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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 25: ‘What if?’ analysis: Creative engagement with existing music


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‘What if?’ analysis: Creative engagement with existing music

An initial impression of the approach to analysis and creative response that I term ‘what if?’ was presented towards the end of the previous chapter: employing fake variants of his music in contrast with authentic passages, we considered how what Beethoven might have written can act as a spur to our own creativity. This chapter examines this principle in further detail, from the perspective of both the student composer and the performer.

Analysis of existing repertoire has always played a part in the development of style. In the early Renaissance, composers paid tribute to their deceased colleagues by writing funerary anthems (‘tombeaux’) that referred to their output (a principle re-captured over the centuries in Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin). Bach taught himself the modulatory and episodic features of the new Italian style by turning Vivaldi violin concertos into virtuoso organ solos. Hans Keller’s suggestion that the most appropriate response to a piece of music is the creation of another piece of music has found expression in the homage, acknowledgement and inspiration that have led composers to celebrate the works of others in creative dialogue over time and place: Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations; a varied collection of Liszt’s transcriptions of works by Beethoven, Schubert, Bellini and Wagner; Brahms’s Variations on the St Anthony Chorale, the original by Haydn; Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphoses of themes by Carl Maria von Weber; Tippett’s Fantasia Concertante...

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