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JERUSALEM ACADEMY OF MUSIC AND DANCE

Music Composition of 6-9 year-old Children, a Literature Survey


Recent Research in Early Childhood Music Education: Final Project
Submitted to Mrs. Sara Zur Yasmin-Tal Porat 23.7.2011

Recent research in the field of music composition of young children suggests that between the ages 6-9 a major shift happens, and as they go through developmental changes the children, on their own, find new ways to express themselves musically by creating original music. In this Paper I shall try to describe the inner (mental) and outer (technical) process of composition experienced by the children through a survey of several leading studies, and according to them suggests ways for teachers to nurture this ability that nests within their young students.

Contents
Background ............................................................................................................................ 3 1. What do children think? ................................................................................................. 5 1.1 1.2 1.3 2. 3. Enculturation and representation of music: Wilson & Wales ................................... 5 Audiation and music composition: J. Kratus ............................................................ 7 Expressiveness in composition: Swanswick & Tillman .............................................. 8

How do they attempt to express that?.......................................................................... 10 Should we help them and how? .................................................................................... 12 3.1 Should music composition be professionally aided at all? ..................................... 12

3.2 What is the proper age for integrating composition into the music curriculum? ......... 13 3.3 Key applications suggested ......................................................................................... 13 Summery ............................................................................................................................. 14 References ........................................................................................................................... 15

Music Composition at 6-9 years old Children, a Literature Survey

Background
When adult musicians or music educators observe young childrens compositions, some questions arise; many of these questions, if answered properly, may present a key to a shared goal of promoting creativity and its development in young students, an element that in the view of many is essential for involving students in exploring the dimensions of music 1. The main questions that arise may be divided into three major issues: mapping the mental contents reflected in the compositions and its influences (what do children think?), understanding the processes of music composition (how do they attempt to express that?), and developing a vision of wisely integrating music composition into music teaching (should we help them and how?). The studies reviewed here attempt to approach these issues, and their answers and ideas are surveyed below. The range of ages I chose to explore, 6-9 or first to third grade, corresponds to a special developmental stage observed by Swanswick & Tillman2, in which the childrens musical utterances naturally and willingly evolve from free improvisation into more thought of, unique composition. As they explain, by the time the children come to school they have tried all different sorts of play, including mastery, imitation and imaginative play. Starting at that special point in life and on, the desire slowly shifts from being, as defined by J. Kratus,
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Biasini, A., Thomas, R., & Pogonowsy, L. (1970). MMCP interaction. Bardonia, NY: Media materials; Choate, R.A., (Ed.). (1968). Documentary report of the Tanglewood symposium. Washington, DC: Music educators national conference; Chosky, L., Abramson, R.M., Gillespie, A.E., & Woods, D. (1986). Teaching music in the twentieth century. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall; Lasker, H. (1971). Teaching creative music in secondary schools. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. Swanswick, K., & Tillman, J. (1986). The sequence of musical development: A study of childrens composition. British journal of music education, 3, 305339. pp.310

process oriented, to product oriented3, or as Swanswick & Tillman put it, a desire to join the adult world; accordingly, the children find new ways to engage in creating original music. The studies reviewed here present several different observations of childrens autonomous music creation, and offer analysis in order to promote and assist in understanding the natural courses taken by the children, possibly to be used later on as guidance for integrating composition into music education.

The very term music composition is defined differently by researchers. K. Swanswick & J. Tillman, for example, regard every musical utterance as musical composition. In their words we define composition very broadly and include the briefest utterances as well as more worked out and sustained invention Others may prefer the use of the terms improvisation, invention or creative music. All of these fall within our definition of composition. 4 On the other hand, J. Kratus makes a clear distinction between composition and improvisation, maintaining that a composition is a unique sequence of pitches and durations that its composer can replicate. A composition reflects closure on a compositional problem5. These two different and very clear definitions are avoided in the study by S. Wilson and R. Wales, since their method of examining allows it. Nevertheless, although the definitions differ fundamentally from one another, the studies themselves offer a more unified view of the matter, since the experiments share common methodology.

Kratus, 1989 Kratus, J. (1989). A time analysis of the compositional process used by children ages 711. Journal of research in music education, 37 (1), 5-20 Swanswick & Tillman (1986) pp.311 Kratus (1989) pp.8

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1. What do children think?


