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Discourses on music-making: Conceptions of quality in music teachers' dialogues on upper secondary school ensemble playing

Research project
Inactive research
Project owner
Academy of Music and Drama

Short description

Dissertation by Olle Zandén, 2010.
The purpose of this thesis is to analyse music teachers’ collegiate discourses on ensemble playing with regard to dialogically expressed criteria and conceptions of quality, and to relate these criteria and conceptions to the national governing documents for upper secondary ensemble education.

The study has two theoretical perspectives, that is, a didactical perspective and a dialogical perspective. The research setting as well as the research questions are clearly didactical, whilst dialogical theory is used both as a foundation for the research method and as an ontology against which the findings are interpreted. 

Topic analysis, which is based on a dialogical theory of sense-making according to which meaning is constituted in a double dialogical process between interactants, situation and socio-cultural traditions is the method used.

Four groups of music teachers have discussed video excerpts of popular music ensembles from ensemble classes, and these discussions have been analysed with respect to topics displaying conceptions of musical and didactical quality. Topics are created through communicative projects, in which two or more people display a mutual understanding of what they are talking about. Thus, all conceptions of quality elicited from the participant groups of ensemble teachers are the result of intersubjective sense-making.

The results show that the ideal of informal music-making is so strong that the groups describe teacher intervention as detrimental to musical progress. Very little is said about the sounding music, whereas physical expressivity, autonomy and joy of playing are prominent topics. The apparent lack of music-specific, “contextual” criteria and the low valuation of the teachers’ work are discussed as possible threats to the existence of music as a subject in the national curriculum.