Literature ReviewNo. 104, Spring 2019

From Idea to Institution: The Development and Dissemination of the Orff-Schulwerk from Germany to the United States

This literature review focuses on the history of the Orff-Schulwerk (translated literally as “Orff-Schoolwork”), conceived by German composer Carl Orff as an improvisatory, natural approach to music and movement education. The history of the Orff-Schulwerk and its journey to the United States can be divided into three distinct phases: first, its origins in 1920s Munich; second, a return in the late 1940s via the Bavarian state radio as an approach for children; and its current iteration as an institutionalized methodology in the United States. Broadly stated, the purpose of this literature review is to synthesize primary and secondary sources in such a way that one can become familiarized with the gains and losses the Orff-Schulwerk experienced during each phase of its life, as well as an understanding of key issues surrounding its guiding philosophy and practice, and how these shift over time.