Academic journal article Victorian Journal of Music Education

"I Want to Live in America": Using Imagery in Instrumental Music Teaching

Academic journal article Victorian Journal of Music Education

"I Want to Live in America": Using Imagery in Instrumental Music Teaching

Article excerpt


The aim of this study is to explore the use of literary devices used by instrumental and studio music teachers and to gather examples of types of literary devices that they use for teaching and assisting students' understanding of the technical aspects of learning and playing an instrument. Such elements are predominantly associated with rhythm, beat, articulation, pitch and posture. The primary focus of this research is to build a collection of literary devices that address the technical aspects of playing an instrument rather than the stylistic interpretation of repertoire. In framing this study the over-arching term metaphor was chosen as it provided a common meaning for respondents to address the primary goal of the research. Identification of accurate definitions of the types of literary devices that could be used to categorise the specific teaching examples provided by respondents was a consequential goal of this study.

Defining Literary Devices

Although the term metaphor was used in this study to establish a common understanding of the focus of the research and the respondents confirmed their understanding by only using this term in their response, the musical examples that they provided were able to be categorised as a number of literary devices. Those that could be used to describe the musical examples in the data provided by the respondents have been identified as analogy, imagery, metaphor, onomatopoeia and simile. For consistency, brief definitions for the literary terms where a match was apparent have been taken from The New Oxford Dictionary of English (2001). Analogy is defined as "a comparison between one thing and another, typically for the purpose of explanation or clarification" (p. 58). Imagery is defined as "visually descriptive or figurative language" (p. 912), and the word metaphor defined as "a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable" (p. 1163). Onomatopoeia is referred to as "the formation of a word from a sound associated with what is named" (p. 1296), and simile is described as "a figure of speech involving the comparison of one thing with another thing of a different kind, used to make a description more emphatic or vivid" (p. 1736).

Literacy devices in the literature

Many professional and scholarly articles have been written about using literary devices in the context of music teaching. Within the literature these articles are generally associated with the fields of psychology of music, pedagogy, music perception and music cognition, verbal instruction in teaching, imagination and improvisation. Significant contribution to the literature has been made by Flowers (2003, 2000, 1998, 1996, 1988), Flowers and Wang (2002), who addressed the effects of verbal description and instruction in teaching music; Sheldon (2004, 1999, 1998) in her research into verbalisation in music teaching and learning and links with imagery and musical expression; and Woody (2006a, 2006b, 2004, 2001) who considered mental imagery and metaphors and the link to expressive musical performance. Froehlich and Cattley (1991) identified four functions of the use of metaphor in relation to music learning, although they argued that because analogies and metaphors require a degree of contextual understanding they were not strongly supportive of the value of these approaches in music teaching.

In contrast, the value of using metaphor in the music lesson as a pedagogical device has been documented. Tait (1992) acknowledged that various researchers have identified that verbal behaviour during music lessons totalled at least one-third of teaching time, including the use of imagery as well as explanation and instruction. Spitzer (2004) remarked that the meaning of metaphor in music has broadened considerably giving musical examples such as the score of a composition, or melodic and rhythmic characteristics. …

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