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Lucas den Boer. Notify me of new comments via email. Notify me of new posts via email. Nadia Chana Nadia Chana holds undergraduate degrees in musicology and English literature, as well as a diploma in voice performance. Duchan Joshua S. Leave a Reply Cancel reply Enter your comment here Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:.

Email required Address never made public. Name required. Post to Cancel. Theorists of ECS tend to frame the discussion on intersubjectivity by highlighting the continuity of so-called top-down and bottom-up processes in social cognition, drawing attention to the ongoing negotiation between objective and subjective aspects of lived experience and the mutuality of action and perception in any intersubjective context Thompson, The category of communication stands in for an instantiation of intersubjective interaction in the musical domain.

In what follows, we report on our qualitative study, which involves questionnaires using open-ended questions with 19 participants who currently study or have studied music in different contexts. In doing so, we aim to clarify how the three categories reported in this section are described and experienced in individual and collective pedagogical settings.

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The present study is part of a larger project examining how music teachers and music students experience individual and collective pedagogical settings. Ethical approval for the study was granted by the Ethics Committee of University of Graz in December , for the recruitment of questionnaire respondents. The questionnaires were designed to capture a range of responses, thoughts, beliefs, and practices. The present study focuses on the analysis of data according to themes related to instrumental technique, expressivity, and communication.

Those who met these criteria were asked to read and complete i a consent form which explained the purpose of the study and subsequent use of data and ii a questionnaire electronic format. A total of 19 students from music schools, conservatoires, and universities in both Europe and United States took part in the study 12 females, six males, and one participant who identified as non-binary. Their age spanned between 20 and 36 years old, median Participants did not receive any payment or financial reward. This comprised a background section to collect demographic and prior musical experience data.

The second section posed general questions concerning teaching and learning. The total of 18 items on the questionnaire deal with different aspects of individual and collective musical classes. Based on the review of existing questionnaire responses, this iteration allowed the authors to further expand on the original set of questions see Agee, Because the data were already quite rich, this final set of participants was considered to be enough for the purpose of the study.

In four cases, participants were contacted by the research team to better clarify certain ambiguous statements and to elaborate on aspects relevant to the present study.

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In these cases, short semi-structured interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed. The duration of these interviews varied between 15—20 min.

go here The coding process adopted here involved three main steps: i preparing the ground of the analysis and becoming familiar with the raw material; ii categorization of the data; and iii interpretation. Following the initial conceptual organization of the themes, the first phase i involved initial immersion by AS and MB, in which all primary data were read several times.

The data were identified, segmented and re-organized e. Here, our pre-existing codes were used to classify the content of each segment. In the final phase of the process iii , the researchers explored possible interpretations of the data. All quotations were then carefully re-examined, and the report of the study was discussed. The three phases are reported in Figure 1. In this section, descriptions of experiences associated with individual learning are reported. Practicing and developing a meaningful relationship with a musical instrument represent two intrinsically related aspects of learning instrumental technique.

The dynamical integration of these material and social aspects involves different ways to experience the sensorimotor dynamics of musicking. For example, as one of our participant reports, it is important to:. From the outset, this highlights the primacy of the body and its physical interaction with instrument — where ideally, the boundary between the two becomes transparent. However, the process of achieving this extension of the body into the instrument or incorporation of the instrument into the body , can be highly uncomfortable and frustrating.

Here the learner is required to explore and develop novel patterns of motor action as different bodily configurations are enacted. Initially, the results may be disappointing, leaving the learners in a somewhat awkward relationship with their own corporality. Because of this, it is helpful to have the guidance of another who has experienced such processes. Consider the following two statements:. Also, when the teacher does not waste too much time in individual specific problems but teaches general principles and concepts that then I can apply on my own to solve other issues.

Engaging in musicking with the teacher is a fundamental aspect of learning instrumental technique. This can be done in different ways: by performing together, by encouraging students to explore more solutions for a specific technical problem, or by cooperatively discussing other possibilities and options. These options are described in the following two quotes:. I also believe improvising with and imitating the instructor to be essential to my development. Specifically playing drums together with my instructor, trading fours or eights while practicing a groove was really helpful [for] solidifying a musical concept or feel in my head.

