Uncovering and Teaching the Process of Analysis to Undergraduate Music Theory Students



This article reports on the results of a three-year teaching and learning inquiry into pedagogical strategies for music analysis in a second-year required music theory course. I used Pace and Middendorf’s Decoding the Disciplines framework as the starting point for the development of a general theory of expert processes of music analysis, and then applied my theory in four pedagogical revisions, two of which were in-class activities and two of which were out-of-class activities. I posit that expert music analysts include performance, listening, contemplation, and revision as part of the process of music analysis, and that music theorists typically include additional elements: gathering musical evidence, formulating an argument, and sharing finished analyses with peers. For each of my four targeted areas for revision, I describe each pedagogical strategy, discuss my revisions, and evaluate the impact of the change on student learning. I conclude with thoughts about how a focus on the process of music analysis rather than the finished product might encourage greater equality and diversity amongst music theory instructors and students alike, and foster both more musical analyses and more musical classroom environments.

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Last modified on Thursday, 02/04/2020

Robin Attas

Robin Attas is a music theorist and an educational developer at the Centre for Teaching and Learning at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Her music-theoretical research focuses on popular music, with analytical methods including rhythm and meter, form, text-music connections, cross-cultural comparison, and connections between analysis and social justice; pedagogical research interests include writing pedagogy, decoding the disciplines, and curricular revision focused on decolonization and Indigenization.

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