[Smt-talk] Composition pedagogy

Nigel Morgan n.morgan at netmatters.co.uk
Fri Mar 20 03:54:50 PDT 2009

Dear David,

I think you might be interested to investigate these links:




Composition pedagogy is a particular interest of mine. It informed the
research and development of a unique composition environment called Symbolic
Composer, and enabled me to collaborate with Professor John Cook (London
Metropolitan University) on the MetaMusic project. The PDF above is a resume
of this six year period of research.

Later  this year I hope to complete a book with Professor Cook titled
Composing How and Why. You might recognize in the title the reference to the
work of educator Malcolm Lipman. Here¹s the abstract:

Composing: How and Why

Technology offers the promise of reinstating composing once more at the
heart of musicianship. Just as visual arts practice and creative writing
have been demystified by photography, the word processor and the internet,
the complex skills and techniques surrounding music making are being
redefined and made newly accessible by digital recording, interactive
machine musicianship and synthesis. In the light of these new conditions
revisiting and reinventing traditional forms of learning and thinking about
music can offer us a lively way forward to developing the creative and
critical tools to make and understand new music. The authors believe that
interactive portals able to foster creative and critical thinking will soon
be a part of new technologies that are responsive to a individual' learning
needs: to encourage self-explanation, speculation, and reflection about
intention. We can even look forward to the machine becoming a kind of
knowledge-mentor prompting us to explain our intentions, formulate our
plans, recognise areas of weakness and review outcomes as part of the
creative process.

Composing: How and Why examines the relationship of thinking to composing
and how dialogue and self-explanation can mediate between listening and
making one's own music. It examines how musical learning has traditionally
employed modes of thinking and questioning and how these today might be
remodelled and embedded within the technologies and media through which we
will increasingly learn and gather information.

At a more general level there¹s quite a few publications on ŒComposing¹
targeted at the UK¹s GCSE and A level examinations for 16 ­18 year olds.
Names like John Paynter and Bruce Cole feature here. But on composition
pedagogy, that is another matter altogether . . . You have to approach the
subject obliquely I¹ afraid.

I¹m happy to respond to your questions in detail ­ but you may have to wait
a while for this. I¹m a busy composer now!

Good wishes

Nigel Morgan

Visiting Research Fellow
Interdisciplinary Centre for Computer Music Research
Plymouth University


On 20/3/09 02:39, "David Stephenson" <davidgstephenson at gmail.com> wrote:

> Colleagues:
> I am a high school music theory/composition teacher and Ph.D. candidate in
> music education.  One of my research interests lies in the training of
> composition teachers, and I would welcome information and discussion regarding
> the area of "Composition Pedagogy."  
> Specific questions I have include:
> 1) Does formal training exist in the area of composition pedagogy (i.e.
> techniques, curriculum, etc.)?
> 2) If so, in what format is this area taught?
> 3) Are there specific people who specialize in this area?
> 4) What are your experiences regarding the process of how you learned to teach
> composition?
> Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from you!

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