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Latest Student Composition

Jaedon's Completed Draft

Jaedon came to his guitar lesson last Saturday with his very own composition. It sounded nice and I always like to encourage creative ventures such as this, so I worked with the student to finish and transcribe the snippet.

The student came in with the following musical idea, which we wrote down by hand together.

Hand-written draft of musical idea.

Composition: Implications for Learning

An exercise such as this is wonderful. In the process of composing music, students learn a lot about music theory. This musical example, for example, uses arpeggios, a sequence (i.e. repeating pattern), and oblique motion (i.e. the high e remains, while the other voices move down). More importantly, musical composition requires students to reach toward mastery in a way that just playing pieces does not.

Analogies to Language Learning

Analogous to writing music to learn music is writing to learn language. Reading, for example, requires a certain level of linguistic understanding in order to interpret the meaning of a given text. However, writing requires a student to utilize all of the linguistic tools that they have read.

A good education in music should encourage building literacy skills in this same way. It should encourage students to be able to both read and write music, to be able to both listen and perform with musical understanding.

Additional Skills Learned

Music education has many analogies to other disciplines such as described in the example above. However, music also helps students develop skills that are unique to music. For example, Jaedon’s piece has multiple voices, creating musical harmony. This requires understanding of both independence and dependence of the different musical voices. In life, there are many times when we need to work together–to complete a task, for example–which require everyone in the group to work with both independence as well as in harmony as a team (i.e. teamwork).

Independence is important because each person (or voice, for music) has its own unique role. Without independence, the voices become redundant and unnecessary. Teamwork is important because, in order to accomplish a big goal, people need to work together. In music, the various voices work together to create harmony, which can be heard and felt.

“Music is liquid architecture; Architecture is frozen music.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (source)

Skills such as these could be learned via other disciplines, but with music we explore harmony and disharmony in a unique way, which powerfully supplements a student’s education. Many architects, for example, have cited music as playing an important role in their understanding of architecture. This makes sense, since architectural design requires its own understanding of harmony with regard to a building’s context, utility, and complex organization.

Music+Code: Integrating Coding

Here at MAP, we like to integrate the different disciplines of Music, Art, and Programming. We also insist to use free/libre software tools (think “free” as in “free speech”). We like to do the former because integrating various disciplines is an important skill, as well as being fun. We insist on the latter because the freedoms–freedom to share, study, remix, and (re)distribute–of free/libre software are critical to education. Lilypond software is one such tool that fits both criteria.

After the lesson, I took Jaedon’s music and transcribed it with Lilypond software, which is expressed as a kind of code. For example, a8 is pitch a (i.e. “la”) for an eighth note duration. Pitches are strung together to create melodies. See below for an image of the full Lilypond Code.

Lilypond Code of Jaedon’s piece

Polished Draft of Student Composition

Lilypond interprets the code and generates a PDF. This is similar to how a browser interprets HTML and generates a webpage. Below is the final output.

Completed Draft of Student Work

All in all, Jaedon is off to a great start. I have encouraged him to come up with a second half of this piece. When I get the second half, I will share it on this site.

What does it sound like?

I hope to share a video of Jaedon performing his piece soon. In the meantime, here is a video of me performing the piece.

Jaedon's Piece

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