations of reported behaviors with relevant demographic data, and (3) multi-site case study fieldwork based on the techniques of cultural sociology and historical ethnomusicology. In addition to ourselves, the proposed research team will include a small number of expert Local Research Coordinators (LRCs) in targeted Nordic urban centers as well as a select group of postgraduate research students associated with the new Master of Global Music program for which Dr. Hebert has worked as Professor at Sibelius Academy and now Visiting Professor at the Royal Academy of Music, Denmark.

IRME projects will be coordinated and supported through relationships established via preexisting international networks, specifically Nordplus-funded programs, such as the Glomus Network (which launched the new Master of Global Music Program in 2010, in collaboration between institutions in Sweden, Denmark, and Finland) and the Nordic Network for Music Informatics, Performance, and Aesthetics (NNIMIPA), as well as the Historical Ethnomusicology Special Interest Group of the Society for Ethnomusicology.

David G. Hebert, PhD and Marja Heimonen, LL.M., D.Mus.
Principal Investigators
Sibelius Academy, Finland


Research Partners and International Consultants:

Prof. Huib Schippers, Griffith University, Australia
Dr. Eva Saether, University of Lund, Sweden
Dr. Helga Rut Gudmundsdottir, Iceland University of Education
Prof. Karsten Aaholm, Royal Academy of Music, Aarhus, Denmark


Campbell, P. S. & Hebert, D. G. (2011). World Beat. In W. M. Anderson & P. S. Campbell, (Eds.), Multicultural Perspectives in Music Education, vol.2 (third edition). Lanham, MD: Rowman-Littlefield Publishers.

Hebert, D. G. (2012, invited/based on keynote speech for Theory for Practice in the Education of Contemporary Society Riga, Latvia). “International Comparisons in the Improvement of Education,” Journal of Pedagogy and Psychology “Signum Temporis,” 4.

Hebert, D. G. (2010). Ethnicity and music education: Sociological dimensions. In R. Wright (Ed.), Sociology and Music Education (pp.93-114). Aldershot: Ashgate Press.

Hebert, D. G. (2010). Educating Professional Musicians for a Multicultural Society: Emerging Issues and New Developments. In proceedings of Orally Transmitted Music and Intercultural Education, symposium offered by EU Culture Initiative Music, Orality, Roots, Europe (MORE) at Cité de la Musique, Paris, France (December 3-4, 2009) [].

Hebert, D. G. (2009). Rethinking the historiography of hybrid genres in music education. In V. Kurkela & L. Vakeva (Eds.), De-Canonizing Music History. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp. 163-184.

Hebert, D. G. (2009). Virtuality and music education in online environments (in Hungarian, tr. Mariann Ábrahám). Parlando, 51 (2009/4).

Hebert, D. G. (2009). Musicianship, musical identity, and meaning as embodied practice. In T. Regelski & J. T. Gates (Eds.), Music Education for Changing Times: Guiding Visions for Practice. New York: Springer Press, pp. 39-55.

Hebert, D. G. (2008). Reflections on teaching the aesthetics and sociology of music online. International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music, 39(1), 93-103.

Hebert, D. G. & Heimonen, M. (invited / in preparation for special issue). Public Policy and Music Education in Norway and Finland. Arts Education Policy Review.

Heimonen, M. (2002). Music Education & Law: Regulation as an Instrument. Studia Musica 17. Helsinki: Sibelius Academy.

Heimonen, M. (2008). Music education as one aspect of cultural and welfare rights. Nordic Research in Music Education Yearbook 10, 245-258.

Heimonen, M. (2012). Music education and global ethics: Educating citizens for the world. Action, Criticism, and Theory for Music Education, 11(1).

Heimonen, M. & Hebert, D. G. (2010). Pluralism and minority rights in music education: Implications of the legal and social philosophical dimensions. Visions of Research in Music Education, Vol. 15. [].

Heimonen, M. & Hebert, D. G. (in press, 2012). Nationalism and music education: A Finnish perspective. In D. G. Hebert & A. Kertz-Welzel, (Eds.), Patriotism and Nationalism in Music Education. Aldershot: Ashgate Press.

Ruthmann, A. & Hebert, D. G. (in press, 2012). Music learning and new media in virtual and online environments. In G. McPherson & G. Welch (Eds.), Oxford Handbook of Music Education. Oxford University Press.

Siltala, R. (2003). Response to Marja Heimonen, Music Education and Law. In Dialogue. Philosophy of Music Education Review 11 (2), 185-193.