A study of improvisational aural processes and the need for their inclusion into instrumental music instruction
Knop, Robert James
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Instrumental music education is performance-based, stressing development of reading skills and technique. These skills do not produce aural cognition. We assume students hear what they play. This is not true. Learning becomes a repetitive drill to duplicate written parts. This is visual learning of an aural language, producing an obvious gap between technical skills and aural cognition. Improvisation involves aural cognitive functions of the mind. It is not taught due to the lack of understanding of these functions. It needs to be included early in instrumental methodology to provide students with an aural cognitive process. Performance-based pedagogy defines the way students comprehend music. Students acquire musical skills using repetitive techniques, believing that immersion in physical effort will attain results. Instrumentalists do not know how to practice because they do not know what to practice. They have no process. Very young children are spontaneous. College-level students are reluctant to perform individually. They are not afraid of performance; they are afraid of making a mistake. Their individuality has been converted to controlled fear, resulting from the early emphasis given to reading correctly and constant group participation. Various memorization techniques are used to reproduce music. These techniques do not equip students with any practical skills (other than reading) to continue with music after they leave the school system. Acquiring performance skills involves simultaneous cognitive, affective, and psychomotor activities. Interaction of these skills is crucial. One passes from novice to expert as the ability to combine these activities becomes proficient. Creativity is a behavior that may involve systematic inference, trial-and-error experimentation, change of existing models, or emotional interpretation. These activities can occur simultaneously or separately. We are predisposed to aural memory. Our brain unconsciously scans everything we hear. Recognizing and elevating this process is central to improvisation. College-level, non-music major instrumentalists and one music major participated in various tasks designed to understand the aural processes involved in performing improvised music. Conclusions stress the need for an aural learning process to be used as a basis for all activities at the beginning of instrumental instruction. Recommendations include a rethinking of curricula include improvisation at all levels.