Democracy, open source and music education?
A Deweyan investigation of music education in digital domains.
Music has not been solely temporal for more than a century, and musical performance has not been created exclusively in real time by humans since the piano roll entered the stage in the late 19th century. The mechanical, and later the digital, music industry has changed music as a social phenomena, increasing the availability of music to listen to, tools to create music with as well as distributional and communicational aspects of music. Music consummation happens either through live music as it always has, or through a recordings which today is mostly digital.
Digital tools for creation, evaluation, distribution and consummation imply particular challenges regarding ownership and intellectual property which influence and have consequences for music education both as practice and philosophically. The purpose of this paper is to discuss how licensing of music software and music can be understood in relation to democracy in music education. A deweyan pragmatism will be used as a lens through which to discuss this purpose. In this paper, the focus is on software licensing, only slightly touching upon the similar discussions regarding music licensing and availability of research.
In Dewey's writings, democracy is more than a political system. Democracy is a desirable way of social interaction in “conjoint communicated experience”. Experience is seen as shared, and education is seen in the light of a pragmatist meaning of truth, where meaning is created and recreated through social interaction. For education to be good in a Deweyan democratic sense, it would have to facilitate free speech, respect, free access to knowledge and multiple ways of accessing and producing knowledge.
Digital tools have, despite the overall increased accessibility to knowledge, forums for expressions and expressional tools, brought new challenges into the music educational domain. How to deal with music available in the digital domain, and as such being eternally reproducible without any degradation of sonic quality is one such challenge. On the one hand, music from everywhere and anytime can be reached by a mouse click, but on the other hand, music is usually distributed as intellectual property and as such it is illegal to redistribute the music even in an educational setting. Another related challenge concerns the software used in music classrooms.
Software on the two major operative systems, Microsoft Windows and Apple OsX is usually close sourced and having end user agreements which prohibit any modification of the software. If these softwares are compared to other musical instruments, the software are not owned solely by the musician, since the software, unlike other instruments, cannot be modified, repaired or improved. Lately there has been a reaction against the lack of democracy in the software industry through the open source movement. Open source music software are not backed by any large company, but instead developed by groups of developers releasing the code for anyone to improve and change. However, the software might not have the same level of stability and general usability for beginners. The possible educational implications of choosing a proprietary solution versus open source alternatives will be discussed.
 Dewey, John (1999). Democracy and education: an introduction to the philosophy of education. [New ed.] New York: Free Press p. 130.
nnmpf.org: nnmpf.org , 2010.