Popular Music and Informal Pedagogy in Music Education Joseph Abramo, Ed. D. Assistant Clinical Professor of Music Education Neag School of Education University of Connecticut Storrs, CT firstname.lastname@example.org @joseph_abramo Colloquium on Assessment, Neag School of Education
Overview • Why popular music? • An educator’s definition of popular music • Composing and Creating Popular Music • Student Examples • Guidelines and suggestions for implementing this into various classrooms • Listening to, watching, and analyzing popular music. • Dilemmas and questions with popular music in schools • Questions and Discussion
How do people experience music? http://www.statista.com/statistics/188910/us-music-album-sales-by-genre-2010/
Three questions teachers must ask themselves: • What characterizes the world my students inhabit everyday? • Am I educating them to intelligently maneuver the musical aspects of that world? • Am I using that world to the best of my ability to accomplish my curricular goals?
What is the “philosophy” behind teaching popular music • Christopher Small • Music is not a noun but a verb • Musicking • “Music is not a thing at all but an activity, something people do. The apparent thing “music” is a figment, an abstraction of the action, whose reality vanishes as soon as we examine it at all closely” (p. 2).
What is the “philosophy” behind teaching popular music • From Christopher Small’s perspective, popular music is not what it sounds like, but how people make music.
What is the “philosophy” behind teaching popular music • Lucy Green has documented profound differences between the processes of classical and popular musicians. Popular Musicians: • learn music aurally as opposed to through notation, • build technique through the practice and performance of songs rather than scales and exercises, • understand music through metaphor, • the time they devote to practice was malleable and only done if they consider it fun. • learn music from copying recordings and being “encultured,” or immersed in that musical culture and learning from family and peers.
What is the “philosophy” behind teaching popular music • Randall Allsup studied the practices of classical and popular musicians and how composing in small groups affected process and the formation of community. • He found that the style of music the students chose to write in had a direct affect on how they worked together. • One group he studied chose to write classical music and ended up working as isolated individuals. After spending large amounts of time through this process, with little to show for it, they switched to writing jazz and rock, worked collaboratively and thus increased their input.
What do these studies tell us? • What defines popular music is the process. • The popular music process is different than the processes in classical settings and schools. • Students are more productive when they work in groups than when they work as individuals. • Genre has an influence on how students work together.
Dot, Dot, Dot • Beginning process of composing the song • How do students communicate with each other? • How do students generate ideas? • How do students reflect on their music? • What’s the role of the teacher? Transcript • The finished product • Form • Arrangement • Lyrics
Form of Dot, Dot, Dot Hear the piece and see the score
Dot, Dot, Dot Lyrics Verse 2 and Baby don’t bother Cause you’re making a fuss And Honey you’re crazy If you think it’s about trust I just heard “Sweetie you’re not…” A-a-a-nything can come after the dot dot dot Chorus Chorsey breaky thing Keep it Keep it only to find that when your Secrets Secrets sound just like mine, you’ll see the Regret Regret in the whole time to show I Mean it Mean it that we’ll be fine Verse 1 Oh Baby don’t bother Cause I don’t want to know And Honey you are crazy If you think I’ll let you go I just heard “Sweetie you’re not…” A-a-a-nything can come after the dot dot dot Chorus Flipped the mattress but the sheets weren’t changed Feels like something’s different but it’s still all the same You think that I’m dramatic but I blow you away They saw that we won’t make it when we’re really ok. We might be kind of pointless but you sure mean a lot But when I’m in your arms you know that I’m all you got.
Jam #12 • Beginning process of composing the song • How do students communicate with each other? • How do students generate ideas? • How do students reflect on their music? • What’s the role of the teacher? Transcript • The finished product • Form • Lyrics
Form of Jam #12 Hear the piece and watch the score
Jam #12 Lyrics Presidential race 2008 Civilized culture and still the world is filled with hate Corporate sellouts always promising change How much does it cost to buy a candidate? Chorus This can’t go on any longer It’s our nation make it stronger The heart is black and the money is green Fighting wars for profit fueled by greed Major news stations, always they decide Who’s in the spotlight and who’s forced to hide The truest Americans, the honest candidates They ain’t even allowed in the televised debates
Gender and Popular Music • My research suggests that there are difference between the ways boys and girls create music • Girls compartmentalize their talking and playing • Boys work in a constant wash of sound • Girls tend to talk more than boys • This mirrors research on play
Gender and Popular Music • Lyrics • Girls tend to write about relationships • Boys write about “bigger” issues than personal, like politics • Both ways of creating music are legitimate. • The point of this research is not to change students but to be inclusive of different ways students might solve musical tasks.
