An examination of 7th-grade composers' strategies and processes and the compositions they created using music technology in a constructionist-oriented learning environment
Dziekonski, Steven P.
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The purpose of this study was to examine 7th-grade composers’ strategies, processes, and perceptions, and the compositions they created using music technology in a constructionist-oriented learning environment. This embedded multiple case study examined the composition activities of eight 7th-grade students with varied musical backgrounds. During the 10-week data collection period, participants composed music using Hyperscore software underpinned by a constructionist-oriented theoretical framework. Hyperscore facilitates intuitive music composition and enables a composer to notate music with graphic notation without the need for understanding conventional music notation. I found that novice composers with relatively little to no formal musical training or experience creating original music could produce compositions emulating the strategies of professional composers. I also concluded that participants relied on inspiration as do professional composers and were able to intuitively and successfully create compositions including multiple sonic elements with minimal guidance and instruction. Participants exhibited evidence of thinking in and about sound. Findings also alerted future music educators and researchers to the potential of graphic notation software such as Hyperscore to undermine thinking in sound because of its unique sketch-oriented design that might emphasize symbol (i.e., drawing) before sound. I found that technology effectively scaffolded two participants’ processes. Contrastingly, in two cases and possibly more, results showed that participants might have benefited from more situated and responsive scaffolding by the instructor. My study also supported previous researchers’ findings that a balance between freedoms and constraints is essential to a novice composer’s success. Participants expressed general skepticism of themselves as bona fide composers, a desire or need for more time to develop their compositions, and value of agency, originality, and prior experience. Participants conveyed that individual and collaborative composition processes each had advantages and disadvantages; however, overall, they preferred collaboration over individual work. Participants attempted to reconcile their knowledge of traditional notation with graphic notation and drew from prior instrumental experience, familiar music, and their previous compositions to develop their pieces. I also discussed the extent to which and how particular Papertian, Piagetian, and Vygotskian theoretical constructs revealed themselves in my study.
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