Critical Thinking

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The potentially transformative capacity that interactions based on music can foster has featured mostly as individuals reflect on the concept of social justice. Secondly, the idea and concept of open participation have been prevalent as individuals look into the transformative scope of music and social justice. Similarly, scholars have utilized music texts to advance the research surrounding social justice in music education. Undertaking Stuart Hall’s reading approach of such texts concerning popular music can give insights into controversies on the author’s point of view. Popular music texts have been credited for advancing notions surrounding the need for a just society. Similarly, some popular music texts have been credited for critiquing hegemony. Encoding and decoding such popular music texts proves that some authors engage in reinforcing hegemony. The essay formulates an in-depth encoding and decoding of the text “SOCIAL JUSTICE IN MUSIC EDUCATION” by Joseph Abramo towards proving that, even though the text is considered to critique hegemony, some of the articulations reinforce hegemony. 

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Formulating a brief overview of Stuart Hall’s concept is critical towards enhancing the understanding of the chosen text. As a cultural studies scholar, Stuart Hall developed/coined the decoding/encoding communication model proposing that audience members can have an active participation/role in decoding various messages. Hall pointed out that the audience significantly depends on their social contexts in the attempts to decode messages. Precisely, Hall pointed out that, through collective action, the audience can change the messages themselves depending on their social contexts. His reservations on communication theories are at the centre of the encoding/decoding model, which moves through the linear fashion. The author considers all the essential elements of communication. As such, his model captures the movement of a message from the sender to the receiver. The ‘sender, ‘message,’ and ‘receiver’ are considered as Hall develops the model underpinning research of mass communications. Moreover, Hall challenges mass communications components presented under previous models, which stipulated that the sender does not determine or fix the meaning of the text/message. The author was significantly concerned with the political and social dimensions of communication. Hall argued that the ideological perspectives of the audience could enable them to look into a media text in three distinct ways: resistant, negotiated, or dominant. He noted that individuals producing texts encode a hegemonic or dominant message. He pointed out the existence of a resistant ideology as the basis of enabling the audience to make sense of the producer’s resistant ideology.

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Such insights can be used in analyzing the text. First, a dominant position can be drawn considering how the author wanted the audience to view the media text. Secondly, an oppositional reading approach can prove how the audience can reject the preferred reading/meaning and create their meaning based on personal experiences. Precisely, the dominant meaning can be drawn through the lens of the author’s coverage, trying to prove the essence of resisting hegemony. On the contrary, the oppositional point of view can prove that the text was also used in reinforcing hegemony. The author has various arguments that lead to the adoption of the two points of view concerning this text. First, the text depicted the aspect of social justice. The author argues that, even though he tried to ensure respect to ‘student voice’ as the basis of proving social justice, some of the music that the learners brought to the class troubled him (Abramo 583). Such argument by the author is used in exemplifying his critique of hegemony. The author tries to prove that he advocates for social justice, which stipulates the attempts to critique and negate hegemony. On the contrary, one can adopt an oppositional point of view to this argument since the author seemingly supports the oppressive scope of society. Why is the author troubled by the songs that the students brought to class? If the author was advocating for an end to hegemony, he should have appreciated all the music that the learners brought to class. The fact that the author is seemingly opposed to some of the music students brought to class shows that he reinforced hegemony. 

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Encoding and decoding the scope utilized by the author in advancing the notion about the tension surrounding the mode used by individuals in self-expression and popular music is another consideration that can prove that the author tries to oppose hegemony, but his approach reinforces hegemony. First, the author considers the coverage by Stuart Hall concerning the tension. He appreciates that popular culture can be used in critiquing the status quo. He points out the common classifications as the basis of supporting his argument surrounding popular culture. The author seemingly negates Stuart’s approach in advancing the debate surrounding the concept of popular culture. First, he critiques hegemony by proving that Stuart’s coverage was perfect in dismantling some of the oppressive aspects of the society, which curtailed individuals from expressing themselves freely using popular culture. On the other hand, the author supports hegemony when exemplifying how individuals consume popular culture. His support for hegemony is evident when discussing the delicate balance and its implications among educators. Abramo argues that the educators are challenged as they try to allow personal expressions through the use of music and at the same time challenge the aspects of social injustice through and within music (Abramo 584). Such argument supports hegemony because the author seems to correlate with the status quo’s approach, which seeks to curb free expressions through popular culture. 

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Encoding and decoding one of the songs by Beyonce is similarly a significant consideration towards proving that the reading showed both critique and support to hegemony. The theme of feminism and the struggles women make towards liberating themselves is the primary coverage by the author as he encodes and decodes the song. The author looks into both the dominant and oppositional reading/point of view in the music. Precisely, the author exemplifies how the song by Beyonce was interpreted differently by different audiences. He considers the approaches used by the educators in trying to ensure that learners draw multiple interpretations of musical texts. He points out that negotiated, oppositional, and dominant readings exist as students and educators analyze musical texts. The dominant reading point of view, which is seemingly the author’s argument, is associated with the scope of women’s empowerment. Such prevailing view negates the historical, societal approaches in which women were considered an inferior gender. The song “Run the World (Girls)” is one of the productions which advances the need for women empowerment analyzed through the lens of dominant reading. Most of the fans advancing such a point of view argue that Beyonce’s song represents a strong woman engaging in endeavours to empower herself through self-expression in business, fashion, and music (Abramo 587). Such funs argue that the use of music, images, and lyrics featured in the song supports women’s liberation. Precisely, the supports stipulates that the song critiques some of the oppressive traditions in the society. Furthermore, the author advances the ambiguity and tension evident in the song’s choruses and verses. On the other hand, an oppositional reading can negate the arguments by fans supporting the song. Analyzing the song through a feminist view depicts the issue of sexual objectification. For example, such an approach may question the presence of the issue of women’s empowerment in the song. The author stipulates that the display of women’s bodies in sexually suggestive choreography and costumes can be interpreted to mean that women attain power through the use of sexual objectification (Abramo 589). The two readings concerning this song reveal that the coverage by the author depicted both critique and support of hegemony.

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In conclusion, music education has proved to raise a tense relationship with social justice. Even though most scholars argue that music is used in advancing calls to an end to hegemony, there are concerns that some musical texts support hegemony. Encoding and decoding musical texts can prove that the use of musical texts can depict both critique and support to hegemony. Stuart Hall’s model stipulates the essentiality of encoding and decoding a text towards understanding its significant themes. The musical text analyzed shows both critique and support to hegemony. The essay encodes and decodes the musical text, giving insights into both critique and support to hegemony by the author. Beyonce’s song is perfect in exemplifying how the author depicts critique and support to hegemony in the musical text. Through a dominant reading, the music is aimed at supporting the empowerment of women. Through the lens of oppositional meaning, the musical text seems to support hegemony. 

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Works Cited

 Abramo, Joseph. “Negotiating gender, popular culture, and social justice in music education.” The Oxford handbook of social justice in music education. 2015.

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