The general question what do children think observes not only the pure contents of childs imagination but also its influences; a matter of relevance since it regards fields in which the student may be assisted by a teacher. In this section the researchers examined different behaviors, environments and other criteria that may or may not affect the musical imagination of a child, including extensive familiarity with music of a certain kind (enculturation), musical training and natural audiation ability.

1.1 Enculturation and representation of music: Wilson & Wales


In their study, Wilson & Wales6 explore the rhythmic and melodic characteristics of 7-9 year old childrens compositions to examine the way in which these characteristics are represented within their minds, the background assumption being that since these are young, untrained children the results should allow a us a peep into the natural and unspoiled human mind. One of their goals was to examine the affect for enculturation: term suggested by Sloboda7 , referring to musical development that takes place spontaneously through the childrens exposure to and interaction with music culture and its features, without selfconscious effort. According to Sloboda, in western culture enculturation is a dominant element in a childs musical development until approximately the age of 10; therefore, the researchers worked with younger (but not much younger) children. The matter of representation of music in the human mind was attacked thus: The children were given tools (in this case- a computer notation program) through which to represent music graphically, and were told they had 10 minutes to use the program in any way they desired. It is described in the paper that the childrens play with the program consisted mostly of choosing different elements and adding them to the board: a two-staff piano sheet; most of the subjects did not use the playback option (66%), and it is described that many of them, especially those who produced highly ranked compositions, were surprised to
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Wilson. S., & Wales. J. (1995). An exploration of childrens musical compositions. Journal of research in music education, 43 (2), 94-111 Sloboda, J.A. (1988). The musical mind: The cognitive psychology of music. New York: Oxford university press.

hear the playback when it was played to them later on. Therefore, the researchers concluded that the resulting compositions correspond to inner music that the children attempt to depict graphically. In this view, the compositions were analyzed musically, in terms of melodic and rhythmic qualities (separately), and divided into developmental stages accordingly. Regarding melody, the stages concluded were the following: Melodic stage 1: notes were represented singularly, in relation to their visual presentation, resulting in a random melodic effect. Melodic stage 2: notes were grouped to create a melodic contour, mostly using steps and small leaps. Melodic stage 3: notes were grouped to create a melodic contour around a center note.

Singularity

Contour

Tonality

Regarding rhythm, the stages concluded were the following: Rhythmic stage 1: notes were represented singularly, in relation to their visual presentation, resulting in a random rhythmic effect. Rhythmic stage 2: notes were grouped figurally, depicting rhythmic phrases. Rhythmic stage 3: notes were grouped figurally with relation to an underlying pulse.

Singularity

Grouping

Pulse

Significantly, the stages the judges chose stand for an increasing relation to the common features of western music, i.e., tonality (melody that revolves a center note), and an underlying pulse, both at the 3rd stage of the two elements respectively. In addition, it is noted in the study that the stages correlate with age: both the melodic and the rhythmic stages increased with age, especially the rhythmic levels (see table 1). Also, musical private training improved rhythmic representation, but not melodic. Hence, the results support Slobodas notion of enculturation, given that young children were able to represent rhythmic and melodic aspects of western music, with growing success as the enculturation process deepens with age and musical training.

1.2 Audiation and music composition: J. Kratus


Additional influence to that of enculturation is that of musical training (which was mentioned briefly above) and prior natural skills, such as audiation. In his study from 1994, J. Kratus examined relationships among music audiation, the processes of composition, and the musical characteristics of songs composed by 9 year-olds8. Audiation, according to Gordon9, music audiation is hear*ing+ and feel*ing+ music for which the sound is not physically present, i.e., mentally representing a sound. This is not to be confused with the topic of the above section, which was graphical representation of a sound: with Wilson & Wales, the graphical representation of sounds was the final product examined; Kratus, in contrast, tested his subjects natural ability to audiate using Gordons test Intermediate Measures of Music Audiation and then gave them a composition task. This composition task also consisted of 10 minute work, but this time it was done using a piano with a recording system, and the subjects were instructed to create a song no one has heard before, which theyd be able to repeat at the end of their assigned time. Qualified judges then examined the compositions and rated them for following features: tonal cohesiveness, metric cohesiveness, melodic pattern and rhythmic pattern, with both melodic and rhythmic pattern ratings also taking into account levels of repetition or development of patterns. At the final stage, the two sets of data were met, to calculate the effect the natural audiation ability of the subjects had on the quality of their compositions. To that, Kratus added a third examination- an examination of process of composition. The results are striking: only little correspondence was viewed between the audiation scores and the characteristics of composed products. The results show significant correlation (p<.01) among audiation and tonal cohesiveness, somewhat significant correlation (p<.05) among audiation and metric cohesiveness, and very little or no significant correlation among audiation and the other parameters. In addition, the correlations among use of compositional processes and characteristics of composed products show high and clear significance. A third correlation shows the reason: correlations among audiation and compositional processes show
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Kratus, J. (1994). Relationships among childrens music audiation and their compositional processes and products. Journal of research in music education, 42 (2), 115-130 Gordon, E.E, (1986). Primary measures of music audiation and intermediate measures of music audiation, manual. Chicago: G.I.A. pp.3

