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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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Introduction and acknowledgements


This book sets out to explore from a fresh perspective the phenomenon of human musicality, and how this innate talent is transmitted from generation to generation. It addresses the educational implications of this evolutionary viewpoint for how and why we teach music, drawing on a new synthesis that has arisen in psychology, anthropology and archaeology. In particular, it presents a perspective on musical participation as the basis for life-long learning of benefit to human beings and their potential for active contribution to cultural renewal across the entire life-cycle.

Structurally, the book is divided into three parts, commencing with a thorough examination of the theoretical premises on which an innovative approach to music education can be founded. It proceeds to explore the application of this model in presenting practical music-making developed through Action Research with students aged seven to twenty in the classroom and rehearsal studio. Finally, an interweaving of teacher-led Action Research with further illustrations of practical, classroom-based responses presents an integrated model of creative music education informed by the agenda of evolutionary musicology.

Part I reviews the scientific research from which the approach reported in Parts II and III arose. Part II outlines the presentation of innovative pedagogy that builds on the principal of collective creativity in which the experience of musical procedures and ‘thinking in sound’ are founded on vocal exploration. Part III illustrates how the implications of these practices can be harnessed in relation to traditional school-based music-making, as well as...

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