A few years ago, I blogged about the importance of allowing students the freedom to engage in musical exploration and risk-free play to discover sound creation ideas and possibilities. This was my slogan I used at that time…
Creation first… theory second
It made my day to come across an article written by Adam Hart at the University of Salford discussing this very notion based on Flipping Bloom’s Taxonomy by Shelley Wright (2012). It proves that we all progress on a grand continuum of learning in our own way and in our own time. We build our teaching pedagogy on the shoulders of giants who have gone before us (12th century, attributed to Bernard of Chartres, but Isaac Newton in 1675 brought the English translation home to us: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”)
Hart outlines the challenges of the New National Curriculum of U.K. for the study of music (2014) which extols the importance of a broad, music education, especially experiencing musical creation but without the curriculum leadership. This sets up a familiar scenario amongst educators which provides vague or no guidance specific to compositional approaches they could use with their students.
This is not the first time I’ve read this jargon-laden curriculum quoted by Hart in his example,
“improvise and compose music for a range of purposes using the inter-related dimensions of music (DfE, 2013: 2).
This is what curriculum designers write who are not composers and creators of music. They are curriculum writers (generalists) first with little foresight to collaborate with composers of music, especially popular artists of the day and film score/media composers who reflect the current musical scene and, more importantly, the advancements in technology (particularly mobile technology).
Hart continues to highlight what is necessary to move students from a traditional, skill based approach to a exploratory and experiential learning process where the teacher and peers serve as guides from within the learning circle. The teacher becomes a “supporter, partner and guide” (Na Li, 2017) throughout this process as the creation journey looks different for everyone – we never actually arrive but continue to hone our skill of sound creation and expression to suit a variety of purposes.
I finish this post encouraging teachers to look at Blooms 21 and its implications. It is also celebrated as, ‘Backwards by Design’. It suggests to ‘unwrap’ the big present first, use a specific skill set to assemble the new toy, and to, through experience and experimentation, learn how to use it purposeful to our needs (play). As students take on music composition tasks (problem solving), together, we see what skills are needed and, in context, model the usefulness of the skills accentuating their value, e.g., I-IV-V-I chord progression, or ostinato pattern writing. Students keep the skills that serve their purpose in their tool kit of compositional techniques.
In his article, Towards an effective freeware resource for music composition in the primary classroom, Adam Hart introduces a number of free music software to help with music teachers or generalist teachers who are looking for free apps (software) that are built on a firm, pedagogical foundation that addresses music theory, history and composition.
My current dissertation centers around GarageBand for iOS or Mac, free on all new Apple devices which is a mammoth Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) sitting idle on a percentage of 1 billion active devices –including iPhones, iPads, Mac computers, Apple TVs, iPods, and Apple Watches (Apple, 2016). My dissertation focuses on the value of GarageBand for iOS (and Macs) in a variety of educational settings over the next two years based on my composition experiences with DAWs since the mid-1980s. Imagine the future of music creation if someone takes the time to show students, teachers, and administrators how to use GarageBand for iOS, an app possibly on your Apple device right now?