significant negative correlation with exploration. Kratus explains this: subjects who used their time in the most efficient way, i.e, spent most of their time on development and repetition rather than exploration, produced the best products; the subjects tested high for audiation knew in advance what they wanted to create, and therefore did not need much time to explore 10. As a result, Kratus concludes that there is a link between audiation and some aspects of musical behavior. He states clearly that the quality of the childrens compositions depends firstly on their use of compositional processes; audiation assists in hiring these processes, and hence, it is helpful, but not necessary. Another, small, but interesting phenomenon was noticed by Kratus: subjects with less ability to audiate tended to compose songs that were less restricted by musical consideration of tonality, meter and range.

1.3 Expressiveness in composition: Swanswick & Tillman


A striking insight by Swanswick & Tillman11, who conducted a large scale operation of collecting childrens musical creations from age 3 to 15, was that the literal making of sound effects is rarely present in the musical work of children of school age. Even at its simplest, they say, music is much more abstract than this. The study is aimed at creating a model of musical development, which includes an extensive analysis of the childrens motivations in choosing one way over the other, thus enabling the reader a glimpse into their musical thoughts. For example, a short piece by a girl aged 7 shows use of inversion, which appears to be influenced by the visual aspect of the instrument (xylophone) 12. It is viewed, that the works of children at our age group focus on expressiveness. Since 4 years old, vocally performed songs indicate that imitation of feeling is already present, as shown in songs that were created after the ideas of the sun is shining or fish. The instrumental pieces are said to be much less developed, but still expressive intention is detected in many of them, characterized mostly by changes in loudness and speed13. This is also evident in the compositions of children aged 6-7 who use, on top of elements of loudness and speed,
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Kratus (1994) pp. 125-126 Swanswick & Tillman (1986) pp.320 Ibid. pp. 321 Ibid. pp.322

borrowed expressive patterns, as part of their entering the shared world of musical procedures. Thus, in the Swanswick & Tillman developmental model children aged 6-9 are placed at the level of expression (the levels being materials (0-4), expression (4-9), form (10-15) and value (15+) ). Within the level of expression the children develop from personal to vernacular- the shift begins at the age of 5, and by 7-8 it is fully and clearly established14. Both personal and vernacular expressiveness is characterized by creation of climaxes, the appearance of musical phrases and musical gestures, and later use of melodic and rhythmic patterns marked by repetition. At the vernacular stage pieces tend to be shorter than previously, expressiveness becomes more contained within established musical conventions especially those of 4-8 bar metered melodies.

Both Wilson & Wales and Kratus examined childrens prior visions of music, and the relations these had with their composition. And although different in definitions, points of view and methods, they both showed that enculturation and audiation had significant effect on the composition of young children: the presence of both leads to more extensive use, and one may even say dependence, of music patterns taken from tonal, metered western music. This may be considered an advantage or a flaw; choosing which is a personal, professional and even circumstantial matter in which I shall not attempt to judge. Swanswick & Tillman argue that this phenomenon is actually a matter of choice, since around 7 years old the child begins to desire to enter the world of the adults. In this case enculturation and audiation may be considered of positive effect in the process of helping the student achieve his/her own goals. Hence, some implications may be learnt regarding the use of these prior visions in teaching composition- these shall be presented under section 3: Should we help them and how?

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2. How do they attempt to express that?


