Tests of musical ability and appreciation by Herbert Wing



This book is about the evolution and evaluation of musical tests, notably 26 devised by the author, who has selected seven for general use. In this new edition the short series is somewhat revised; the number of tests furnished with music examples is increased from none to three; there is some desultory defence of some largely unspecified criticism made in an unpublished American thesis of 1956; a half­-hearted attempt is made to refurbish the biblio­graphy; a questionnaire is omitted, and a table re-arranged.

     Now it is quite true that this monograph is about how to form or class the music test, rather than how to test the music class or form; so its analysis is more for psychologists than musicians. And no doubt the test measures up well to its declared criterion of close correspondence with music­-teachers' judgments (which may make the layman wonder why it is needed at all) and is thus a perfectly adequate and modestly useful adjunct to teaching practice.

    But there is another sense in which it tests com­prehension. Mine fails. Here (and after 20 years) is a University Press, offering (and for 25s) a bit of new material, carelessly proof-read, tacked on to an unchanged text in which Wagner is “modern”, and John Ireland among the avant garde. For Mr Wing, normal music (which is contrasted 'with atonal writing) is divided by cadences into phrases and sentences, with well-defined keys and modulations, and correct harmonic progressions. I think it must be said, with all respect to this serious and detailed study, that in so far as it relies for its validity on notions such as these it was already tolerably out­moded in 1948, and is now intolerably so. As they used to say on Army exercises -  “Haven't you heard? It's all been changed.”       


The Musical Times, Mar. 1969 (p. 271) © the estate of eric sams