Let it Be Rap Yo my click bleep now like 12 from the apostles [???] And bust down bottles and bust down tahoes. [???] Jewels, Fros, look like we hit the lotto P89 my clip filled with hallows Stuck in the club we all hit with bottles Don’t speak now if your neck don’t swallow ‘Cause 50 [Cent] pushed Bentleys and [Dr.] Dre pushed Diablos And Eminem got cash in my escrow [??? probably not] I’ve got G unit dickies, G unit velours, G unit tank top, G unit drawers Now I’m moving product at the G unit stores And [???] G unit Floor When they’re hot they like to screw you Remember this, I got more control over your life than you do. I said, Red heads all up in your [???] everybody aiming for your [???]
What do we do about this?... • Were these lyrics inappropriate? • Teacher needs to know “what’s going on.” • How do we take care of these things without squashing creativity?
What can we gather these songs? • Writing popular music is extremely personal • It is not fluff: it can deal with issues like politics, and can be poetic • Is not “cookie-cutter” composing; students can explore and use different forms, harmonies, etc. • Teachers need to be “in the know.”
How to make this happen • Allsup and Baxter • Ask open, guided, and closed questions • Open: what are we going to compose today? • Guided: in what ways can we express an emotion? • Closed: should we use G major or C major here?
How to make this happen • Do not compose with overly specific goals • Don’t specify the number of measures • Don’t make them focus on one element of music • If can be avoided, don’t give them a chord progression • Instead compose for the reasons composer compose: to create music. From what the students give you, create concepts.
Helpful strategies to facilitate a creative popular music composition experience
Questions? • Time for a break?
Listening to, Watching and Analyzing Popular Music • What is popular music good for. • Rap teaches the Scottish Snap! • Hip Hop Harry • Don’t Bait and Switch • Popular music has merit on its own
Cultural Studies • Music as Text • Music and other texts are polysemic (have multiple meanings).
Cultural Studies • Hall, S. (1980 ). Encoding/decoding. Culture, Media, Language: Working Papers in Cultural Studies, 1972-79 Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (Ed.): London: Hutchinson, pp. 128-38. • Readings: • Dominant • Oppositional • Negotiated
Imagine • John Lennon • A Perfect Circle
Run The World (Girls), by Beyonce • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VBmMU_iwe6U&safe=active
Dominant Reading: Female Empowerment I'm reppin' for the girls who taking over the world Help me raise a glass for the college grads This goes out to all my girls That's in the club rocking the latest Who will buy it for themselves and get more money later I'm reppin' for the girls who taking over the world Help me raise a glass for the college grads Boy I know you love it How we're smart enough to make these millions Strong enough to bear the children Then get back to business
Oppositional Reading: Women's Objectification My persuasion can build a nation Endless power With our love we can devour You'll do anything for me
Issues • What constitutes a “dominant” reading? How do we know it is dominant?
Dilemmas • This work is political (but not Political or partisan) • You are inviting in controversial issues • But English teachers do this all the time (i.e. Catcher in the Rye) • This is harder than relying on the notes alone
Harlem Shake • Harlem reacts to the Harlem Shake
Summary • Dominant, Oppositional, and Negotiated Readings allow students both to critically examine and celebrate popular culture. By reading through lenses, it allows distance between them and the text, and allows them to not take critique of “their” music personally.
Summary • Popular Music can accomplish traditional and established goals in music education: • It can be used to compose and let students be creative. When doing this teachers should start open and close parameters only when needed, using open, guided, and then closed questions. • By using dominant, oppositional, and negotiated readings, teachers can ask students to question to interpret music and videos, making connections to sociological questions, and coming to multiple interpretations and conclusions.
Works Cited • Abramo, J. M. (2011). Queering informal pedagogy: Sexuality and popular music in the schools. Music Education Research, 13(4), 447-459. • Abramo, J. M. (2011). Gender differences of popular music production in secondary schools. Journal of Research in Music Education, 59(1), 21-43. • Abramo, J. (2011). Gender differences in the popular music compositions of high school students. Music Education Research International, 5,1-11. • Allsup, R. E. (2003a). Mutual learning and democratic action in instrumental music education. Journal of Research in Music Education, (51)1, 24-37.
Works Cited • Green, L. (2002). How popular musicians learn: A way ahead for music education. Burlington, VT: Ashgate. • Green, L. (2008). Music, informal learning and the school: A new classroom pedagogy. Burlington, VT: Ashgate. • Hall, S. (1980 ). Encoding/decoding. Culture, Media, Language: Working Papers in Cultural Studies, 1972-79 Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (Ed.): London: Hutchinson, pp. 128-38. • Small, C. (1998). Musicking: The meanings of performance and listening.Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press.