In the jazz curriculum there were technique and repertoire requirements and often the lessons focused on best practices and instruction on the meeting those requirements. Often, we would listen to and discuss recordings of note for examples of what I was working on. Occasionally when working on grooves my teacher and I would take turns improvising. I keep goals in mind and I tell myself that as long as I stick to these goals and attain them, then I can move on to the next set.

In referring to such situations, participants mentioned also some strategies to control and to cope with stress. Consider the following quote:. After deciding I would not become a professional pianist the teaching process stopped being stressful at all. Instead it became the most relaxing aspect of my life. Before then, it was mildly stressful, but only because I was also doing high school at the same time. These statements show that the bodily engagement in musical learning involves more than developing fluid interactions with an instrument.

It also includes a range of emotional-affective and empathic dimensions that must be attended to if effective learning is to occur. For example, consider how the last statement provides evidence that mutual understanding with the teacher can help in alleviating and controlling the experience of stress. Students reported that they experience less stress when forms of engagement emerge that are driven by motivations and understandings that are shared with teachers.

But is this something that only refers to the acquisition of technical skills or does it involve other musical dimensions? As we saw, the focus on instrumental technique is not separate from how students meaningfully interact with their teachers and their instrument. As we also considered, corporeal, emotional, and empathic factors are central to such relationships.

As these couplings evolve, students develop a personal musical identity that is brought forth in each performative situation. This involves the development of a repertoire of expressive devices and understandings that allow them to make unique creative and interpretative contributions to the musical environments they participate in. Despite the intrinsically personal and subjective characteristics of expressivity, its relational aspects become important in learning.

In the end she said I influenced her as well in her interpretational choices. Instead, it is an important component of the learning process itself, which cannot be entirely separated from other aspects see McPherson and Gabrielsson, If expressivity is indeed continuous with different emotional, social, and technical features of the music, then it follows, as this student suggests, that the best way to learn a piece might involve:.

Consider now the following two quotes where this dimension is discussed in continuity with affect:. As one participant reports:. She says that for example how you start your performance is really important and will definitely influence the judgment that a committee or an audience will develop toward you. Not only expressiveness translates in a different kind of impulse in the way you perform, but also at a visual level it provides a deeper layer of understanding for the audience.

It creates connection and allows them the audience to get to know you better. Students do not really focus on this aspect at the beginning, as you have other worries you have to take care of. But my teacher, in fact, was right — you should not take this aspect for granted. Not only does expressivity reflect personal choices in performance; it also creates an opportunity to explore the different affective and technical nuances of a piece.

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However, the last two quotes highlight the vulnerability and pressure felt by some students, indicating that teachers should be thoughtful about how they offer criticism. This helps the learners develop their own expressive possibilities in continuity with insights from the teacher and relation to the contextual norms in which the piece or musical practice is learned.

Additionally, and as the last quote suggests, the bodily movements associated with musical expressivity have an important influence on the experiences of performers, audience members, and co-performers.

This bodily dimension should be explored and conceived of as an important intersecting point between technique and expressivity. This brings us to the topic of communication, which can help us better capture how such features are negotiated and mutually understood by students and teachers. As we have seen, both technique and expressivity have strong roots in corporeal, emotional, and empathic relationality. With this in mind, let us now explore in more detail what students report about their communication with teachers.

As we will see, several interacting aspects are involved in building effective communication in the context of instrumental learning. Consider the words of this participant, who reflects on what he feels is the main aim of an instrumental lesson:. As expected, this sense of connection builds through musicking and open discussion. Consider the following two quotes, where both aspects are reported to play a key role:. It is a rarity to get to learn from a master at my instrument, and so playing alongside someone with that amount of skill and knowledge is great.

