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Music and Early Language Acquisition

7 February 2016


Music is sometimes treated as an ancillary ability, second to language. This powerful review by three American academics of more than 100 scientific papers concludes that it is more productive to describe spoken language as a special type of music in any community in the world. The review presents a compelling case that music learning and ability is essential to language acquisition from infancy. The paper concentrates on the relationship between music and language development rather than the implications for preschool and school education, but it acknowledges that "evidence that differences in brain anatomy associated with musicians ... can already be seen in children who have taken 30 months of music lessons, despite showing no differences prior to starting music lessons."

This is a worthy addition to our category on brain science and music, adding another academically impeccable dimension to the Music Trust's argument that music should be an integral part of children's education from an early age.

Anthony Brandt, Molly Gebrian and L. Robert Slevc        Categories: Issues | Brain Science and Music | Early Childhood | School Music Education | Music Research

Applying the Theory of Complex Adaptive Systems to Arts Planning

29 January 2016


Richard Letts first drew attention to the theory of complex adaptive systems in The Arts on the Edge of Chaos in 1995 (now a Music Trust e-book which can be read on the Knowledge Base). In this paper, he presents the first-ever research into four crucial areas of the Australian music sector: Formulating Government Arts Practice, the Music Trust proposals to the National Opera Review, music education in Australian public primary schools, and music education in Australian conservatoria. This is a major new research area which should be more extensively used in policy formulation for music and the other arts.

Richard Letts        Categories: Issues | Government Policies and Interventions | Opera | School Music Education | Post-Secondary Education | Music Research

Australian Honours, Australia Day 2016

26 January 2016


The Knowledge Base publishes a list of people receiving Honours at the annual Australia Day (26 January) and the Queen's Birthday in June. The list is unofficial but the experience of the last several Honours events has been that it gives an excellent representation of people who are involved in musical activities across the music sector. The compilations raise concerns that the community efforts associated with recommending people for Honours have been flawed. According to our statistical analysis numbers have been much lower over the past two to three years (with about 4% of total awards being associated with musical activities) than in 2012 to 2014 when 11% were.

Richard Letts        Categories: Mapping Music in Australia | Honours

Complex Adaptive Systems and Music

9 January 2016


Scenario paper #14 discusses the arts, including music, in the context set up by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Murray Gell-Mann and the Santa Fe Institute to describe how each and every system with any degree of complexity (such as the Australian music sector or any part thereof) adapt to a vast network of other complex adaptive systems. National governments, of course, have to tap into large numbers of other systems, which has contributed to the arts in Australia becoming a relatively weak area politically, despite their strong cultural traditions.

It became increasingly important to write this paper as part of the build-up towards Australian music sector scenarios, due in the second quarter of 2016. The paper also owes a debt to Richard Letts's research into complex adaptive systems which is now generally available as a Music Trust e-book, The Arts on the Edge of Chaos. He has now applied this work to selected parts of the Australian music sector in Applying the Theory of Complex Adaptive Systems to Arts Planning, briefly reviewed above (29.1.2016).

Hans Hoegh-Guldberg        Categories: Issues | Scenarios for the Future | Opera | Trends in Musical Tastes | Music Research

Present and Future Changes and Their Role in the Scenarios

20 December 2015


The analytic depth carried out by various organisations differs to a great extent. Public statements of government policy often appear shallow though this may be partly for PR reasons. Both in the Music Trust and in our previous lives we have always tried to identify the ultimate causes and not just the direct or "proximate" causes of change. This is particularly important when looking decades ahead, as in the current music sector scenario project (or for that matter in the government's own 40-year intergenerational reports). Paper #13 in the scenario series briefly discusses the virtues of identifying ultimate causes of change, and not just what appear to be superficial direct ones. We strongly advocate that Australian politicians and their advisers take similarly long-term views, and publicise them.

