So following my last post I have been trying to develop more awareness and confidence in my students that they are composing effectively in my classroom and that there is no ‘right answer’ that I am looking for.
I usually start year 10 with a single composition as a kind of baseline assessment, but after reading their anxieties I am trying a new approach. Over the opening weeks I am working through a series of ‘unfinished’ compositions and generating ideas in different formats. Almost like creating a musical mood board. All the time I am aiming to reinforce to them that no single approach is better than the other and that I do not have a right answer in mind as their teacher.
So composition 1 has been a technical exercise. Composing 8 bars with a functional harmonisation (embedding learning about melodies, chords and cadences). Composition 2 is an improvisation based task inspired by a picture exploring the potential of their chosen instrument. Composition 3 is a minimalism style task using Cubase and looking at how to develop ideas from a single stimulus.
So far I am liking the pace of the tasks, it means the students cannot afford to get caught up too much in details and getting a perfect finished piece. I am moving them on saying they can come back to it later if they wish and keep reminding them that they are composing and to compare the methods. I plan to review the tasks with them later on, but already they are telling me that the composing lessons are their favourite.
I understand that GCSE and A Level work needs marking and standardising, however I only wish there was a way to truly allow them to compose and generate real creativity without the necessity of composing exam criteria. But that is another blog, another time!