How do we frame singing education and culture?
Cognitive linguist, George Lakoff, in the run-up to the 2004 USA election, wrote a heartfelt plea to progressives to own the “frame”. In an earlier publication, he discussed the metaphor of political discourse. He distinguished between the “strict father” ideology of the political right and the “nurturant parent” narrative of the left. Although we might feel that it is not appropriate to play the child to any politician’s parent, nevertheless, the importance of this analysis has been enormously influential. It pointed to a recurring problem in any political or social discourse, namely, that of control of the narrative in which the issues are described.
Lakoff provides many examples of the ways in which the USA right controls the narrative and defines the terms in which the left must compete in order to win the argument (at times, with devastating effect). My suggestion here is that the terms used to describe and discuss singing are also potentially equally contentious and subject to distortion. Statements identifying music and singing as assets or frills can be unhelpful to singing cultures and professions.On the other hand, we hear from many musicians who reject these narratives and assert that their music-making is an inherent part of who they are.
Two frames about which we should have a discussion are those of wellness and the commodification of singing and music in general. Both frames contribute to the making of meaning and the impact of singing in our lives. I would suggest, however, that neither frame is sufficient in itself to describe the value and importance of singing and music.