Musical concepts as explanation for children’s musical preference in primary school age

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Nicola Bunte


Background. Building on Behne’s (1975) construct of musical concepts (beliefs, attitudes, information, etc. held by an individual concerning a musical object), the study explores the power of such concepts for explaining the development of musical preferences in primary school children. This ties in with the assumption that growing stylistic sensitivity is relevant to age-related changes in "open-earedness" (Hargreaves, 1982, p. 51; i.a. Gembris & Schellberg, 2003).

Aims. The following questions are investigated: Can musical concepts be found in primary school children? If so: How do these concepts develop during primary school? Are musical concepts important for the evaluation of music?

Methods. As part of the longitudinal study SIGrun (Busch et al., 2013), 31 children were interviewed in small groups about their musical preferences at two interview points (in second and fourth grade). A content analysis was conducted focusing on the development of musical concepts. The results are triangulated with earlier findings about the development of musical preference ratings (Busch et al, 2014) measured by a sound questionnaire as part of the SIGrun study. The analysis follows an exploratory design.

Results. The interview analysis discloses musical concepts used by children to describe their musical preferences. A change in relevance of genre-specific concepts and of the gender-specific concepts of boys’ music and girls’ music is observed between second and fourth grade. It will be argued that musical concepts have explanatory potential for age- and sex-dependent differences observed in the sound questionnaire.

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