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The Hyperscore Difference: Inverting the Pedagogy

Dr. Jennings provides a masterful argument for allowing students to compose purposefully first, then discussing the musical rudiments present in their creative work afterwards.

Cecilia Roudabush, Director of Education for New Harmony Line

To truly capitalize on Hyperscore, Dr. Kevin Jennings of Dublin, Ireland, urges music educators to student composers to “invert the pedagogy” when it comes to introducing children to composition. Watch:

This means allowing student composers to create purposefully first, then discussing the musical rudiments present in their creative work afterwards. Dr. Jennings, part of the original Hyperscore team at the MIT Media Lab, encourages teachers to start by asking a student to place that first note in the Melody Window. Ask the student to process: Do I like the pitch? Do I like the length? Do I like the instrument choice? If I change it, do I like it better? Why or why not? With experimentation and reacting as the key, students would learn to build a composition. Moving forward purposefully with each successive note allows the student to become a creative composer!

Hyperscore as an alternative to traditional notation

Most interestingly, Dr. Jennings believes that the visual representation of music in Hyperscore bypasses the need for understanding standard notation first in order to be able to compose. In Hyperscore, student composers can visually see the difference between a quarter note and a half note. They can see, and hear, that a note is higher or lower than another, composing intuitively as they manipulate their musical choices. Should instruction move on to include the music staff, the visual mode lends itself to greater understanding of the complexity of standard notation. As students react to, and discuss what they are hearing in their compositions, the teacher can introduce musical concepts and terminology (“that’s called a major third”).

Sage on the stage or guide on the side?

In this pedagogy, Dr. Jennings states that the teacher becomes a “guide, mentor, partner, co-creator/co-conspirator” in the student’s process. As a teacher myself, I find that there is no greater joy than to hear students talking to each other about their composition process or sitting at a computer with a student and pointing out rising sequences that they instinctively placed into their piece because they liked the pattern and wanted to hear it again, but in a different way.

Do you want to gift your students with the opportunity to create music purposefully? Dr. Jennings encourages you to follow the advice of Canadian Professor of Music Theory Charles Morrison and “be a guide on the side, not a sage on the stage”–Hyperscore empowers you, the teacher, to be that guide.

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