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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 21: Creative Harmony Signing in group composition and improvisation


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Creative Harmony Signing in group composition and improvisation

The main aim of Harmony Signing is to prepare the way for composition and improvisation by students: to provide sufficient variety of choice and material to permit them to develop preferences, and to identify with the ingredients that they can introduce into their own music; and to provide varied contexts in which to gain directing experience – in duets with a partner; in small vocal or instrumental groups, and with a variety of media. This chapter opens up further avenues for generating new music that can arise from trying out ideas collectively.

One possibility is to employ Harmony Signing to establish an ostinato or repeating progression, and use this as the basis for improvisation, or for the addition of signed melodic material. Once students have begun to transfer ideas to instruments, and to work in smaller one-to-a-part ensembles of four to five, this becomes a particularly effective means of exploring musical ideas prior to notating them. Unpitched percussion instruments can also be given a prominent role, as is case in so much of the world’s music.

An example of a piece that could be presented as a classroom arrangement employing this technique is the theme by Monty Norman from the James Bond films. The note Soh is ‘captured’ in advance so that the voice it initiates can move freely against the rest of the opening triad:

This kind...

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