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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 20: Harmony Signing in four (or more) parts


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Harmony Signing in four (or more) parts

The approach we have taken so far in exploring the potential of Harmony Signing has largely remained one in which three independent parts cover the voice-leading properties of the chords introduced. From time to time, the addition of 7ths and 9ths has required the music to divide into four or five parts. Why have we not dealt earlier with the construction of bass lines that underpin harmonic movement, and that complete the four-part texture that is conventional in a variety of choral and instrumental genres, from Bach chorale to string quartet or Barbershop?

The reasons for this delay in dealing with the function of the bass are partly developmental, and partly pragmatic. Harmony Signing first developed as a procedure for improvising accompaniments and variations devised for the needs of children aged seven to eleven. Boys and girls in the group sang, with relatively limited range, employing the treble voices that nature endows. Few of this group played instruments, and if they did it was likely to be the recorder, flute, clarinet or trumpet. The world of children’s music is, with some exceptions such as young ’cellists, a treble world: the bass is, or appears to be, the province of adults.

What I aimed to achieve with these original collaborators, once I recognised the potential of the ideas we first explored together, was a means of participating in harmony that was...

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