MAPPING MUSICAL EXPERIENCE

Given any rich experience, what happens when we commit our sensibility to graphically mapping the experience in real time? Deborah Blair’s paper is fascinating. Her model has much wider applications. And, this toolmaker came up with many such possibilities.

By all means check out the PDF and especially the examples of her students’ maps of musical experience. The paper itself is part of the superb archive provided by International Journal of Education & the Arts at its web site.

Musical maps allow us to participate in a unique world that would otherwise be closed to us—the world of our students’ listening experiences. The sharing of the maps provides the opportunity for peers to enter into another’s musical experience and for the creators of the maps to allow others to enter into their own experience. Like readers who recreate an experience for themselves while reading narrative, or listeners who recreate music when listening, observers of another’s musical map are recreating the music and the person’s listening experience through the sharing of that map, extending the scope of musical discourse through listening. The experience is mediated by each students’ own personal lens, but the level of shared understanding from also creating a map for the same music offers valuable common ground for the development of musical ideas.

In this study, students eagerly shared their completed maps with their classmates by physically tracing their distinctively created graphic representation while listening to the music. Thus presented, the map provides a frame for reliving the experience, for further exploration, for the sharing of ideas. It may not represent everything someone experienced when listening to the music, but it is a frame, featuring salient points or things to which the listener especially attended.

Students represent what is important to them, those things which are meaningful during their musical encounter. This does not mean that other features were not heard or tacitly known. What is known tacitly is sometimes brought into focus when watching another student’s map and noticing something new––something known but not personally articulated. The map frames the living and telling of the story as the map is created, providing reference points for nonverbal and verbal discussion of musical ideas. The map frames the reliving and retelling of the story as the map is shared, providing reference points for the reliving of one’s own musical listening experience and uniquely allowing
others to enter into their own listening experience.

Musical Maps as Narrative Inquiry | PDF
Deborah V. Blair
Oakland University
Rochester, Michigan
International Journal of Education & the Arts, 8(15).

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