Friday, October 16, 2009

Cognitive equipment to compose music

~From Why Don't Students Like School: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom by Daniel T. Willingham, page 109:

A music class may well emphasize practice and proper technique, but it may also encourage students to compose their own works simply because the students would find it fun and interesting.  Is such practice necessary or useful in order for students to think like musicians?  Probably not.  Beginning students do not yet have the cognitive equipment in place to compose, but that doesn’t mean they won’t have a great time doing so, and that may well be reason enough.

I think there’s this notion that playing music on an instrument (violin, piano, whatever) and composing are more similar than they truly are.  Yes, they both have to do with music, and they both require thinking about music in a certain way, but performing on an instrument is much more of a motor skill.  Composing music never makes you a better performer.  And performing doesn’t necessarily make you a better composer (though I think it can help you recognize patterns in music that already exists, which can help).

I have met some performers who don’t compose at all, and I know there are composers out there like me who can’t really play an instrument.

“Teaching music” is a bit ambiguous.  Composing, performing, and music theory are all different aspects.



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