Composition and Digital Tools in Music Education

In recent years, perspectives on creativity and learning in interval-based (pop) and sound-based music education have been respectively developed through what are mainly qualitative, smaller scale empirical studies. Creativity research on digital composition tools in schools, however, has overwhelmingly focused on the widespread use of notation and sequencer software (e.g., GarageBand, ]am2jam, ejay), which entails organising pre-made instrumental samples into sound file representations typical for genres of pop music. Empirical studies of sound processing software (e.g., SoundHack, SoundEffects, Compose with Sound, DSP,' ProTools) to compose and think in sound or sound-based music are less common. Across types of digital tools and music domains, areas of music education research that are relevant to our topic include studies of implementation and use of music technologies (Brown, 2007b; Dobson & Littleton, 2016; Gall & Breeze, 2008; Hewitt, 2009; Savage, 2007; Vratulis & Morton, 2011), learning and creative processes (Dillon, 2004; Gall & Breeze, 2005; Hewitt, 2009; Nikolaidou, 2012; Rudi & Pierroux, 2010; Wolf, 2013), and teaching and assessment approaches (Webster, 2007; Wise et al., 2011). Research on creativity in music performance and composition more generally is not discussed, as this topic is outside the scope of this study.

Implementation and Use of Music Technologies

In a study of the use and implementation of information and communication technology (ICT) in music education in schools in the UK, Savage (2007) found that students experienced pride, enthusiasm, and increased motivation when they created music and that they took responsibility for their own creative and learning processes. In the same study, in which 18 schools participated, Savage also cautioned that schools may develop too much of a focus on the technology used in teaching, pointing out that practical and technical challenges might require too much concentration and possibly result in less interaction between students. Savage concluded that schools would benefit from a more open acceptance of the potential of technology in music instruction and that it was easier for students to compose music using technology than without. Other studies in North America have similarly found that ICT increased engagement in music education and that students were inclined to work harder in music technology classes than in other classes (Webster, 2007; Cooper, 2009). Such studies on implementation and use support a general consensus in the literature that digital tools add value to music education.

Learning and Creative Processes

In recent decades, studies of creativity and learning have been increasingly framed by constructivist (Way & Webb, 2007) and sociocultural perspectives (Sawyer, 2012), which emphasise the mediational role of contextual resources in processes of creativity and learning (Rudi & Pier- roux, 2010). Such resources may include digital tools and representations but also interactions with teachers, peers, and the learning organisation of group collaboration in classrooms. Applying such a framework, Dillon’s (2004) mixed methods study analysed dialogue and collaboration among young people composing music using ejay in formal and informal learning settings. The focus of the study was to investigate how creative collaboration processes in composing interval-based music influenced students’ meaning-making and fostered shared understanding. Dillon concluded that the software, participants’ musical skills, and the learning organisation mediated collaborative interactions that align with generally accepted definitions of creativity in music, that is, involving both divergent and convergent thinking that develop in stages over time and resulting in a musical product that is new for the creator. Studies by Brown (2007a) and Gall and Breeze (2005) similarly found that the software Jam2jam and Ejay supported younger students in collaborating and externalising ideas and stimulated action and reflection. Studies have also documented creative and learning processes in sound-based music education. In a study by Falthin (2014), two upper-secondary students were first introduced to electroacoustic music and then presented with the highly structured task of synthesising spectra and composing with the results. One of Falthin’s findings, confirmed by other studies (Holland, 2015; Wolf, 2013), was that students’ concept development was as strongly linked to listening and music appreciation tasks as it was to composition tasks in sound-based music.

 
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