Hans Hoegh-Guldberg        Categories: Issues | Scenarios for the Future | Government Policies and Interventions

Creative Musicianship and Psychological Growth

14 December 2015


Dick Letts's doctoral thesis at the University of California, Berkeley, reflects his constant concern over the relegation of music to the sidelines of the school curriculum — a main reason why he founded The Music Trust in 2013. Prominent academic commentators as recently as 2015 have called the thesis "transformational" despite its more than 40 years long existence. It is highly appropriate that this work now becomes the second Music Trust e-book, and we hope it will be widely read on the Internet. It is an important contribution to the understanding of the subject of school music education which remains grossly undervalued and misunderstood.

Author: Richard Letts        Categories: Issues | School Music Education | Music Trust e-books

The Arts on the Edge of Chaos

5 December 2015


This is the first Music Trust e-book of a batch of four to be entered by April 2016. The second is Richard Letts's PhD thesis described in the item above. The Arts on the Edge of Chaos is a hitherto unpublished manuscript dating from 1995. After twenty years, it is as fresh and original as when Dick wrote it, building on the emerging science of complexity and complex adaptive systems which originated mainly at the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico, under the tutelage of Nobel Prize winning physicist Murray Gell-Mann. The subject matter may seem esoteric at first sight but is not, and it deserves to be read by anyone with serious worries about the future of the arts in international and Australian culture.

Author: Richard Letts        Categories: Issues | Mapping Music in Australia | Music Trust e-books

NAPLAN – a Brief Historical and Critical Summary

1 November 2015


Our critique of the National Assessment Program — Literacy and Numeracy is summarised in this article. It has received formidable support in the form of an open letter to parents and teachers from President Barack Obama to American parents and teachers, in which he calls for the proliferation of NAPLAN-like tests in the United States to cease. We strongly recommend listening to the President's audio-visual at the end of the White House document (follow link provided). The backup of our own analysis is powerful to say the least.

Author: Hans Hoegh-Guldberg        Categories: Issues | Music Education and Training | Government Policies and Interventions | International Perspectives | Statistics

Global Leadership Challenges: A Missing Link in the Scenario Planning

31 October 2015


The Music Trust's scenario project had already spawned eleven papers as we developed the approach in an open forum to give our readers a full view of the process. But we realised recently that one crucial external influence was missing which this paper rectifies — the exposure of Australia's music sector to the international tension associated with the rivalry of the current and emerging superpowers, America and China. It can no longer be ignored when we look at the prospects for music as a globally wide-open activity, for better or worse.

The set of what is now 12 scenario papers is listed below each of these papers.

Author: Hans Hoegh-Guldberg        Categories: Issues | Scenarios for the Future | International Perspectives | Statistics

Australian Classical Chamber Music Data

16 October 2015

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Another mapping and statistical cooperation within the Music Trust like that describing the success of Australian classical musicians abroad. Again there was sufficient basis for deriving plausible data from the lists pioneered by Dick Letts and described in the item below. Chamber music according to these findings are concentrated on the mainland capital cities, exclusively as home address is concerned but also in demonstrating that most performances by these ensembles take place in the capital city where they are based. An estimated one-third of the Australian population has no ready access to live performances of Australian classical chamber music groups.

Author: Hans Hoegh-Guldberg        Categories: Statistics | Chamber Music

16 October 2015

Australian Classical Chamber Music Ensembles


This is another initiative by Dick Letts following his initiative in identifying successful Australian musicians abroad (see items below dated 4 and 16 May 2015) and initially resulted in the identification of 75 ensembles, all domiciled in mainland capital cities (Perth might be underrepresented in the initial batch, with only three of the total number represented there). The article basically show the listed description of each ensemble, classified into piano trios and quartets, string quartets, single instrument family ensembles, mixed instrument family ensembles (at least initially the largest category), and vocal groups whether a cappella or accompanied (the smallest category). The descriptive tables show name of ensemble, its home city, member(s) to contact and website, and whether it has a formal residence, such as being sponsored by a university, church, performing arts centre or other institution. Each ensemble is also briefly described, mainly based on the websites of the ensembles. We invite all concerned to propose additions to these lists to build up a more comprehensive picture of this important musical artform.

