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Every Child a Composer

Music Education in an Evolutionary Perspective

Nicholas Bannan

This book breaks new ground in drawing on evolutionary psychology in support of advocacy for music education, and the presentation of innovative musical pedagogy. The book adopts the perspective that musical experience is the birthright of all human beings through the decisive role it played in the evolution of our species, the traces of which we carry in our genes. The author draws on scientific developments in acoustics, neuroscience, linguistics, archaeology and anthropology to examine theories that have emerged powerfully during the last twenty years and which argue for the significance of the practice of music as foundational to human culture. This position is examined in parallel with research into how children learn musically, and the role that creative decision making plays in this. A series of strategies is presented that explores collective creativity which draws on vocalisation, the use of gesture, and instinctive responses to harmony to develop musical imagination.

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Chapter 4: Pedagogy for collective creativity: Introducing Harmony Signing


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Pedagogy for collective creativity: Introducing Harmony Signing

The principal innovation around which this book revolves is a strategy that arose out of a practical engagement with children’s creative enthusiasm, informed by speculation on Darwin’s proposal that language arose out of an existing human capacity for music. My own teaching career had brought me into contact with a variety of factors with which I had felt uncomfortable, and which have, in my response to them, shaped my practice. These have included, amongst others: the view among many music teachers that our field is not for all, and that some students are not worth the effort to teach; the assumption that music is best studied as a re-creative art, a belief perhaps determined by some teachers’ lack of interest in students having musical ideas of their own; the view that students do not enjoy singing, so that the best way to involve them in music is to work with instruments alone; or the impression that only technology has the capacity and attractiveness to motivate students to study music. My own view of the elements of transmission and renewal that active musical participation offers, fostered both by personal experience and studies in anthropology, has been that a new balance between tradition and innovation should be found to meet the needs of young people in the twenty-first century, all of whom are entitled to benefit from musical experience and the opportunity to learn to think...

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