Wilson & Wales show how understanding of music improves with age through enculturation. Conversely, age was only one of the parameters observed, but was the only parameter supposedly correspondent to the childrens exposure to music, i.e., enculturation, except from private training (which, as described in section 2.1, showed limited results and only with regard to rhythmic stages). Though it is reasonable to assume the children had some exposure to music in their life, and with time they had experienced more of it, it is evident from the result tables presented in the paper that some parameters may be of even more significance, more of all the parameter of Sequential method. This parameter was otherwise referred to by Wilson & Wales as simply the method of composition, and was rated in their computerized experiment as either sequential or random. It was found that no less of 100% of the subjects whos compositions demonstrated level 3 of both melodic and rhythmic development used a sequential method, as did less, but still not few at level 2 and much fewer at level 115. This finding agrees with Kratus 1994, who observed most significant correspondence between childrens process of compositions and the quality of their products16. To acquire better understanding of childrens compositional processes, J. Kratus in his study from 198917 described four different stages, or activities that make up the complete compositional process, and examined children engaged in composing a song to find correlations between their way of working and their achievements. Kratus defines the compositional process as reflecting closure on a compositional problem, and the stages as exploration, development, repetition and silence. The main finding of the study shows that strategy changes with age: the youngest subjects (7 year-olds) spent most of their time in exploration, the 9 year-olds devoted about half the time to exploration and the other half was divided between development and repetition, and the oldest, 11 year-olds, divided their time more evenly, with often use of development. Of these, the 7 year-olds mostly could not replicate their songs, while most of the 9 year-olds and all of the 11 year-olds could. It is
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Wilson & Wales (1995) pp.104-105 Kratus (1994) pp. 127-128 Kratus (1989)

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important to note, that the subjects were not instructed about possible ways to use their time; as Kratus explains it, these strategies were natural to the children and represent their capabilities, hand in hand with their desires: the 9-11 year-olds wanted to complete the task and were therefore product oriented, while the 7 year-olds came up with one idea after another and were process oriented. Kratus maintains that this is a matter of age; I would like to suggest that the 7 year-olds may have wanted just as much to complete the task but lacked the understanding about how to do it- Kratus tells us nothing about the childrens feelings toward their own performance. In that case, if they were showed how it is possible that the younger subjects would have been able to produce songs just as well as the older. Nevertheless, this study was not concerned with the characteristics of the compositionsthe only measure for success was the ability to replicate the song. This was met in the next study by Kratus already reviewed above, in which these compositional processes were checked for correlations with both audiation and musical characteristics of melody and rhythm. Unlike the audiation-musical characteristics table which shows little to no correlation (see section 2.2), here the numbers were very clear: both tonal and metric cohesiveness were found significantly correlated (p<.001 or p<.01) with development and repetition, and significantly negatively correlated (p<.001) with exploration.

This completes the full picture: Both researchers maintain that (1.) Compositional ability improves with age, whether due to further enculturation or development in compositional strategy; (2.) Understanding how to engage in composition using processes and organized methods is the most crucial element affecting the final product.

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3. Should we help them and how?


All the studies reviewed here consisted of observations of young untrained childrens attempts at composition, and therefore, reflect their own, autonomous process of learning and developing. The teacher may learn from this how to adjust his/her methods to take the above described natural steps when helping young students with their first steps at creating original music.

3.1 Should music composition be professionally aided at all?


Though in their first years children seem to be very free and independent in their creation of music, it is merely a preparatory stage of gaining mastery, until between the ages 6-9 a change happens, they become more aware of their place in society and mostly wish to fit into the adult world, into which they are slowly growing, and thus begin to use more conventional musical features18. This finding suggests that in spite of the romantic desire musicians and music educators may have to bring to light some untamed musical features the children keep inside, in fact the children do not share this desire. From this point of view, the teacher is welcome to offer support and orientation for the student, in the lasts road of learning the ways of music. Moreover, the process of creating original music may be very enjoyable: Kratus points out that all his subjects enjoyed the experiment, were very enthusiastic about the task and showed concentration during the 10 minutes devoted to composing19.

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Swanswick &Tillman (1995); Kratus (1989) Kratus (1989)

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3.2 What is the proper age for integrating composition into the music curriculum?
According to Swanswick & Tillmans developmental model, children begin expressing ideas and feelings through music as early as the age of 4; however, only by the age of 6 they reach a point in which they become interested in conserving their creation and modifying it to fit their intentions, an inclination that reinforces with age and stabilizes around the age 7-820. Kratus notes that his 7 year-olds engage almost solely in exploration, while 9 year-olds begin employing processes of development and repetition, and therefore suggests that improvisation is a more appropriate creative activity for 7 year-olds, while 9 year-olds are capable of using exploration, development and repetition in a manner consistent with reports of adult composers compositional processes and so musical composition is age appropriate for them.

