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Major new composition resources from SaM

30 January 2014

Following recent scrutiny from Ofsted of the effectiveness of hubs, low expectations in music and the ‘lack of rigour’ in the curriculum, Sound and Music is publishing the results of an action research project, which it says has ‘pinpointed the key elements to teaching composition through bringing together research teams of composers, teachers and researchers in classroom settings’.

Music Teacher magazine will be publishing a series of articles from big-name composers and teachers with resources on how to use the approach in the classroom. 

‘The talent of many young British composers is being lost as we are simply not effective enough in spotting and growing the next generation and the ones losing out are our young people,’ says Sound and Music chairman John Knell. ‘Just like instrumentalists, singers, designers, or writers, composers need their talents to be challenged, supported, trained and developed. They need a progressive approach over time to train their capacity to generate original musical ideas which are then developed and explored creatively – skills incidentally which a growing body of evidence indicates can directly enhance wider social and creative thinking skills, and therefore broader school improvement too.

'We have to transform the desiccated musical experience on offer in too many of our schools. How can we make a change?

'Today, we are publishing the results of our action research project Listen Imagine Compose, (executive summary here, project page here) which uniquely has pinpointed the key elements to teaching composition through bringing together research teams of composers, teachers and researchers in classroom settings.

'Listen Imagine Compose is revolutionary in that it takes apart the act of composition itself, in ways that can be applied in the classroom. It gives teachers the tools and confidence to enjoy and explore their own musical creativity as they better support that of their students. It is genuinely progressive, encouraging pupils not only to have ideas but then to develop them into a coherent musical whole, and then reflect and critique the outcome. It helps young people find a compositional voice and creative self-confidence through practical and enjoyable work.'

The approach of Listen Imagine Compose, which was developed and delivered in partnership with Birmingham City University and Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, has generated some compelling evidence:

  • Pupils who undertook the project became better at composing as a result of it
  • Taking apart the process of composition – generating what can be a very simple idea, then developing and reflecting upon it – is not only very effective and rewarding for pupils and teachers. It also takes pupils very rapidly towards higher order thinking. This points to the need for further research to be undertaken around the links between composing and creative thinking.
  • Teachers, composers and musicians (or, put another way, hubs and schools) can work together with pupils for more sustained progression. When these different skills are brought together in delivering music education, increased quality of pupil learning results.

Knell added: 'We are excited about these findings and future possibilities, and we will do all we can to ensure that Listen, Imagine Compose plays a full role in enhancing the quality of music teaching in all our schools, strengthening the impact of composition on broader school achievement. It’s time to compose a brighter score for music education.'



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