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Nearly twenty years ago, David Butler and Mark Lochstampfor lamented that there is very

little correspondence between research activities in music cognition and pedagogical

activities in aural training. Indeed, they could have more broadly complained that much of
what appears in aural skills textbooks and is practiced in aural-skills classrooms is
remarkably insulated from research of any kind. But what can research into music
cognition, learning, and music theory tell us about how we might approach aural training?
In this talk, I will explore what research in science and music can do to inform our work as
we teach the various activities often lumped under the rubric aural skills. For example,
short-term musical memory plays important roles in the skills necessary to take melodic
dictation. Memory for individual pitches, melodic memory, and extractive memory all
contribute to various levels of achievement and diverse kinds of difficulties in our students
listening work. But unless we are keenly aware of the different ways that these memory
behaviors can affect student achievement, and unless we have reliable methods of
diagnosing individual students strengths and weaknesses in each of these behaviors, we
have little hope of implementing appropriate and efficacious remedial activities in order to
improve their listening skills. Likewise, our choices of solmization systems seem to be
rooted in geography, culture, and personal experience, but rarely do we ask what the
cognitive bases for inflicting syllables on our students might be. Different solmization
systems can serve very different purposes depending on the mental constructs we wish to
model with such systems, and we should be cognizant of these purposes before deciding
to inculcate our students with any particular system. Similarly, we pass on colloquial advice
about looking ahead while sight reading, without once consulting the scientific literature
on the eye movements that music readers exhibit. Some of what this literature tells us
confirms our informal assumptions, but it also provides us with some surprising insights that
can help our students develop better sight reading skills. Other such topics include pulse
inference, tonic inference, and absolute pitch acquisition. I will examine the various ways
research on these and other skills can inspire our teaching.
Gary S. Karpinski is Professor of Music and Coordinator of the Music Theory program at
the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He has also served on the faculties of the
University of Oregon, Brooklyn College, and Temple University. Karpinski is a past
president of the New England Conference of Music Theorists, and has served as President
of the Association for Technology in Music Instruction, as Board Member for Music Theory
in the College Music Society, and on the board for the Music Theory Society of New York
State. He was Chair of the Society for Music Theory Pedagogy Interest Group, and also
served as Chair of the SMT Mentoring Program. His research interests include music
theory pedagogy, aural skills acquisition, music cognition and perception, early twentieth-
century music, and Schenkerian analysis. Professor Karpinski is the author of two
textbooks that have just been released in second editions by W. W. Norton: the Manual for
Ear Training and Sight Singing and the Anthology for Sight Singing, which also include an
Anthology Search website, an extensive Instructors Dictation Manual, and nearly 700
recordings. His seminal monograph Aural Skills Acquisition was published by Oxford
University Press, and he was also the editor of the Festschrift for George Perle. Karpinski
has published articles on aural skills, music theory pedagogy, early twentieth-century
music, and music cognition in Music Theory Spectrum, Music Theory Online, The
International Journal of Musicology, and The Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy. Seminar
Room 2174 10 August, 2017