The Effect of Instruction on Musicians' and Non-Musicians' Aesthetic Response to Brazilian and African Music

By Dekaney, Elisa M.; Macedo, Elizeu C. et al. | Contributions to Music Education, July 1, 2010 | Go to article overview

The Effect of Instruction on Musicians' and Non-Musicians' Aesthetic Response to Brazilian and African Music


Dekaney, Elisa M., Macedo, Elizeu C., Coggiola, John C., Contributions to Music Education


This study examined aesthetic response to Brazilian and African music experienced with and without instruction received prior to the listening session. In addition, there was an attempt to determine if there was a difference in response between musicians (music therapy majors) and non-musicians (psychology majors). The participants (N = 44) were undergraduate students enrolled at two private comprehensive universities in São Paulo, Brazil. Data was collected via the Continuous Response Digital Interface (CRDI). Prior to the listening experience, half the participants from both musicians (n = 22) and non-musicians (n=22) groups read an instruction sheet describing the musical style, historical background, and cultural context of the musical selections. The remaining participants in both groups received no instruction prior to their listening session. Results indicated that instruction had a statistically significant effect on musicians' aesthetic response to the African and Brazilian songs, but the same instruction did not significantly affect non-musicians.

The study of affective responses to music is a significant subject in music education research. Within the area of music preference, most researchers have developed their own definition of listening response to music. For instance, Price (1986) defines it as the "art of choosing, esteeming, or giving advantage to one thing over another" (p. 154) while LeBlanc (1984) considers music preference as "an operational construct which represents a demonstrated level of liking specific musical stimuli" (p. 1). LeBlanc adds that "music preference decisions are based upon the interaction of input information and the characteristics of the listener's cultural environment, with input information consisting of the musical stimulus and the listener's cultural environment" (LeBlanc, 1987, p. 139).

Several factors seem to have an effect on the music preference of students. LeBlanc (1984) proposed an interactive model of music preference in which he suggested three kinds of variables that may explain music-making decisions: characteristics of the musical stimulus, listener, and cultural environment. Kuhn (1980) identified eight similar variables that contribute to music preference decisions: age, musical training, familiarity with the musical stimuli, socio-economic status, moods, degree of media exposure to the musical stimuli, stereophonic or monophonic presentation modality, and elemental aspects of intact musical examples such as tempo, meter, tonality, and generic styles.

Early studies on listeners' preference for music style indicate that children prefer popular and rock music to classical music (LeBlanc, 1981; Shehan, 1981), a result that seems to be related to issues of familiarity with those two music styles. Familiarity, through exposure and training, has been an invaluable element in the preference for the music of world cultures. Shehan (1985) observed that the discussion of non-Western musical styles at the elementary and middle school levels was not able to affect enthusiastic response from children. Heingartner and Hall (1974) investigated how familiarity affects music preference for world music in college and fourth grade students and found that increased frequency of exposure to Pakistani music selections increased students' preference. Demorest and Schultz (2004) examined fifth graders' preference for authentic and arranged versions of world music recordings, the relationship of those ratings to familiarity, and teachers' ability to predict students' preference. Results showed that familiarity with a song from another world culture is positively related to student preference for that song.

Findings for studies that compare the preference means between musicians and non-musicians consistently indicate that musicians had significantly higher preference means than did non-musicians regardless of musical style (Burke & Gridley, 1990; Hargreaves, Messerschmidt & Rubert, 1980; Smith & Cuddy, 1986). …

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