I also really enjoyed conversation about recordings or music in general. Those helped build rapport and were a great way of expanding my understanding of music. Students mentioned also some obstacles that could interfere with communication. For example:. Most importantly, how teachers and students communicate has repercussions for both technical and expressive aspects. It thus seems that no clear boundaries exist in individual music lessons between the categories of instrumental technique, expressivity, and communication. By analogy, it may be argued that the relational dynamics between students and teachers in individual settings encompass all three dimensions of ECS — again, sensorimotor coupling , bodily self-regulation , and intersubjective interaction.

Importantly, these dimensions do not describe discrete aspects of the communicative processes in such contexts. Rather, they are in constant negotiation as different forms of communication and reflection emerge adaptively as the lesson unfolds. These involve the rich network of empathic, affective, comparative-mimetic, verbal, bodily, demonstrative, and analytical processes involved in the participatory cycles of communication and reflection enacted by both agents.

In line with the insights of ECS, this highlights the inseparable continuity between bodily, affective, and cognitive processes Colombetti, ; Schiavio et al. It also gives rise to important questions concerning whether the same interactive necessities are developed when the pedagogical environment involves a larger class size.

Are similar relational learning dynamics extended to other students? Or are they more closely associated with their teachers? And how do students motivate themselves and learn novel skills when other peers are involved? In this section, we report excerpts from music students concerning how instrumental technique, expressivity, and communication, are developed and experienced in collective pedagogical settings.

These mostly involve music classes where students play different instruments e. In both cases, we have one teacher and two or more students. As we will see, differences in number of participants in collective learning situations does not have as much impact on the reported experience as one might expect. We found that students who participated in our study exhibited different attitudes and perspectives when asked about instrumental technique in collective settings. However, one common theme that emerged involved the important role played by other students:. In small ensemble courses I took, often the instructor would only be present for a few minutes each rehearsal, rotating between the other ensembles in the class, and then be present for the performance evaluation.

This meant that a lot of minor correction and revision happens between peers, which I enjoy. Many things, like informing me that I was dragging in the bridge, or that we should bring the dynamic down on the second chorus, etc. Peer-to-peer learning appears to be one of the core aspects of the collective lesson, and a way for improving the technical level with the help of the other colleagues.

Unsurprisingly, the sensorimotor couplings enacted within collective contexts seem less determined, and less focused on a single e. Instead, they are much more open to the contextual demands of the lesson:. What I really enjoyed about those was the collaboration from all band members that was required in order to have efficient rehearsals that yielded a good final product. In many cases it was a matter of speed-arranging tunes, so everyone was able to contribute ideas for how to best arrange the material to optimize the final performance.

This quote highlights the insight that the final result is a product of the group, with its global features being determined by reciprocally active contributions. This implies that the sensorimotor couplings between agents and the musical environment developed in collective settings involve a shift in focus from the instrument to the group. This contributes to creating a collaborative environment where all the students are focused on the moment-to-moment features of musicking.

Consider the following three quotes, from three different students:. No textbooks, few requirements, just music-making with a professor to offer suggestions and to critique our playing. Again, when you like your partner, it is great when you have the same musical intention and want to realize it when playing.

The last quote also highlights well the contextual and affective-empathic couplings that are enacted in the process of musicking, where social agents participate and integrate their own sensorimotor agency. However, this might involve some problematic issues as well. As one participant noted:. While it seems that instructors in collective settings are less involved in the individual acquisition of technical skills, students can still improve through mutual assessments and collective musicking.

The feeling of a good connection with the musical instrument reported in individual contexts is here translated into a relational and empathic property that is necessary to create a cooperative learning environment. In both cases, learning is never fully experienced as a solipsistic reception of external stimuli, nor it is decoupled from the socio-material environment in which the learner is embedded.

Let us see what happens, then, when students are asked to discuss their experience of expressivity in the context of collective lessons. Differently from individual settings, participants reported that it may be difficult to combine expressive and technical skills in collective classes:. There are different levels of preparation and expressiveness can be difficult to be learnt this way. Also, advanced students might be less motivated, and novices more stressed when put together in the same class.