Tag Archives: Composing

Supporting Music in Schools

Written by Ian Axtell, Subject Leader for Music Education, Secondary Partnership Coordinator.

Ian was recently asked by Teachingmusic.org to post a guest editorial article on their website. Here are some highlights from the article. To read the full article please click here

“During a recent school experience review a group of beginning music teachers shared their concerns about the assessment regimes that are now being imposed on some secondary music departments. The hope was that an absence of levels would provide the potential for more freedom, creating opportunities for school based music teachers to assess in ways that are appropriate for their pupils in a range of different school contexts. However, this freedom is being denied and instead music teachers in some schools are now being asked to comply with assessment regimes that focus on generic systems linked to core subjects…In the worst cases, music teachers in schools are being de-professionalised, their voices and opinions ignored in an environment that emphasises a deficit model of teacher performance. This deficit model seeks to identify shortcomings and demands compliance based on a narrow perspective of teaching and learning.”

Screen shot 2015-01-28 at 23.15.02“One type of activity for every child is prioritised, usually performing, in the context of a particular musical tradition, often a tradition in which we feel most comfortable. The problem with this reductionist approach is that we are in danger of forgetting what children can bring to their own music education. We also restrict children’s musical thinking so that they only make music in particular ways. Opening up the curriculum and creating the potential for musical thinking that includes more than just procedural knowledge or knowledge of how to play has certainly created some of the most rewarding moments in my teaching career. There is something particularly magical when you can create the potential for learning rather than just tell pupils what to do. This happens most powerfully when pupils are provided with opportunities to compose:

“Composing is part of the ‘real stuff’ in music”
(Mills, 2005: 45).

“I want to encourage pupils to think in other ways, particularly by analysing and evaluating what they hear and then make choices and bring ideas together by being creative. Performing then becomes part of a broader composing process where pupils are engaging with what Benjamin Bloom (1956) would identify as the higher levels of the cognitive domain.”

To read the full article please visit Teachingmusic.org

References:

Bloom, B. S. (1956) Taxonomy of educational Objectives: Handbook 1: Cognitive Domain, New York: David McKay.

Mills, J. (2005) Music in the School, Oxford: Oxford University Press

6 Links Between Research and Composing

Written by Kirsty Devaney, PhD student, School of Educationme with ensemble

Some interesting discussions were initiated today after a session about academic writing, lead by Alex Wade. I am fairly new to the word of research but I feel I am starting to fit into this ‘new world’ or ‘field’. For 5 years I trained as a composer at Birmingham Conservatoire – I wrote more music than I did words! I have had to transition from thinking in term of music, to thinking in words, sentences and paragraphs. I had experience of academic writing during my undergraduate studies but my PhD felt like a completely different way of thinking and viewing the world. How would my years of experience as a composer help me get through my 80,000-word thesis?

Upon doing my PhD for over 1 year, I have discovered that there are a lot more similarities between research and composing than I first thought.

  1.  We all have confidence issues

The feeling of ‘not being good enough’ impacts both academics and creatives at various stages in their career. I wrote an article titled ‘Feeling Like a Fraud’ discussing how our preconceptions can increase the pressures we place upon ourselves and how it can impact our own confidence and productivity: https://thesamplerblog.wordpress.com/2015/04/21/kirsty-devaney-on-feeling-like-a-fraud/

  1. We have to receive negative feedback

Whether you are having a piece of music performed in front of an audience, or sending your article off for peer review, it can be hard to receive negative feedback. We are placing ourselves in a vulnerable position and it can be hard to take criticism on something personal to you. Having five years of 1-2-1 tuition in composing has definitely helped me during my PhD supervision sessions. It is about being able to stay positive and learning how to take advice and feedback.

  1. It is personal 

Whether we meant to or not, our research and writing reflects what is happening in our lives and this is the case for composing too. It may not be conscious decisions but what we create does reflect what is important to us at that moment in our lives. Often we only realise this when looking back on older work and reflecting.

for wards deskIMG_0388

  1. We spend hours on the tiny details

We have to have an obsessive quality to spend hours on what may seem very insignificant to other people but sometimes just changing a word in a paragraph or changing a note in the music can make all the difference.

  1. How we view the world changes

When you are completely involved in something it starts to affect the way you think and perceive the world. When I started composing full-time I started to observe the world in a different way: I would ask myself ‘can I turn that into a composition?’ and I would keep a diary of all my composing thoughts. Now that I have been doing research my question is: ‘how could I research that?’ My diary now has a combination of research questions and compositional ideas.

6.   We need space for individual work but we benefit collaboration 

Time alone can help to solidify our own thinking but collaboration can help develop our thoughts and allow a space to discuss ideas with broaden our thinking. Collaboration as a composer can take many forms such as working across disciplines and working closely with your musicians. Collaboration in research can benefit from cross disciplinary work, discussions with peers and working with your research participants in methodologies such as action research.

Going into my second year of research I am starting to realise how my compositional training can enrich my research and aid the writing of my PhD. Research and writing are both creative processes and they involve discipline, communication, dedication and putting yourself in a position open to criticism.

 

Exchanging Notes

Written by Dr. Victoria Kinsella, Research fellow in education.

In April 2014, the National Foundation for Youth Music announced grants to support 10 Exchanging Notes projects across England. Since September, each project (a partnership between a school and specialist music provider) has been working with young people at risk of low attainment, disengagement or educational exclusion to see how participation in regular music-making activities can enable achievement of musical, educational and wider outcomes. The 10 projects comprise a wide range of educational contexts, all developing innovative approaches and working with a variety of different musical approaches and styles. This includes; music technology, learning an instrument, singing, group percussion, song-writing, music mentoring, production, performance and musical communication.

Screen shot 2015-01-28 at 23.15.15

I am very excited to be working as part of a team of researchers at Birmingham City University on this longitudinal four year action research evaluation. It is hoped that the results of this project may have great significance to the music education sector to stimulate fresh thinking and support the aspirations set out in the National Plan for Music Education.

Alongside regular visits to the settings, we have already had two national meetings hosted at the University. These meetings have provided a great opportunity to share effective practice, discuss challenges, disseminate early findings and build an exchanging notes community. I look forward to observing the second term of music activities and keeping you updated on its progress

B8hCUZ_IMAAm4mU
National Meeting at Birmingham City University 2015

Youth_Music-AC_Black_CMYK_300dpi