‘Music Technology: The Discipline that Never Was:' A Critical Evaluation

Updated: Mar 17, 2019

A while ago I read a really interesting article by Carola Boehm bout the provision of music technology at British universities and the educational modes that are used. It also details how it becomes established in relation to social and political environments as much as educational methodologies. I thought I'd do an article in critical evaluation.

Boehm, C. (2007), ‘The discipline that never was: current developments in Music technology in higher education in Britain’ Journal of Music, Technology and Education.

Boehm’s article aims to discuss the. It also aims to set out empirical research to the courses available at the time of writing (2007).

What Even is Music Technology?

One of the most interesting points raised in this article is the sheer inter-disciplinary nature of ‘music technology’ and how this creates problems for the way that courses are structured and validated, she goes on to state, in my opinion correctly; that the reason that these new post-modern multi-disciplinary undergraduate courses can be accepted as valid music derivatives in higher education establishments, is because the methodologies of working, research and teaching are very similar. This of course could be perceived as fundamentally true, if it is considered that all musical opinions are valid and music technology is taken seriously as a subject.

Boehm certainly demonstrates the ability to be able to synthesise information into a well-structured article with her research demonstrating knowledge of the subject area, for example she makes many references to other studies and academic works in this area and offers a Harvard references list at the end of the article.

Boehm’s discussion of some of the weaknesses of Moore’s taxonomy of music technology’s three subject areas (technology, art & science), shows that she understands the complexity of the subject and further affirms her knowledge by offering original empirical research, which is presented clearly in table and graph form, as well as summary of the findings which ultimately, is effective in delivering the information to the audience.


One question that arose from the research was whether Boehm’s lists of music technology undergraduate courses could have been further grouped and quantified by JACS codes; HESA (Higher Education Statistics Agency) grouping codes for undergraduate courses. According to HESA’s JACS guide, it is valid to use up to 3 codes to represent a course, so this raises the question of why they are so rarely used, if at all. During research for this article, there has been no evidence of the use of more than 1 JACS code per course or why this extended course code system has not been adopted. This has the potential to offer an effective way of representing multi-disciplinary courses, but also has the drawback of increasing the complexity of course coding. Further discussion of JACS system is outside the scope of this article (See appendix A).

How Many Different Courses?!

What is blindingly evident from the pie chart is sheer volume of different JACS codes representing the wide variety of different ‘music technology’ related courses and multi- disciplinary conglomerates. This serves just an illustration of the bewildering range of undergraduate courses available. Although there are a few strong groups for courses such as JACS code J930 & J931, which is the code for courses actually named ‘music technology’ and accounts for 53% all of courses when searching for ‘Music Technology’ on UK Course Finder in September 2014.

Perpetual Variables

Since From Boehm’s original study in 2006, there has been a marked rise in the amount of different variants in music technology undergraduate courses, which is actually quite surprising due to the recent increase in course fee charges in 2012 and general drop in undergraduate enrolment numbers; from 1,928,140 full and part-time undergraduate students in 2011 to 1,803,840 in 2012 (1HESA, 2014), which is a drop of 6%. In perspective, the difference between the previous years’ enrolment was just 1% (3HESA, 2014). This is congruent with the continual economic growth of the creative industries in the UK amidst any economic recession (2Great Britain Parliament House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport, p57). Music technology was even sited quite extensively in the London 2012 Olympic Games Evidence manifesto, providing further evidence of the importance of the subject in the eyes of the government. There are now 64 different JACS codes when searching for ‘music technology’. Current courses available cover music technology and business and/or artist management in addition to ‘music technology systems’ with a year in industry and will continue to diversify to satisfy the ever growing creative industries of the UK.

I found the lack of a separate section for the conclusion quite unusual; with a topic with so many variables, I expected to find a more rigorous and summative conclusion. However, there are definitive conclusions about the way in which ‘we see’ or should perhaps perceive the findings that Boehm presents. There is also a statement about how this all could contribute to the new view of ‘post-modernity’, although this is very subjective and needs further analysis.


There is certainly no argument that this is a thoroughly researched article that draws from the author’s own experience and knowledge in the subject area and also utilises 1st hand empirical evidence to consolidate the points raised about the complexity of ‘music technology’ undergraduate degree courses.

Boehm has generally addressed all of the aims and questions that are set out in the abstract, but whether these have been fully justified could be subject of debate. For example, she clearly states in the abstract that the article will explore the way music technology has become established in regard to pedagogical methodologies, but there is no strong evidence of consideration for this. The majority of the reasoning shown relates to the way in which the courses are administrated in universities and not the actual delivery in a pure educational sense. I think further exploration of the way in which teaching and learning methods affect multi-disciplinary courses (and vice-versa) would be academically supportive and an interesting addition to the article.

A small error; there is a spelling mistake on the 1st page in the keywords box; a letter y has been omitted from the end of word technology. In summary, I would also argue that in a sense, the title of Boehm’s article brings an ironic ambiguity, owing to the flexible nature of the title subject; ‘music technology’ and it’s definition. However, she does neutralise this in the opening introduction where she discussed the ambiguity of the term ‘music technology’ and how she will approach this almost contentious matter.

Link to Original Article



1 https://www.hesa.ac.uk/stats. General Statistics: Higher Education Statistics Agency <Accessed 30/09/14>

2‘Olympic Games and Paralympic Games 2012: Legacy, Oral and Written Evidence’: Great Britain Parliament House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport. 2012

3https://www.hesa.ac.uk/stats. General Statistics: Higher Education Statistics Agency <Accessed 30/09/14>

Thanks for reading!


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