Children’s Creative Musical Thinking Within the Context of a Computer-Supported Improvisational Approach to Composition
The main purpose of this study was to examine children’s computer-mediated strategies in relation to the craftsmanship and creative qualities of their resulting musical compositions. A secondary purpose was to generate teaching guidelines for a Computer-Supported Improvisational Approach to Composition (CSIAC).
Twenty-five subjects aged 10 to 11 participated in the study. Research Sessions 1 and 2 were devoted to familiarizing the children with both the technology and the compositional task (CSIAC) which featured three phases. In the Improvisation phase, the subjects were asked to record 3 to 8 improvisations on a sequencer program. In the Selection phase, they were instructed to listen to all recorded improvisations and then to select the preferred one. In the Development phase, the activity consisted of developing the selected improvisation using the piano roll notation.
During the third research session, subject’s thought processes were recorded as they worked toward creating a final composition. Video cameras were installed behind each music workstation. In addition to the subjects’ interaction with the notation, the cameras recorded all the sounds actually heard by the child on the headphones.
The creativity and craftsmanship qualities of the final compositions (MIDI files) were rated by five judges using a consensual assessment technique. Based on these ratings, subjects were separated into highest and lowest groupings in order to compare process data. Children’s compositional processes were analyzed using a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods.
The analyses revealed that while the low groups of subjects tended to generate process-oriented improvisations, the high groups improvised product-oriented music. During the Development phase of the task, the high groups tended to use the notation not only to refine their selected improvisation as did the low groups, but also to extend it substantially by copying and pasting motives.
The high craftsmanship group generated much of the musical material found in their finished compositions by manipulating the notation rather than by improvising as did the high creativity group. The piano background of the subjects was an important factor determining the type of improvisation as well as the development strategy utilized.