Sixth-Grade Student’s Descriptions of Their Individual and Collaborative Music Composition Processes and Products Initiated From Prompted and Unprompted Task Structures
The purpose of this study was to learn more about how young composers viewed the compositional processes and products which they generated in individual and collaborative settings based upon prompted and unprompted task structures. The perspectives of the students were examined as they were manifested in a series of process and product questionnaires and “letters of advice” written to other students who would be completing similar composition projects. The students’ responses were compared between individual and collaborative settings and between prompted and unprompted task structures.
The students were first engaged in a series of two training exercises which allowed them to explore and manipulate the rudimentary elements of music through a series of imitation and improvisatory games. The second training session allowed the students to compose a short piece of music prompted by a brief poetic text.
Each student was then engaged in an individual prompted task, individual unprompted task, collaborative prompted task, and collaborative unprompted task with one group of students beginning in the individual condition and the other in the collaborative condition. The prompted task always preceded the unprompted task.
Student descriptions of their compositional processes revealed that individual and collaborative composers differ significantly in reasons for their selection of instruments, in their planning processes, and in their overall interest in compositional projects. Additionally, prior compositional experience was found to be more influential than task structure.
Descriptions of compositional products indicate that individuals and collaborators differ on their attention to musical elements and craftsmanship, although both groups did comment on the challenge of setting the text of the prompted task. Overall ratings assigned to musical ideas and performance were higher for products emerging from the unprompted and collaborative task. These scores reflected the student’s desire to generate their own ideas and to work with their friends for additional support.