Wayne Bowman, tacit knowing and the joy of discovery

Today I found Wayne Bowman’s thesis exploring Michael Polanyi’s theory of tacit knowledge. Completed in 1980, Bowman asks “what implications does Polanyi’s theory of tacit knowledge bear for music instruction?” and “how may the recognition of tacit knowing serve to substantiate the educational import of musical experience?”

Well. I wish I had read this earlier. As I stumbled – literally – over this thesis (the snowball effect took me from Burwell-Polanyi-tacit knowing in music-Reese-Bowman KAPOW) I began to cry because not only is Wayne Bowman a wonderful writer and philosopher whom I greatly admire but he articulated in his introduction precisely that which I have thought in the years I have been doing my PhD. That by concentrating on the concrete, tangible and quantifiable aspects of music instruction we miss out on the ineffable, joyful, awe inspiring roots of meaningful learning that I believe is central to teaching music. And it is this which I am trying to unpack.

Does this mean that at heart I am a philosopher? Perhaps. Not a very good one, because I can’t argue my position out loud. I’m terrible at it. I’m better at writing what I think. I get terribly tied into knots and there are plenty of much better thinkers out there who seem to be able to untangle the vagaries of philosophical thought much better than I can.

At any rate, I’ve read some of Bowman’s work before and he has moved on somewhat since these early days so I hadn’t made the connection. Oh, boy.

I’m back in the joy of discovery mode. (Now, how to weave this into my literature review… gah!)


2 thoughts on “Wayne Bowman, tacit knowing and the joy of discovery

  1. Hi Jess, I liked you article about tacit knowledge and your portafolio looks really interesting. Just yesterday I was struggleing with explaining to my peers at colleague how to follow some dance steps with certain music, but I couldn´t articulate it.
    Can you give me some advice on how to approach explaining to others how to listen to the music? I need help with my musicality in dance.
    All the best!

    1. Hi Grace,
      It depends on the music! I guess you want to listen firstly for the beat or pulse of the music – it’s what makes the music thrum. Then you want to listen for the melodic lines – the parts of music that give it life and poetic qualities. Dancing I understand to be a combination of moving in time and in sympathy with the musical idea, although I’ve seen plenty of choreographed dances that oppose the musical drama. Hope this helps!

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