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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 24: Developing compositional strategies


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Developing compositional strategies

The previous chapter reviewed the teaching of composition in terms of process: how to get started; what form of exchange to employ in supporting students; the potential role of pastiche and the adoption of existing models. Following from that, we will examine some specific features of students’ composition that can be elicited by a variety of strategies.

Graphic scores revisited

In Chapter 4, the idea was introduced of using letters of the alphabet to notate simple vocal compositions for groups of performers. At that point, the intention was twofold: to accustom students to the conventions of music notation that symbolise sounds on the page reading from left to right, whereby those in vertical alignment are performed simultaneously; and to elicit material that students could rehearse accurately themselves irrespective of previous understanding of conventional notation.

We can revisit this task in the light of what may have passed since this introductory engagement with it. What follows represents an open-ended sequence of variants of this strategy that crosses boundaries of notational practice and performance medium in offering collective experience of musical transformation.

Let’s imagine we still have in our possession – or can recreate – the a cappella graphic scores students produced in response to the task presented in Chapter 4. Each of them will have composed a piece for four to five voices employing graphics derived from letters of the alphabet and their...

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