Provoking the muse: a case study of teaching and learning in music composition

Margaret S. Barrett, Joyce Eastlund Gromko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


This article reports the findings of a research project that investigated the nature of the teaching and learning process in music composition. Over the period of one semester, the formal interactions in one-on-one study sessions between an eminent composer-teacher and an experienced graduate student-composer were videotaped. Following the generation of video data, separate interviews were conducted with the composer-teacher and the student-composer in order to probe each of these participants' perceptions of the nature of the teaching and learning process in which they were engaged. Analyses of observational and interview data were framed within a social constructivist perspective and drew on notions of the zone of proximal development, a problem-finding attitude and creative collaboration. The teaching and learning process in musical composition in this study emphasized problem finding and problem solving by composer-teacher and student-composer within a social relationship characterized by reciprocity and collaborative dialogue in which possible solutions were discussed, negotiated and trialed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-230
Number of pages18
JournalPsychology of Music
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Collaborative dialogue
  • Creativity
  • Problem finding
  • Problem solving
  • Social constructivism
  • Zone of proximal development

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