Fifth-grade instrumentalists' descriptions of music

UNCW Author/Contributor (non-UNCW co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Daniel C. Johnson, Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW )
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Abstract: The purpose of this study was to investigate how elementary-aged students with instrumental experience listen to unfamiliar music. My two research questions were: how do elementary instrumentalists categorize unfamiliar music? and, how much attention do students give discrete musical elements (e.g. tempo, instrumentation, and dynamics) as compared to global musical characteristics (e.g. style. genre, and affect) when describing music? The participants were fifth-grade students who had played in the school band or orchestra for at least one year. After listening to fifteen short musical examples, the participants wrote descriptions of the music, sorted the examples into groups, and explained their sorting strategies. Four categories of descriptors emerged: Elemental Music Descriptors, Extramusical Associative Descriptors, Affective Descriptors, and Other Descriptors. The participants used elemental musical terms most often, yet also included a substantial number of extramusical associations and affective descriptors. The extramusical associations were often based on personal experiences particular to each participant and encompassed four recurring sub-themes common to many of the participants. Implications of this study for future research include evaluating how students actually listen to music, using their own words, to provide a more complete understanding of their musical experiences. Instead of teaching music analytically and piecemeal, music educators could honor all the categories of responses children have to music. Music listening instruction could facilitate more meaningful listening experiences in the classroom by adapting music instruction to involve associative and affective responses along with elemental musical descriptors. Instead of exercises in repeating memorized musical terms, music listening experiences may be investigated as opportunities for creative and critical thought.

Additional Information

Johnson, D. C. (2003). Fifth-grade instrumentalists' description of music. Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, (158), 81-95.
Language: English
Date: 2003
Music listening, Instrumental students, Musical analysis, Music appreciation--Juvenile,
Musical analysis
Music appreciation--Study and teaching
Music appreciation--Juvenile

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