‘Troubling’ music education: playing, (re-)making and researching differently
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date31/07/2022
Traditional theorising around music teacher education has focused largely on dichotomies between theory and practice. The dominant stories of teaching, knowing and researching which underpin this theorising arise from Enlightenment views of humanism where knowledge is fixed and transferable, where bodies and materials are used as tools towards cognitive gain, where the spoken and written word dominate. This study challenges these stories, ‘troubling’ views of music teacher education and approaches to researching it. These challenges arise from bringing together music teacher education with posthumanist literature, particularly the work of Donna Haraway and Karen Barad, to break down divides between body and mind, theory and practice, nature and culture, human and material, knowing and being. Drawing on post-humanist philosophies, this thesis reconceptualises relationships not as opposites but as entanglements, where learning occurs in between people, materials, spaces and ideas. It is through doing differently that we create potential for seeing, hearing, feeling, practicing and thinking in different ways. To challenge dominant stories of teaching, knowing and researching, this project focused on creating a space to make music teacher education differently, creating different relationships, making different metaphors and stories, and being together both with one another and with the materials in different ways. For this project a space was created alongside a university music teacher education programme where a research group was established involving eight student teachers, their course leader and myself as the researcher. Our research experiences involved a series of conversations and practical workshops over a period of nine months, during which we explored and re-visited the notion of improvisation - a common concept in music – from the perspective of it being a ‘radical apparatus’ used to ‘trouble’ our expectations, our actions and our thinking about teaching, knowing and pedagogy. We played with improvisation through discussion, through responding to and creating images, through musical, physical and verbal improvisation activities and through ongoing reflective conversations about how the ideas of the project entangled with our lived experiences. In our playing, the role of the body and the active role that materials played on us became important. Challenging the absence of discussion around bodily and material activity in music teacher education and reinstating the importance of these elements in our entanglements, makes significant differences in what is seen as relevant and important, what is explored and played with in the research processes and how relationships are considered. Posthumanism allowed the project to play with and challenge conventional research language (e.g. in this thesis the terms ‘data’ and ‘methods’ are reframed as research materials and research experiences); conventional analytical approaches (e.g. which in this thesis are thought of as playful diffractions), and the conventional thesis structure. This thesis is written as a set of three Themes and Variations, where the literature and methodology are entangled throughout, and ideas are explored from multiple perspectives. Each variation sets particular materials, ideas, vocabularies and literature in motion with each other, creating spaces of diffractive playing. Doing, thinking, writing, seeing, hearing and feeling differently not only troubles music teacher education but creates potential for asking far reaching questions which traverse discipline boundaries: Who or what is teaching? How do we see beyond the human to see what materials are actively doing? How do we create forms that are dynamic, allowing difference-making to occur? What happens when we consider learning as emerging in-between us and materials? What is the role of the body as making in teacher education? What is the role of making in learning? What if we reconceive teachers as makers? What relationships do we have with sound as makers? What would it mean for attentionality and response-ability to become core professional ways of being? In leading us to ask these questions, this thesis begins to tell a different story, of a posthumanist pedagogy for music teacher education. This is a story of pedagogy as relating to the specific way we enact relationships not only with other humans, but also with materials and sounds. It is a story of how we develop student teachers’ sensorial awareness to these material / sound / human entanglements, and how we promote playfulness as a process of opening up concepts, forms and language to make new and make differently in Music ITE. This new story is embryonic, an offer which is not a set of fixed conclusions but as something to continue to make-with in different contexts, in different environments and with others. It is a story of music teacher education yet to come.