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From Necker Cubes to Polyrhythms: Fostering a Phenomenological Attitude in Music Education

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Phenomenology is explored as a way of helping students and educators open up to music as a creative and transformative experience. I begin by introducing a simple exercise in experimental phenomenology involving multi-stable visual phenomena that can be explored without the use of complex terminology. Here, I discuss how the ‘phenomenological attitude’ may foster a deeper appreciation of the structure consciousness, as well as the central role the body plays in how we experience and form understandings the worlds we inhabit. I then explore how the phenomenological attitude may serve as a starting point for students and teachers as they begin to reflect on their involvement with music as co-investigators. Here I draw on my teaching practice as a percussion and drum kit instructor, with a special focus on multi-stable musical phenomena. To conclude, I briefly consider how the phenomenological approach might be developed beyond the practice room to examine music’s relationship to the experience of culture, imagination and ‘self’.
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... I suggest that if we can use the 4Es to describe the fundamentally improvisatory nature of living minds, we can also use characteristics of the 4E model to guide an approach to assessment and praxis that applies the concept of improvisation-as-disposition. While such forms of assessment need not exclude the technical or skills-based aspects of music making, they will necessarily be more concerned with reflecting and fostering the kinds of creative potentials and collaborative environments described above (Sawyer, 2007;van der Schyff et al., 2016). This will involve encouraging students be attentive to and reflect on how relationships form and develop with the people (ensemble mates), things (instruments) and places that constitute their reality; how their "selves" extend into the environment and play a role in constituting the lives of others; and how their sense of musical identity is continuously transformed though the activities of their peers. ...
... 11 Central to such reflective processes will be developing in-the-moment assessments of shifting bodily-instrument-environment relationships, and a growing awareness of the kinds of cross-modal, emotional-affective, self-regulatory and "flow" experiences that characterize and motivate the improvising process (Csikszentmihalyi & Rich, 1997;Wopereis et al. 2013;Johnson, 2007;McPherson et al., 2014). Here, the development of a "phenomenological attitude" will also be important (see Schiavio, this volume;van der Schyff, 2016). Indeed, as a number of authors have demonstrated, phenomenology offers a coherent means of analysing and discussing first-person experience and is thus highly useful in musical contexts (Clifton, 1983;Ferrera, 1984Ferrera, , 1991Ihde, 1974;Krueger, 2011;Roholt, 2014;Sudnow, 1978). ...
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Creativity studies have traditionally tended to focus on the evaluation of products generated by creative people, which are categorized in various ways according to their reception and impact on society. This orientation has been advanced in various ways by including factors such as process, personality, and cultural pressures. While these approaches have produced many important insights, the types of creativity involved in music performance involve additional aspects. Musical performance necessarily entails developing forms of bodily skill that play out in real-time interactive contexts. These contexts involve other people, musical instruments and technologies, acoustic spaces, and various socio-cultural factors. Accordingly, some scholars have recently posited relational, environmentally distributed, and cooperative models that better capture the complex nature of musical creativity in action. In this chapter, we review some key approaches to creative cognition, with a special focus on understanding creativity as it unfolds in the real-time dynamics of musical performance. In doing so, we introduce a number of concepts associated with recent work in cognitive science that may help to capture the adaptive interplay of body and environment in the co-enactment of musical events.