3.3 Key applications suggested


Several significant conclusions come up from the studies reviewed above: The more children interact with music in their life the better they grasp it- and so they are able to represent it better. Wilson & Wales show that the effect of enculturation is much greater than that of private musical training, especially regarding melody. Teachers may take upon themselves the role of introducing music to the children thus contributing to their process of enculturation. Early musical experience designed to enhance audiation skills may also improve composing skills. Also, teachers may individualize instruction in composition in accordance with students audiation skills (Kratus 1994). The study of Wilson & Wales reveals that the cognitive ability to represent music graphically has a lot to do with age and mental maturity- teachers may take this into consideration when deciding at which point to begin teaching musical notation and in what way. The use of notation may begin with the natural steps the children take in their natural understanding of graphical representation of music, as described in the article and above. These findings, combined with researches of invented
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Swanswick &Tillman (1995) pp. 330-333

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notations by younger children by M. Barret21, and studies by Bamberger22, depict a clear, natural path through which music notation can be taught. Direct personal expression appears first and most clearly in song, as Swanswick & Tillman notice. It may prove fruitful to encourage the student to begin his/her exploration with singing, before taking it onto the instrument. Creative activities for students may be better directed toward compositional process as means to improve composing skills.

Summery
According to Websters the comprehensive model of creative thinking in music, the nature of the creative process depends on certain enabling skills (e.g. musical aptitudes, conceptual understanding, craftsmanship and aesthetic sensitivity) and enabling conditions (e.g. motivation, subconscious imagery, supportive environment and various personality traits).23 These criteria are designed for adult composers but apply also for young children, for sure from the age of 9 and in many cases even earlier24. In this paper Ive surveyed four leading studies aimed at understanding where young children stand with relation to these criteria, and showed that mentally and as far as natural personal ability is concerned the potential is there since very young age. In other issues teachers may help- especially concerning craftsmanship, and of course supportive environment.

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Barret, invented notations Barret, M. (1999). Modal dissonance: An analysis of childrens invented notations of known songs, original songs and instrumental compositions. Bulletin of the council for th research in music education, no. 141, the 17 international society for music education: ISME research seminar (summer 1999), pp. 14-20 Bamberger, J. (1982). Revisiting childrens drawings of simple rhythms: A function for reflection-inaction. In S. Strauss (Ed.) U-shaped behavioural growth (pp. 191-226). New-York: academic Press. Webster, P.R. (1987). Conceptual bases for creative thinking in music. In J.C. Peery, I.W. Peery & T.W. Draper (Eds.), Music and child development (pp.158-174). New York: Springer- Verlag Kratus (1989), Swanswick & Tillman (1995)

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References

Bamberger, J. (1982). Revisiting childrens drawings of simple rhythms: A function for reflection-in-action. In S. Strauss (Ed.) U-shaped behavioural growth (pp. 191-226). NewYork: academic Press. Barret, M. (1999). Modal dissonance: An analysis of childrens invented notations of known songs, original songs and instrumental compositions. Bulletin of the council for research in music education, no. 141, the 17th international society for music education: ISME research seminar (summer 1999), pp. 14-20 Biasini, A., Thomas, R., & Pogonowsy, L. (1970). MMCP interaction. Bardonia, NY: Media materials. Choate, R.A., (Ed.). (1968). Documentary report of the Tanglewood symposium. Washington, DC: Music educators national conference. Chosky, L., Abramson, R.M., Gillespie, A.E., & Woods, D. (1986). Teaching music in the twentieth century. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall Gordon, E.E, (1986). Primary measures of music audiation and intermediate measures of music audiation, manual. Chicago: G.I.A. Lasker, H. (1971). Teaching creative music in secondary schools. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. Kratus, J. (1989). A time analysis of the compositional process used by children ages 7-11. Journal of research in music education, 37 (1), 5-20 Kratus, J. (1994). Relationships among childrens music audiation and their compositional processes and products. Journal of research in music education, 42 (2), 115-130 Sloboda, J.A. (1988). The musical mind: The cognitive psychology of music. New York: Oxford university press. Swanswick, K., & Tillman, J. (1986). The sequence of musical development: A study of childrens composition. British journal of music education, 3, 305--339 Webster, P.R. (1987). Conceptual bases for creative thinking in music. In J.C. Peery, I.W. Peery & T.W. Draper (Eds.), Music and child development (pp.158-174). New York: SpringerVerlag

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Wilson. S., & Wales. J. (1995). An exploration of childrens musical compositions. Journal of research in music education, 43 (2), 94-111