In spite of centuries of experience and experiment, the practicalities and benefits of general education (schooling) remain uncertain. Can we sustain the spread of subjects that now make up the curriculum? In particular, can we justify time spent on music, which to many would appear to be a specialised study for the talented? The evidence of past practice suggests that the content of classroom music teaching has not done much to help the majority of people to understand music. Yet making music is manifestly an important feature of our humanity. Are there principles at work deep in the nature of music which explain this, and can those features be exploited as the basis of a musical education which will have value for everyone?