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Music education at the college level conventionally requires studies in music theory. Given the accelerating shifts in modes of music production and consumption, diversification of teaching and learning technologies, and an increasingly globalized musical landscape, the value of this core study in its present form has been called into question. This dissertation contemplates the potential of theory study in tertiary music education through surveying contemporary curricular reform trajectories, critically examining dualist commitments that underlie theory’s pedagogical traditions, and exploring the interdisciplinary lens of embodiment as a paradigm for vitalizing teaching and learning. The result is both a defense of music theory study, in principal, and a detailed proposal for its restoration and renewal. This study adopts an integrative approach toward the current uncertainty in theory teaching, constructing a linear argument across multiple disciplines –– including music theory, sociology, education studies, philosophy of mind, and embodied cognition –– and utilizing several research methods –– including quantitative and qualitative surveys, ethnographic/contextual interviews, historiographical analysis, and informal experimentation in classroom contexts. It first investigates the perspectives of undergraduate music students and the forces driving curricular reform at the institutional level. Placing these trajectories within a larger sociohistorical context, a historicist reading of three music theoretical traditions –– the speculative, regulative, and analytic –– is interpolated with a sociology of embodiment and with embodied cognition, illuminating an interdisciplinary framework for conceptualizing theory pedagogy in terms of agency and body-world relations. Butch Morris’ Conduction® method –– adapted specifically for the theory classroom –– is offered as a proof-of-concept application of the embodied approach, as defined. Students, in this paradigm, are not merely theory learners, but en-actively participate in the production of theory. The proposed pedagogical framework is not a fixed curriculum or methodology, but rather an indeterminate methodological field through which educators, institutions, and curriculum reformers might evaluate and reimagine the potential of theory study. In this way, this dissertation intends to be a resource for all who are invested in twenty-first century music education.
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The phenomenon of creativity has received a growing amount of attention from scholars working across a range of disciplines. While this research has produced many important insights, it has also traditionally tended to explore creativity in terms of the reception of products or outcomes, conceiving of it as a cognitive process that is limited to the individual domain of the creative agent. More recently, however, researchers have begun to develop perspectives on creativity that highlight the patterns of adaptive embodied interaction that occur between multiple agents, as well as the broader socio-material milieu they are situated in. This has promoted new understandings of creativity, which is now often considered as a distributed phenomenon. Because music involves such a wide range of socio-cultural, bodily, technological, and temporal dimensions it is increasingly taken as a paradigmatic example for researchers who wish to explore creativity from this more relational perspective. In this article, we aim to contribute to this project by discussing musical creativity in light of recent developments in embodied cognitive science. More specifically, we will attempt to frame an approach to musical creativity based in an 4E (embodied, embedded, enactive, and extended) understanding of cognition. We suggest that this approach may help us better understand creativity in terms of how interacting individuals and social groups bring forth worlds of meaning through shared, embodied processes of dynamic interactivity. We also explore how dynamical systems theory (DST) may offer useful tools for research and theory that align closely with the 4E perspective. To conclude, we summarize our discussion and suggest possibilities for future research.
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In this paper, we take a critical look at the notion of musical qualia. Although different conceptions of qualia are often used by theorists to describe musical experience, there is little consensus as to just what this entails. Broadly speaking, some argue that qualia are best understood as pregiven attributes of the musical environment, whereas others insist that they are products of information processing confined within the boundaries of the skull. We critically examine these positions and consider how they align with recent work in cognitive science. Although our main goal is to contribute to a richer understanding of what musical experience entails, we present arguments that go beyond the sole domain of music, involving critical neuroscience, Gestalt psychology, and philosophy of mind. Indeed, because music spans such a wide range of human activity, it offers a rich experiential context where theories of cognition may be put to the test. With this in mind, we then explore an alternative embodied perspective that looks beyond dichotomous inner–outer schemas and information-processing frameworks. As we go, we suggest that embodied approaches to musical experience may offer more inclusive and holistic models that better reflect how people actually engage with and talk about music in their day-to-day lives. To conclude, we discuss the relevance of the embodied perspective for the notion of qualia and what such insights might mean for musical research and practice.
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In this chapter I explore a possible alternative to traditional " paper-and-pencil " assessment practices in music classes. I argue that an approach based on phenomenological philosophy, and inspired by recent developments in cognitive science, may shed new light on learning, and help reconsider grading systems accordingly. After individuating the core issue in an unresolved tension between subjective-objective methodologies relevant to certain learning contexts, I propose a possible remedy by appealing to three principles central to so-called " embodied " approaches to cognition. As I discuss, such principles may help us reframe cognitive phenomena (learning described as a measurable event based on " information-processing ") in terms of cognitive ecosystems (learning understood as a negotiating and transformative activity co-determined by diverse embodied and ecological factors connected in recurrent fashion). Accommodating this shift implies transforming assessment practices into more open and flexible systems that take seriously the challenge of cooperative learning and phenomenological reflections.
