Participatory and digital cultures in practice: Perspectives and possibilities in a graduate music course

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Tobias, E. S. (2015). Participatory and digital cultures in practice: Perspectives and possibilities in a graduate music course. International Journal of Community Music, 8(1), 7-26. doi: 10.1386/ijcm.8.1.7_1

My article Participatory and digital cultures in practice: Perspectives and possibilities in a graduate music course is now available in International Journal of Community Music. Thanks to guest editor Janice Waldron, this issue of IJCM was a special issue on participatory culture. The abstract is below:

Music educators seeking to address contemporary society might look to existing and emerging ways that people engage with music. Participatory culture(s) as discussed primarily in media studies and related fields offers a fruitful context for expanding music education. This study addresses graduate music students’ perspectives on integrating expressions and circulations related to participatory culture in music education settings. Participants described musical expressions such as appropriating or transforming existing music as having creative and learning potential. Participants also expressed how students’ creative expressions in the form of appropriating music could be meaningful and empowering. Participants experienced challenges ranging from difficulty envisioning concrete applications of participatory culture in existing curricular structures such as large ensembles, to unresolved perspectives of related ethical, legal, philosophical and pedagogical issues. Findings suggest that media and musical skills specific to participatory culture along with related understanding and dispositions are important for its realization in music education.

I first discuss notions of participatory culture from musicology (namely the work of Thomas Turino
in relation to participatory music making) and media studies (namely the work of Henry Jenkins and colleagues) in relation to music education, outlining some of the recent work in our field. The study focuses on a Digital and Participatory Culture in Music course and particularly on types of musical engagement that are discussed in my article Toward convergence: Adapting music education to contemporary society and participatory culture.

Below are a couple of the study’s key findings:

  • Participants were able to conceptualize, discuss, and engage in appropriating music as a form of creative expression and musical engagement
  • Participants found potential in people learning through appropriation and generating creative musical expressions
  • A number of participants saw how musical appropriation could occur in school music contexts as a way of “making music one’s own”
  • Participants continually negotiated issues of authorship, copyright, and creative rights in relation to participatory and digital cultures
  • Several participants found existing music education curricular structures such as large ensembles hurdles to integrating aspects of creative expressions that occur throughout society but at are foreign to typical band, orchestral, and choral paradigms
  • Participants’ struggles envisioning how participatory culture might be realized in music programs were rooted in their conceptions of music teaching and learning, compounded by a lack of experience with many ways of being musical atypical in music education

I also discuss the following implications and suggestions for music education:

  • Embracing and negotiating non-linearity and open texts (for more insight on the notion of music as open texts see Randall Allsup’s chapter “The compositional turn in music education: from closed forms to open texts in Kaschub & Smith’s Composing our future: Preparing music educators to teach composition
  • Addressing forms of musical and media engagement that blur lines between the two domains
  • Reflecting on and adjusting or reconceptualizing curricular structures and foci in music education. For instance I suggest that:

    Current approaches to curriculum that focus on specific ways of being musical while excluding others may result in reifying the perspective that engagement related to participatory culture is more appropriate for general music and other specific courses than for large ensembles. At a minimum, pre-service and in-service music educators ought to have opportunities to experience and envision curricular structures that allow for and support the expressions, circulations, and affiliations that occur throughout participatory culture.

  • Music education could do a better job of helping music educators develop their capacity to engage in and support participatory cultures

Feel free to contact me in the comment section if you would like a copy of the article and do not have access to the International Journal of Community Music.

FYI: I am experimenting with including some links to references and resources with Amazon Affiliate links, which could be considered an act of “advertising.” This means I would receive a small commission from Amazon if you purchased the affiliate linked books without an additional charge to you.

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