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Plural possibilities of improvisation in music education

An ecological perspective on choral improvisation and wellbeing

Siljamäki Eeva

Improvisation is increasingly valued in music educational contexts and beyond, however it has not yet gained an established position in music education research and practice. This dissertation addresses the need to recognize the wide variety of affordances that improvisation can offer music education. By utilizing a socioecological research framework, this dissertation aims to contribute to the theorizing of improvisation as a social practice and pedagogical approach, as well as to unwrap how improvisation can contribute to the quality of human life on multiple levels. The socio-ecological perspective allows us to explore improvisation as social action with the goal of understanding the complex and transformational processes by which learning occurs and musical agency and identity are constructed in relation to the social environment. By untangling these social aspects, as well as addressing the significance of the quality of social interaction, this work points out that there is a need to recognize the conditions that either support or hinder the social participation and diversity of learners, and furthermore their wellbeing and equality. This is an article-based dissertation with an instrumental multi-case study design, and aims to identify the plural and holistic affordances that improvisation can offer to music education.   This dissertation advocates that more emphasis could be placed on the reciprocal co-construction of musical learning environments that, firstly, support an experience of safety, participation, and exploring capabilities when encountering the inherent uncertainty of improvisation; and, secondly, that provide each learner with the opportunity and capacity to perceive their potential avenues of conduct as social, creative, and improvisational agents of their own future wellbeing and learning within their social ecology. By extending the understanding of improvisation from being regarded solely as a musical practice to being fully perceived as a social practice and pedagogical approach, we will be able to support the constructing of learning environments with more emphasis on individual and emotional development through holistic (embodied), reciprocal, playful, and free (welcoming all kinds of sounds) expression, and the acknowledgement of individual affordances of music and music making for each learner, as well as the true meaning of equity.

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