Book
This classic book, first published in 1991, was one of the first to propose the “embodied cognition” approach in cognitive science. It pioneered the connections between phenomenology and science and between Buddhist practices and science-claims that have since become highly influential. Through this cross-fertilization of disparate fields of study, The Embodied Mind introduced a new form of cognitive science called “enaction," in which both the environment and first person experience are aspects of embodiment. However, enactive embodiment is not the grasping of an independent, outside world by a brain, a mind, or a self; rather it is the bringing forth of an interdependent world in and through embodied action. Although enacted cognition lacks an absolute foundation, the book shows how that does not lead to either experiential or philosophical nihilism. Above all, the book’s arguments were powered by the conviction that the sciences of mind must encompass lived human experience and the possibilities for transformation inherent in human experience. This revised edition includes substantive introductions by Evan Thompson and Eleanor Rosch that clarify central arguments of the work and discuss and evaluate subsequent research that has expanded on the themes of the book, including the renewed theoretical and practical interest in Buddhism and mindfulness. A preface by Jon Kabat-Zinn, the originator of the mindfulness-based stress reduction program, contextualizes the book and describes its influence on his life and work. © 1991, 2016 Massachusetts Institute of Technology. All rights reserved.
Book
Philosophers have warned of the perils of a life spent without reflection, but what constitutes reflective inquiry—and why it’s necessary in our lives—can be an elusive concept. Synthesizing ideas from minds as diverse as John Dewey and Paulo Freire, theHandbook of Reflection and Reflective Inquiry presents reflective thought in its most vital aspects, not as a fanciful or nostalgic exercise, but as a powerful means of seeing familiar events anew, encouraging critical thinking and crucial insight, teaching and learning. In its opening pages, two seasoned educators, Maxine Green and Lee Shulman, discuss reflective inquiry as a form of active attention (Thoreau’s "wide-awakeness"), an act of consciousness, and a process by which people can understand themselves, their work (particularly in the form of life projects), and others. Building on this foundation, the Handbook of Reflection and Reflective Inquiry analyzes through the work of 40 internationally oriented authors: • Definitional issues concerning reflection, what it is and is not • Worldwide social and moral conditions contributing to the growing interest in reflective inquiry in professional education • Reflection as promoted across professional educational domains, including K-12 education, teacher education, occupational therapy, and the law, among others • Methods of facilitating and scaffolding reflective engagement • Current pedagogical and research practices in reflection • Approaches to assessing reflective inquiry Educators across the professions as well as adult educators, counselors and psychologists, and curriculum developers concerned with adult learning will find the Handbook of Reflection and Reflective Inquiry an invaluable teaching tool for challenging times.
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This volume offers key insights into the crisis of legitimization that music as a subject of arts education seems to be in. Music as an educational subject is under intense pressure, both economically, due to the reduction of education budgets, as well as due to a loss of status with policy makers. The contributions in this book illuminate Martin Heidegger’s thinking as a highly cogent theoretical framework for understanding the nature and depth of this crisis. The contributors explore from various angles the relationship between the pressure on music education and the foundations of our technical and rationalized modern society, and lead the way on the indispensable first steps towards reconnecting the cultural practices of education with music and its valuable contributions to personal development.
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Popular music is far more than just songs we listen to; its meanings are also in album covers, lyrics, subcultures, voices and video soundscapes. Like language these elements can be used to communicate complex cultural ideas, values, concepts and identities. Analysing Popular Music is a lively look at the semiotic resources found in the sounds, visuals and words that comprise the ‘code book’ of popular music. It explains exactly how popular music comes to mean so much. Packed with examples, exercises and a glossary, this book provides the reader with the knowledge and skills they need to carry out their own analyses of songs, soundtracks, lyrics and album covers. Written for students with no prior musical knowledge, Analysing Popular Music is the perfect toolkit for students in sociology, media and communication studies to analyze, understand, and celebrate, popular music.