Within this research assignment I wish to investigate whether it is possible to develop a curriculum for musical composition using a combination of approaches to content and pedagogy. Whilst much has been written about the prevailing virtues of compositional practice upon a child’s development, relatively little has been written upon the actual implementation of composition in practice.
As we shall see, the gulf between approaches to composition may have led to confusion and a tendency towards incorporating a restrictive framework for its teaching, and ultimately a wide disparity in approaches to assessment.
From my previous research, I have encountered various ideas and practices in delivering composition lessons in music:
Clearly children cannot ‘create’ or ‘compose’ out of nothing. They need plenty of background ideas and suggestions; the teacher has a central role [in]providing pupils with guidance and direction. (Plummeridge, 1991: p52)
The above quote suggests a need to provide a clear framework when designing composition practices in the classroom. Savage suggests that too firm a framework only serves to stifle creativity:
…too often pupils’ latent interest is suffocated by on over-prescription of content and formalisation of ideas. (SAVAGE, informal approaches online from his blog sort)
I have chosen to design and deliver a composition scheme of work, which allows the pupils to tell their own story and set out their own creative path, which for the purposes of this assignment will be called the Inspiration model. However I am conscious that this model may not be suited to all pupils, so will design this scheme to swiftly identify these pupils and provide a prescribed song-writing brief to reflect this. This model will be called the Commission model. These two approaches will be designed to run concurrently. This will be known as the ‘Mixed Economy approach’, as usefully described in NAME. (NAME, 2000:p24)
The reasons for choosing a song-writing scheme are two fold. Firstly it can be safe to assume that the popular music is at the forefront of experience in music, and as Savage states ‘…popular songs may be a key link in engaging musical interests and imaginations.’ (SAVAGE, informal approaches online from his blog sort)
Secondly, on a personal level and as a song-writer myself, I will plan to be active as a songwriter in front of the pupils. I can only see the benefits to their progress from me being the active role model in the classroom. Lucy Greens research indicates that pupils rarely get to see teachers acting as anything more than accompanist or playing and performing in the various school extra curricular activities (Green, 2008: p132), but as NAME suggests (NAME, 2000):
A teacher needs to a practical musician in the classroom to demonstrate and enhance pupils’ work, to be prepared to be a composer with pupils, take risks and to give them something to aspire to. (NAME, 2000: p38)
Creativity in the Music Curriculum
In my experience the act of creating music is to simultaneously to perform, listen and refine, perform, listen and refine along a continuum of creative practice until a finished article is announced. Janet Mills states, ‘performers are not just automatons concerned exclusively with accuracy, their interpretation of a composition reflects their personal style’ (Mills 199 sort out page year etc..pg)
Composing music is regarded as fundamental to the integration of practice, as summarized by the National Curriculum (NC) key processes, the most relevant of which for me in a composition curriculum are:
1. developing knowledge, skills and understanding the integration of performing, composing and listening.
1.4 using existing musical knowledge, skills and understanding for new purposes and in new contexts...