Enhancing music-compositional flexibility

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Perkins, William Ellis
Scott, Cleve L.
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Thesis (D.A.)
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The purpose of this study is to present certain pedagogical techniques for enhancing flexibility of thinking applied to the task of writing music. The formation of pedagogical strategies was based upon ideas, derived from a review of the literature on creative thinking, which have been successful in enhancing flexibility in problem-solving tasks in a wide variety of applications outside of the field of music. An experimental class was conducted for the purpose of evaluating the effectiveness of such instruction and its possible role in undergraduate music programs.Music-compositional flexibility was measured by evaluating an instructor-designed set of "Exercises in Musical Ideation." Two qualities of compositional products, originality and "musicalness," were evaluated by ranking the compositions with respect to each product quality. A set of "Reaction Scales" checked the affective responses of the students toward the field of composition and toward their ability to compose.The students for the experimental class were enrolled in the last quarter of a two-year basic music theory sequence required of all undergraduate music majors. The class was divided into two sections for differential treatment regarding the degree of nonconventionality of stimulus conditions.Across tasks, flexibility training consisted of presenting, in the form of composition assignments, several diverse strategies for composing music. The content and sequence of the assignments were designed to help the students begin explorations into a continually expanding awareness of possibilities. Within tasks, flexibility training consisted. of participation in workshops, in which students experimented with various ways of producing and manipulating musical ideas.A t-test of the difference-of-means for pre- and posttests of music-compositional flexibility revealed a highly significant improvement in this variable. Correlations between the flexibility measure and product qualities (originality and musicalness) were insignificant. An analysis off covariance revealed that changes in originality were not significantly aligned with the differences in treatment between the two groups. The highly significant improvements found in the students' attitudes toward the field of composition and toward their ability to compose were probably an indication that the instruction was effective in ways which were not separately measured.