An analysis of verbal responses to music in a group of adult non-specialists

Stakelum, M. (2011) An analysis of verbal responses to music in a group of adult non-specialists. Music Education Research, 13 (2) pp. 173-197. ISSN 1461-3808 (print) 1469-9893 (online)


In a workshop setting, two pieces of recorded music were presented to a group of adult non-specialists; a key feature was to set up structured discussion within which the respondents considered each piece of music as a whole and not in its constituent parts. There were two areas of interest, namely to explore whether the respondents were likely to identify the musical features or to make extra-musical associations and, to establish the extent to which there would be commonality and difference in their approach to formulating the verbal responses. An inductive approach was used in the analysis of data to reveal some of the working theories underpinning the intuitive musicianship of the adult non-specialist listener. Findings have shown that, when unprompted by forced choice responses, the listeners generated responses that could be said to be information-poor in terms of musical features but rich in terms of the level of personal investment they made in formulating their responses. This is evidenced in a number of connections they made between the discursive and the non-discursive, including those which are relational and mediated by their experiences. Implications for music education are considered.

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