From combating to supporting pop music. The paradox of municipal music education in Sweden 1940 to 2000
School of Humanities Växjö university Växjö, Sweden
School of Social Sciences Växjö university Växjö, Sweden
In 1997 Sweden was the third biggest exporter of popular music in the world. This astonishing fact has often been explained as being the result of the large investments in municipal music schools that took place in Sweden from 1940. The explanation holds an interesting paradox. Most municipal music schools began with the aim to teach young people appreciate more valuable music (i.e. classical) than the popular music of the entertainment industry. Around 1940 there was a large debate on the "Dance-floor-misery". Christians and conservatives attacked the public amusements available in abundance, arguing that they led to moral shallowness among the youth. It was especially young people's contact with dance and popular music offered in open-air dance-floors and dance-pavilions that caused most harm.
The debate began in 1938 with an official letter to the Government from the bishop of Växjö. It led to the forming of a Royal committee assigned to find ways to decontaminate the unsatisfactory state of the entertainment industry. In Växjö the Church and the municipality joined forces forming a Youth Council. Its main achievement was to start a music school in 1947. During the 1970s it became one of the most successful in Sweden, thanks to its tolerant views on modern genres and instruments used in popular music. By 1980 it had driven a once prosperous music school run by the town's largest music shop out of business. This school ? Hagstrom's music school ? had started in 1944. Its main aim was to meet the demand for education on instruments like accordion, guitar, saxophone, keyboard and drums, instruments used in popular dance-music.
The Växjö case elucidates the process that led the once detested popular music to become accepted and fully incorporated into the curricula of the municipal music schools. This process will be linked to the thesis that a hegemonic culture has somehow to adopt prevailing views and tastes among the dominated in order to survive (cf. Gramsci, Williams).