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Subject: Music and Art
The trivium in classical education contains the first three of the liberal arts (Latin: artes liberales, the field of study worthy of a free person rather than a slave). While the trivium contains a progression of learning that corresponds with natural development, the other liberal arts are categories of learning that build on the trivium. These are called the quadrivium. Today, we would think of them as the sciences that complement the humanities.
The earliest quadrivium includes arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and yes, music too. It may come as a surprise, since music is often regarded as a “bonus” subject in today’s schools, only to be offered when resources allow. It’s even made secondary to organized athletics! But as an academic study, music brings together many other aspects of learning in a practical and creative exercise. A good understanding of music involves more than an appreciation for pitch and a sense of rhythm. Music may be described mathematically, and relates to principles of physics. Meanwhile, it also involves the whole musician, who must learn to use the body and mind in a coordinated and expressive way. Expressions of music on the page or in performance are languages of their own that human beings are blessed to use, and they strengthen the function of the mind. Making music together with others adds a dimension of cooperation, while the continuing development of musical skill requires and inspires the discipline of practice.
The visual arts have many of the same advantages as music. They can use a variety of media, making the study of art accessible to even small schools like Columbia. Students are taught not only how to express themselves creatively, but to do so in the structure of knowledge they learn in all of the other subjects. As with music, there is a rich history of artistic works in the western world that serve as examples and inspiration for the growth of our students.