Crossing the divide
: the ‘reinvention method’ for creative collaborative learning in pairs between advanced classical and jazz students

  • Jonathan James

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Abstract

Collaborative learning is commonly advocated in places of advanced musical training, yet classical and jazz students tend to remain in separate ‘tribes’ from a curricular perspective. When they do collaborate across styles in a creative exercise, the learning is not always reciprocal, with the jazz musician typically more adept at improvisatory tasks. This research addresses how ‘collaborative musical creativity’ may be understood before proposing a ‘reinvention method’ for paired improvisation across styles, with the aim of encouraging a more profound and equal sharing of knowledge and skills.

‘Collaborative musical creativity’ is a very fluid concept that resists empirical assessment, particularly when observing how it is expressed by advanced musicians in an open-ended task. The methodology and case study design bring definition through framing the concept from four perspectives: creative cognition, socio-cultural learning theory, musicological analysis and theories around collaborative creativity.

Comparative case studies were conducted over eighteen months with six advanced instrumentalists (average age 17, post grade 8) with either classical or jazz as their primary study. Drawing on models for creative cognition proposed by Finke (1996, 1992) and Webster (2002, 1990), as well as tactics typically used by an orchestral workshop leader, a series of cross-stylistic ‘reinvention exercises’ were devised that incorporate a cycle of convergent and divergent creative thinking, carried out individually and in pairs. In the main phase, paired participants are asked to deconstruct three pieces (two specially composed by the author, one by Stravinsky) that each carry a different style bias, and then ‘reinvent’ them together through improvising in their own musical language. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews, self-assessment questionnaires and both video and audio recordings, thematically coded to highlight cognitive, collaborative and pedagogical processes. Post-Vygotskian socio-cultural theories around paired learning (mainly relating to Participation theory, Rogoff 2008) are examined in practice.

The research validates the reinvention method as a means of facilitating cross-stylistic improvisation and reciprocal learning in pairs, and advocates for its wider application in a variety of music educational contexts.
Date of Award25 Jun 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorJustin A Williams (Supervisor) & John Pickard (Supervisor)

Keywords

  • Musical creativity
  • Paired learning
  • Collaborative creativity
  • Cross-stylistic
  • Classical jazz

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