Author: Richard Letts        Categories: Mapping Music in Australia | Chamber Music

NAPLAN: Annual Assessment of Literacy and Numeracy in Schools

2 October 2015


NAPLAN is the acronym for the annual literacy and numeracy tests introduced into Australian schools in 2008. The tests have been severely criticised for disrupting the curriculum-based school teaching which with the have little in common. The annual event, including virtually all students in years 3, 5, 7 and 9, has harassed students, teachers and parents alike. It is also extremely costly, though much doesn't show up in official records but are internal to the schools having to reallocate their activities to deal not just with the date of the tests but also with the prior preparation of students which can be extensive. Finally, the annual tests give much the same results, suggesting that they need to be carried out more infrequently, say triennially. As this doesn't meet the criticism that the tests are irrelevant to the proper curriculum activities, a better solution would be a well-designed annual statistical survey, which would cost a fraction of the current multi-million dollar cost.

Author: Hans Hoegh-Guldberg        Categories: Statistics | School Music Education | Issues

Music: Universal Language? Between All Nations?

23 August 2015


Music is not a universal language in the sense that different styles and traditions can be automatically understood, say, between the western classical tradition and Australian Indigenous music. Most importantly, the cultural dimension is lacking. This keynote address from 1996 is one of the "classical" contributions to the Knowledge Base which has stood the test of time. It sets out the complexities of bringing cultural "ecosystems" together and nothing less than a full read of the address will do the subject justice. Highly recommended.

Author: Richard Letts        Categories: Issues | Music Education and Training

Freedom of Musical Expression

3 August 2015

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Freemuse was founded in the late 1990s to attract attention to the internationally widespread music censorship, leading to death, arrests and other restrictions to musicians and composers. The findings are not strictly statistical but the initiative is important not least because of the extensive news commentaries published on the Freemuse website for about two-thirds of the world's almost 200 nations. This important information has the potential of becoming more purely statistical as the database grows.

Author: Hans Hoegh-Guldberg        Categories: Statistics | International Perspectives

Arts and Other Teachers in Australian Schools

14 July 2015

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The most comprehensive data on school teachers are from a triennial survey by the Australian Council of Educational Research (ACER). The latest survey in 2013 shows that 85% of all primary school teachers are generalist class teachers. Specialist music teachers in primary schools account for only 3.1% of total primary teachers (about 4,000 persons). Although some of these teachers are taking steps to improve their qualifications, the magnitude of these steps is a key issue for Australian school music, as discussed in other Knowledge Base papers. In junior high school, 3.4% currently teach music, in senior high school (years 11-12) 1.9%. The situation is further complicated because of a significant increase in the number of children born since 2008, which will necessitate a major program of building classrooms, initially for primary schools but extending into secondary schools from about 2018.

Author: Hans Hoegh-Guldberg        Categories: Statistics | School Music Education

How Much Does it Cost? A Guide to Commissioning New Music in Australia

5 July 2015


Matthew Lorenzon is a musicologist and PhD candidate working in the intersections of music history, economic and other social science, and philosophy. This article, the first in a series he is writing for the Partial Solutions blog and reprinted on the Knowledge Base with his permission, is a pioneering contribution to the under-researched subject of commissioning new music in Australia. The project was inspired by the realisation that little systematic information has indeed been assembled on the subject, an impression amply confirmed as the research progressed. It reviews the possible approaches to obtaining commissions and is a potential precursor for future statistical analysis of a truly creative activity. The Knowledge Base looks forward to cooperate further with the author on this and other subjects.

Author: Matthew Lorenzon        Categories: Issues | Composition | New Music

Compiled by Hans Hoegh-Guldberg, editor, Knowledge Base.

For previous annual summaries, see Additions to Knowledge Base in 2014, Additions to Knowledge Base in 2013, Additions to Knowledge Base in 2012 and Additions to Knowledge Base in 2011

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