Developing heightened listening: A creative tool for introducing primary school children to sound-based music




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De Montfort University


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Peer reviewed


Sound-based music (sbm), which is an umbrella term created by Landy (2007) for music where sound is the main unit rather than the musical note, rarely features in music curricula in schools and currently has a relatively small audience outside of academia. Building on previous research conducted at De Montfort University concerned with widening access to sbm, this thesis investigates whether sbm composition can provide an engaging experience for Key Stage 2 (7-11 year olds) pupils supported by the development of heightened listening skills. The research is interdisciplinary spanning sbm studies, music technology and education, and involved case studies in eight schools with 241 children conducted from 2013 to 2015. Each case study included a series of workshops in which the pupils developed listening skills, recorded sounds and created sound-based compositions. Using a grounded theory approach, qualitative and quantitative data was gathered over three phases through questionnaires, teacher feedback, observations, recordings and pupils’ work.

The results of the research indicate that the children had a high level of engagement with the workshop activities. The data also suggests that the heightened listening training helped to support the pupils in their compositional work. The main factor in this engagement appeared to be the opportunity to be creative, which is something that reports since the 1990s have highlighted as essential for all children. Additionally, a range of complex local conditions influenced engagement in each case study and there were indications that engagement also decreased with age.

Pupils chose a variety of different approaches for composing sound-based work that ranged from incorporating detailed narratives to focusing purely on experimenting with the sound itself without reference to any external themes. The compositional pathway chosen by each pupil seemed to be partly influenced by previous musical experience.





Research Institute