Music and creativity

Music education

Even though the benefits of music for learning and personal development are well known, when there are budget cuts to education, music and the arts are often easy targets. Yet what we need is more music rather than less, as Peter Luff from the Queensland Symphony Orchestra and Griffith University tells a reporter from ABC news.

Watch interview here.

If you need to be reminded of the benefits of music education, Carolyn Phillips has a list of 12 benefits of music education, namely:

  1. Training and development of language and reasoning centres in the brain;
  2. Development of spatial intelligence, which includes mathematical thinking and the way we create mental models and perceive the world;
  3. Development of creative problem solving skills;
  4. Improvement on test scores in other subjects;
  5. Building of empathy and compassion through exposure to other cultural norms and practices;
  6. Learning the importance of detail and excellence;
  7. An appreciation of the value of sustained effort;
  8. Teamwork and discipline;
  9. Self expression;
  10. Learning the performance skills of communication and cooperation which translate into valuable workplace skills;
  11. Learning to conquer fear and take risks; and most of all
  12. ‘An arts education exposes children to the incomparable.’

Research into music, improvisation and creativity

This is some great research. Parag Chordia at the Music Intelligence Lab at Georgia University of Technology, Atlanta USA, has been researching creativity from the perspective of cognitive neuroscience. Three things of note here. Firstly, as a musician he argues that music, like language, is central to all cultures. Secondly, he believes we all have creativity inside us and that it’s not confined to only a talented few.  In this interview with a reporter from the online magazine, Science Nation, he talks about his research and how the brain functions differently when its improvising versus playing music from a set score.

Watch video interview here.

LaDiDa – iPhone app

The third item I found interesting about Chordia’s work is that he’s created an  iPhone app called LaDiDa.  For $3 you can sing into your phone and the app creates musical accompaniment. It mends your poor performance so that you sound great, complete with a backing band. It does wonders for the ego. Try singing your favourite power ballad into the app and you might decide to change your career today. (Yes, I can sing!).

Creativity and context: teaching creatively online

One of the great challenges for those interested in fostering creativity is the problem of context. This as you’d expect shapes what teachers and students do, and in the fully online course space the contextual issues are a constant struggle between making space for student freedom, autonomy and agency within the boundaries of a course limited by time and resources, where you only ‘see’ students as they present via their online persona.

MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) present a particular challenge. Do they present opportunities for creative change in online learning or reinforcement of traditional ways?  Always keen on the experiential approach to learning, I’ve enrolled in a number of MOOCs, which makes me a serial MOOCist,  MOOCee . . . or some such.

At the moment, MOOCs in the main, from my non-systematic reading, seem to be emerging as traditional online courses. Yes, with a few more students. I don’t think the majority are following George Siemens’ very loosely structured connectivist model. The majority seem to be structured on the traditional higher ed classroom presentation model.

I’m just now completing the Introduction to Philosophy course offered via the University of Edinburgh and Coursera. It’s traditional in that there are video lectures, weekly quizzes, a discussion board, and a final essay.

Signs of creativity? It’s philosophy, so it’s very much about analytical thinking, but creativity comes out in the examples chosen by lecturers to demonstrate points in their talks, and in the passion some of the lecturers show for their subject matter as they stand in front of the video camera, unaccustomed to public speaking in a room filled with one (themselves). There’s creativity in some of the lecturers’ responses to the online discussions. So, traditional, but okay and there are enough boundaries to keep me on track without boxing me in.

From the student point of view is there creativity? Well, it’s all up to you to get whatever you want out of the course. No one else cares. There’s not an overwhelming amount of content in this course so you have plenty of room to think – which is what philosophers want you to do. There’s room for activity  – and where there’s activity and reflection then there’s room for creativity. You can go and research more if you want, but only you care. Goals are very important in MOOC Land – your goals.

I’m keen to see how the Creativity Innovation and Change course stacks up later in the year. Apparently I will be exploring creativity to gain personal insights, solving complex problems and using creativity to drive change. Collaboration will be a big part of this course which it wasn’t for the philosophy one. How much collaboration do we need for creativity?

Creativity – what is your inspiration?

Creativity is part of change and change itself. But where does inspiration for creativity come from?

In this promo for the ‘e.g. conference’, artists and other creative people were asked this question.

In response they talk about expressing themselves, making connections and finding inspiration in e.g.:

–  ‘showing people what they can’t see for themselves’

– ‘everything’

– ‘history’

– ‘other people’s stories’

– ‘films’

– ‘helping visually impaired children’

– ‘solving problems that have been unnoticed or unsolved for a long time’.

‘Creativity is the way we make change.’ ‘Creativity is important for the survival of our species.’ ‘Creativity doesn’t happen in a mental desert.’

Learning is a creative act, and learning with and through others is creative.  As you learn you change the way you see the world and change the way you interact with the world.

More inspiration? What do you see . . . 

Have a look at this other ‘e.g.’ video:  ‘What do you see?’. More inspiring individuals talk about the power of seeing. I think the passion of others is delightful, inspiring and catching.  As Albert Einstein is supposed to have said: ‘Creativity is catching. Pass it on.’



Creativity is all about connections – making connections, people connections, domain connections, international connections, serendipitous connections. Here’s a music connection – Dave Brubeck, jazz musician, working around political connections, art as corruption, and the power of music to connect people and make trouble and present moral dilemmas.