Biography[ edit ] Small was born in Palmerston North , New Zealand, to a dentist and former schoolteacher, and was the youngest of three children. He taught at Horowhenua College at the same time working at Morrow Productions Ltd making educational animated films from to , and at Waihi College from to In he was awarded a New Zealand government bursary and he spent travelling in the United Kingdom, before studying composition in London with Priaulx Rainier , where he also had contact with Bernard Rands , Luigi Nono and Witold Lutoslawski. After his studies he stayed in England, where he taught at schools, including Anstey College of Education in Birmingham. Between and he was adjunct professor of the history of music at Syracuse University London Centre, and a tutor in music to the summer school of the BEd course of Sussex University between and
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Musicologist and writer with radical views on education Christopher Small believed music education should be removed from the classroom. Photograph: ,. Dave Laing Published on Mon 19 Sep He coined the title of the latter in the belief that music was a verb, not a noun, a process of performance and not simply a product such as a score or a recording.
Small considered the process of musicking to be an instrument of socialisation in all cultures and "a way in which we explore, affirm and celebrate our concepts of ideal relationships … in ways that talking or reading can never allow us to do". The youngest of three children of a dentist and a former schoolteacher, Small was born in Palmerston North, New Zealand. This plan was thwarted by the flood of applicants from ex-service personnel returning from the second world war, so he switched to zoology.
For several years he combined school teaching with composing soundtracks for animated films. He also wrote the score for the ballet Children of the Mist, choreographed by Leigh Brewer. In , he was granted a travelling scholarship, which took him to Europe. Based in London, Small immersed himself in the avant-garde cultural scene, before returning to teaching at what he called a "wonderful" school in Wembley, north-west London. His first book, the iconoclastic Music, Society, Education, had the subtitle "a radical examination of the prophetic function of music in western, eastern and African cultures with its impact on society and its use in education".
It fluently punctured the assumptions of those who asserted the primacy of European art music over all other music cultures. Small poured into the book all the influences he had absorbed from the vibrant intellectual counterculture of the s, notably the ideas of Ivan Illich on "deschooling".
He also demonstrated his broad enthusiasm for, and knowledge of, Asian, African and even rock music, describing in lyrical detail his visit to the Isle of Wight festival, where music became "the centre of a communal ritual which subsumed all other experiences".
Music, Society, Education received a warm welcome from the musicologist Wilfrid Mellers in the Guardian and hit home with younger music educationists in Britain. By this time, Small had retired from his post at Ealing and moved to Sitges, near Barcelona, with his partner, Neville Braithwaite, a Jamaican-born dancer, singer and youth worker.
The couple married in , following changes in Spanish law. Small worked with Catalan choirs and received a steady stream of visitors from Europe and, increasingly, America, where he had gathered a following after the republication of Music, Society, Education by Wesleyan University Press. From his Spanish base, Small travelled to participate in educational activities at conferences and more informal gatherings. Richard Wistreich, now a professor at the Royal Northern College of Music, attended an event in London around where Small gave a talk to "a little group of curious classical musicians that included playing us an amazing track of Aretha Franklin singing at a gospel service.
By the end of the evening we felt ready for revolution. His equally unequivocal view of music education was that it should be removed from the classroom to a network of music centres where people of all ages could engage in musicking and dancing, and where instruction is offered as the need is felt for it. Neville died in Small is survived by his sister, Rosemary.
Some time later, in , I invited him to teach my students at Bergen University College, in Norway, for two weeks. The students already immersed in the book treated Chris like a king, though the head of department was worried about this upsetter of the apple cart.
Chris kept challenging ideas and "truths" about the nature of meaning in music, and about music educational philosophy and practice, freeing everyone else up to follow suit, while causing bubbles of alarm until the day he died. A few months ago, he posed the question to some visiting students: "So what about music education and climate change?
But what he has left us will nourish us nevertheless for any foreseeable future. Susan McClary is clear that "more so than any other philosopher of music, he presents a model for the future of music studies". Chris was a mentor and friend to many and, through his magical writing, to countless others across the globe who felt they knew him too.
His love for Neville, a wondrous dancer and sweet singer, sustained him and gave his life its deepest meaning.
Christopher Small obituary