Notes from Steve Dillon’s Music, Meaning and Transformation: Meaningful Music Making for Life

FLOW The Psychology of Optimal Experience (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi).

In this case, first instance of flow could be a small experience which led to an interest in music making

-lose sense of space and time

-meaningful Engagement leads to Flow

-challenge and capacity to meet that challenge. intersection of Skills + Challenge. Feels effortless.

-“a sense of discovery” “creative” “transport to new reality”


Musical Knowledge’s two areas

  • analysis
  • Intuition

first encounter’s meaningfulness invites complexity, change consciousness


Csikszentmihalyi’s 4 areas

  1. needs of the organism
  2. self interest
  3. community/family
  4. reflective individualism (where individual unites w/ cultural values)
    • meaning starts with individual, then with engagement (skills + challenge) can connect with society

3 areas of meaning: Personal, Social, Cultural

  • “Autotelic” personality can construct his/her own challenges that lead to flow. Nature/nurture: is this something we can bring out thru teaching?
    • his answer: both when environment encourages experiences of all kinds, “make meaning” *


  • create your own challenges
  • strong in children 7 and under, then creative de-skilling (by schooling?). Basis of sustainable involvement with music-making.


  • attraction to “music as an image”
  • for James who felt “duty” but no motivation, it was the ‘ensemble’ (social) and challenge of a new instrument (clarinet, not drums)
  • dislike drill and practice, essential to build on and encourage child’s interest


  • affect – the intrinsic nature of music is the natural focus of music learning
  • intuitive understanding is more important than declarative knowledge
  • Where is it?
  1. Personal – intrinsically motivated, including “living thru” teacher’s experience, achievement
  2. Social – collaborative musicmaking
  3. Cultural – self esteem and confidence

intrinsic becomes cultural thru particular ways of being playful with sound


music should be curricular and extra-curricular to connect meanings


“meaning may be caught and taught”


>> CH5 <<

*** “interfaces between knowledge systems” — culturally appropriate

Enable engagement with tensions at the interface –> common ground

Aboriginal / indidgenous cultures w/ country & hiphop

“syncreticism” – “Syncretic music involves a blending together’ of musical ideas that maintains the integrity of the original cultures and brings about something even more expressive or expressive of the relationship between cultural frameworks”


jam2jam – networked improvisation – collaborative

–> conversation about music while making it together, focused around musical concepts

–> musician’s evolving relationship with technology suggests that a new form of musicianship is required

Music Tech “an expressive communications tool, a cognitive amplifier (Papert 1980, 1994, 1996) and a container of knowledge as our oral/aural knowledge systems (Will 2000) evidence for us”….


*Problematising Tech in Experience: ask what enables/filters? how to make technology expressive?


Meaningful engagement in software design and development


Contexts that influence teacher:

  1. school
  2. arts pedagogy
  3. community
  4. student

“colonial” vs. “interface between cultures”


Meaningful Engagement Matrix: Personal / Social / Cultural:: Appreciate, Direct, Explore, Participate, Select




  1. Music is intrinsically motivated: Playful, this is universal, so it should be fun, right? Environment should have play + learning
  2. Activitiy <==> Reflection – balance
  3. lessons both making and reflection. Reflect on both product and process.
  4. Lessons should include Composing (creative), Performing (presentation), Listening (analytic response)
  5. Revisit fundamental concepts to built framework for analysis
  6. Music is part of life outside of curriculum
  7. etc…

Student as Maker Defined

  1. experience thru process of making (including active analysis)
  2. in class (art) and in community (pragmatic)
  3. diverse

“demystify the process of music making in the world today”


Goal of “Student as Maker” – become more expressive, understand expression in other cultures, , understand other cultures

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