SO! today is bit different of what I usually do.
Recently we had our CME (Composition in Music Education) assignment due in our music education course.
What we had to do for our assignment is that we had to create a composition task where we layout the task in ‘baby steps’ for our students, rather than giving them the ‘task’ – go compose. This was a very big topic which we discussed in the lecture.
Why do students feel scared with the name ‘composition’? even if we are trained to do it from our earlier school life? What does it sound just so ‘big’?
I had to go and look for some studies on use of technology in composition task. The book Music Education and Technology (e): Education and Digital Technology by P. Burnard and J. Finney discusses how technology is introduced in class and some strategies to the change. In the second chapter, they discuss about that nowadays, students are so much more familiar with band instruments rather than the western instruments. Hence, teenagers are more engaged in working on softwares where they can play around with drum, guitar etc. If we, as a teacher, as students to ‘improvise’ on the western instrument/ compose a melody, students will struggle, whereas, if we ask students to go and play around on the drum/ percussion/ guitar, they are happy to explore various sounds and produce sounds.
So, with my baby step composition task, I’ve chose the example music which explores the western musical ideas but they incorporate those with the idea of swing. Hence, students will be still using their knowledge of what they’ve learnt (my task is targeted to stage 6) but incorporating it with something they are more familiar to/ find it more interesting. And with this music, I thought that I will be able to challenge and make it enjoyable for both sides; students grown up, learning the traditional western music and students grown up, learning the popular music.
Another reading I did was the MUSIC NOTATION SOFTWARE: SOME OBSERVATIONS ON ITS EFFECTS ON COMPOSER CREATIVITY by John Peterson and Emery Schubert.
To be honest, I did see where they were coming from, but I did not really relate to their research. They said that people nowadays use the notation software for the ‘playback’ feature, so that they can hear what they’ve compose straight after they put it into the program. Peterson and Schubert commented that this give the lack in creativity and it does not save time then hand writing the composition.
Hence, they did the test with 8 different composers in thirty – fifties. They gave and certain time to arrange the music. The result they got was that when the person is on the notation software, they spend more time in exploring the features of the software itself, rather than using that time to expand their creativity.
From my perspective, I think it is true for people to have some struggles with the notation devices, where they’ve spent most of their life hand-writing the composition. However, is this going to be same to the teenagers as well? where the technology is their second life? And from my personal perspective, I don’t think spending time in exploring the software is the waste of time. It is time for them to be familiar with something which they have never seen/ heard before and fining out ways to use them in composition is valuable in my point of view.
However, I took some advices from this research and laid out my composition task so that students have chance to think and extend their creativity by writing it out in their workbook/ or thinking about them in their head, rather than asking them to do something straight on to the notation software. So in the iBook I’ve added table in each chapter for them to visually see their thoughts and physically filling in the table with their ideas. Then, I gave them the task where they then had to go on to the notation software such as Sibelius or Soundtrap to have a go in hearing what they’ve created.
If you have time, go and have a read in these book/article and please share some thoughts about them! I am keen to hear other’s thoughts.
Burnard, P. and J. Finney (2010). Education with Digital Technology. London, Continuum.
Peterson, J., & Schubert, E. (2007). Music notation software: some obsevations on its effects on composer creativity. Paper presented at the The inaugural International Conference on Music Communication Science, Sydney, Australia.