Composition

Composition in primary schools is a farce.   What composition is supposed to be, is an opportunity to create music for a solo performer or group of people.   It requires some considerable domain knowledge, good performance skills and good aural skills to do well.   What we have in primary schools is “experimental time” where children are put in small groups and then mess around with instruments and sounds.  This is called composition although it has almost no similarity to the real thing.   Everyone who believes in primary school composition will complain about my definition and say that is an unfair portrayal.   However, in 14 years of teaching music in schools, I am yet to see a successful composition lesson.  Really good teachers will blame themselves, the kids,  SLT,  the school or even the government before they blame the nature of group work.   Just to clarify,  most composition tasks in KS1, 2 or 3 involve children being put or putting themselves into groups of 4 or 5 to compose music to a task set by a teacher.   It simply does not work due to the nature of sound and the nature of group dynamics.   In a smallish room you cannot hear yourselves play so when everyone is playing different things at the same time you will rarely be successful.   Group dynamics means that whenever any group of people get together,  there are so many other things to talk about.   Why do the work set when you can continue your conversation from lunch time?   So little work ever gets done in composition lessons.  But there is this crazy sense that we are failing teachers if we say group work is crap so we end up with everyone agreeing with something that deep down they know is a really bad educational  idea.  I would not be so against it if I knew it worked but like I have said,  I have never seen it work well.   Ever.

So this time which could be used on aural work, singing or performance is wasted.   The kids who want to get good grades hate it as they have to do all the work as their peers can’t be bothered/do not have the skills.   Some kids are bored.  Others get into a cathagic state where they hit instruments with no thought process going on.

Let’s just abolish it until kids are 14.  You will see standards rise and more people take the subject for GCSE.  

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