Academic journal article Psychomusicology

Understanding the Development of Musicality: Contributions from Longitudinal Studies

Academic journal article Psychomusicology

Understanding the Development of Musicality: Contributions from Longitudinal Studies

Article excerpt

In developmental psychology and music education, there has been a growing interest in understanding the development of musicality during infancy and childhood (Stadler Elmer, 2011; Trehub, 2003; Welch, 2006). This review considers the contribution longitudinal studies have made to our knowledge and understanding of the emergence and development of musicality. Before outlining the various findings of this summary, some comments can be made regarding the term musicality, and why the longitudinal approach has been used.

The word musicality is ambiguous and a number of different meanings can be found in the literature. Definitions of the term musicality found in dictionaries commonly presuppose constructs of ability, accomplishment, and musical knowledge, often with reference to conventions surrounding performance (OED, 2014; Merriam-Webster, 2014). The OED definition for example is, "the quality or character of being musical; accomplishment or aptitude in music; musical sensibility" (OED online, 2014). This conception signifies background conventions of musical skill, that is, implicit comparison with a generic model of what "good" or "competent" musical knowledge constitutes.

Such definitions should be distinguished from the construct often found in infancy research and parent- child interaction (Trehub, 2003). Here musicality is used in a more general sense and refers to the musical biases or predispositions that underpin all musical activities. Tafuri (2008) suggests we substitute the term "musical intelligence" for musicality, now better defined as "the ability to understand or produce music, where produce includes both the ability to perform and to compose/improvise" (p. 123). Another broader definition of musicality is outlined by Malloch and Trevarthen (2009) in their model of communicative musicality, where they use the words "musical" and "musicality" in particular ways, commenting,

When we talk of talk of the musicality of mother-infant interaction, we are not talking of what we generally understand to be music... we are pointing to the innate human abilities that make music production and appreciation possible. (p. 4)

The research focusing on the developmental origins of musicality is quite diverse, for example, examining how infants perceive organized sound patterns, the study of links between early language acquisition and musicality, and consideration of how young children's musical activities reflect or correspond to locally contextualized situated meanings. These considerations of the definitions and expressions of musicality indicate one way to situate studies on the development of musicality-that is, on a dimension where precise and specific musical skills can be placed at one end of the spectrum and research on communicative musicality at the other (see Figure 1).

The current understanding of the development of musicality during infancy and childhood is built in part on research that has adopted a longitudinal methodological perspective, that is, by studying the same child (or children) over an extended period of time. Through doing so, it has been possible to gain a developmental picture of the emergence of those skills, competencies, or abilities said to represent musicality. Given that the aim of this article is to provide an overview of what has emerged from the results of longitudinal studies, one or two comments about this methodology seem warranted.

Within developmental psychology, considerable attention has been paid to the methodological advantages and disadvantages of both cross-sectional and longitudinal designs when studying development. The main question is what can be justifiably inferred from findings where development is examined by studying single individuals across time compared with other research strategies such as comparing different groups of people at different ages. With the latter, although cross-sectional studies offer considerable advantages regarding resources (e. …

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