Music as a language: ‘Developing a rhythmic pedagogy’ & ‘rhythm and language: ‘spaces in time’ as phonology’

Huxtable, Jason (2018) Music as a language: ‘Developing a rhythmic pedagogy’ & ‘rhythm and language: ‘spaces in time’ as phonology’. In: York Music Education Conference, 26 - 27 June 2018, University of York.


Research process: The notion that Music functions as a ‘Language’ is often stated but without clear comparison or application. This body of research seeks to make more explicit links between language and music, identifying intersections across the ontological objects of Language, Space, Rhythm and Time, considering how linguistic theory and modes of language acquisition could apply to rhythmic skill development and pedagogy. The point of departure is through an initial investigation as to whether Music is a Language, and by which definition. Drawing upon Mills and McPherson (2006), a critical comparison of current modes of language/musical skill acquisition is drawn, problem posing the potential for a review of modes of rhythmic pedagogy. Cantwell and Millard’s (1994) hierarchies of music/linguistic structures are used to justify the representation of Grebb’s (2013) ‘Rhythmic Alphabet’ as basic rhythmic units or ‘Rhythmic Phonemes’, organised in multiple ways, representing infinite rhythmic potential. These ‘Rhythmic Phonemes’ are used as building blocks for modes of perception, able to organise and communicate ‘Rhythm’ with respect for its ‘Space’ and ‘Time’ components. Pedagogy is, finally, informed by findings, disseminating at Music Education and Musical Language conference events. Research insights: Explorations of the links between language and rhythm can help develop an understanding of rhythm as ‘phonological constructions of ‘phonetic’ units, deployed across space and time as communicative action’. This understanding develops our ability, as musicians and educators, to perceive, organise and explain rhythmic material, impacting upon communications within performance and pedagogy disciplines. Dissemination: The work was disseminated at: ‘Developing a ‘Linguistic’ Rhythmic Pedagogy’, York Music Education Conference: Connections and Communications in Instrumental and Vocal Teaching, 26-27 June 2018. ‘Pedagogy of Rhythmic Language’, Music Education Solutions – Curriculum Music Conference, Walsall, 21 March 2019. ‘Rhythm and Language: ‘Spaces in Time’ as Phonology’, University of Birmingham, 14th May 2019.

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