Soul Suburban Shakedown (Dillon and
These are such confusing times, just can't read
the danger signs
Day to day you can feel the strain, isolation
tests the sane
Don't believe the facts and figures
Images just don't deliver
Just a souls suburban shakedown, communication
breakdown losing every which way you turn
A communication breakdown, postmodern shakedown
nobody's sure just whose body's whose
It's a breakdown
Shake down breakdown.
In these times we can talk to the stars, from
anywhere to anywhere you are.
Person to person, face to face, is being lost in
this human race
Don't believe it brings us together
Just another chain to the tether.
Chorus Solo Verse 1 (repeat)
The song above is about the postmodern
condition. It is an attempt by me as a
composer/lyricist to respond and make sense of my
thoughts about non-present communication or
constitutive abstractions in social practice
(Sharp, 1985, 1993). I was struck by the question
that if humans are made by their contact with
others and that many of our relationships are
becoming non-present ones, what kind of people are
being made? The paradox here is that at the same
time as I was thinking about these ideas the
process of composing, performing and recording this
song was in fact the very opposite of the ideas
this question raised. The musical process was a
very intensely social and communicative one. The
process of making and performing the song was rich
in communication and present relationships. Deep
musical relationships that were meaningful for me
in personal, social and cultural ways:
- The personal meaning emanating from the
process of expressing and working out musical
and textual ideas as a lyricist and as a melody
writer and singer,
- The social meaning through the process of co
writing and generating the recording with the
band in the recording studio.
- The cultural meaning from the distribution
of the CD and live performances that resonated
with and communicated with a greater community
in a reciprocal way.
So what does this mean in relation to:
Educating musicians to excel in the Creative
Industries in the first quarter of the twenty-first
As a reflective practitioner (Schon, 1984) I
want to use this music making experience and
song-lyric to amplify and illustrate some answers
to the questions generated by the statement above.
To do more rigorously I will draw upon two distinct
pieces of recent research. Firstly my doctoral
thesis 'the student as maker' (Dillon, 2001b) and
secondly the Arts education 21C colloquium (Dillon,
2001a) held at the Digital Arts Education Studio in
December 2000. Collectively these research projects
asked the questions what is the meaning of art in
the twenty-first century? What are the ways that we
give access to meaningful music experience and what
is an appropriate agenda for research and teaching?
Within this process we argued the similarities and
difference between musicians/artists lives in this
century and the last? And indeed what is the nature
of artistic work? Whilst these are complex
philosophical questions, I subscribe to what Dewey
might describe as a pragmatist aesthetic
(Schusterman, 1992). This philosophy seeks to
recognise the dual positions of artists as maker
and also as perceiver of art and solutions to these
problems that interact with a dynamic philosophy of
practice (Dewey, 1989). Where practice seeks to put
the 'meat on the bones' of theory, testing it and
extending it, clarifying and deepening it.
Artists and educators involved in the Colloquium
agreed that art itself, as human expressiveness has
not changed in this century. What have changed are
the media, the context and ways in which we
interpret and construct meaningful art. The notions
of a postmodern condition (Hinkson, 1991, Jameson,
1984, Lyotard, 1984) perhaps are the roots of this
change. Epiphany or insight often occurs to me
when I encounter day to day experiences. An
important experience I had recently in this regard
happened to me whilst observing my pre-school aged
daughter in her creative and imaginary play. She
moves seamlessly between media, books, the 'floral'
iMac computer, dolls house, Barbies, cardboard
boxes, recycled collage, 1/16th size Suzuki violin,
xylophone, penny whistle, digital sampling keyboard
(Dad's). Her musical taste is just as broad she
adores Ella Fitzgerald thinks the Wiggles don't
have any groove and loves James Brown and Sowetto
street music because their groove makes her feel
like dancing and Borodin's Nocturne because it is
her lullaby. Like Piaget before me was I at risk of
seeing a whole field of arts understanding in my
own child? Probably not, but the idea of examining
how human children are playful with materials is
not such a bad starting point for understanding how
students might learn and indeed excel in the
Creative Industries. After all, my daughter will be
one of the inhabitants of this time. What she
revealed to me was what I call unselfconscious
¥ Periods of history in music-contexts
¥ Styles- rock, jazz, pop, classicism,
contemporary art music, the isms of the twentieth
century, Early European music, high art, popular
culture, art for art sake and art as a commodity.
¥ Space and place- ie world music, music from
¥ Acoustic and electronic instruments
¥ Performance and 'realisation' gesture
resulting in expressive sound or realising control
over pre created structures.
¥ Representation systems- CPN, graphic or
computer language as a means of storing,
communicating and thinking/organising sound
¥ Ways of responding to sound ie movement,
theoretical deconstruction, verbal, written, re
creational, voice, performance on an instrument.
¥ Artistic media- sound, music, visual arts,
multi media, drama, new media.
¥ Collaborative and individual creation of art.
What is evident here is that young artists move
between these notions freely and
un-self-consciously. Many of the artists of the
twenty-first century have grown up in a world which
has always had these things and the notion of
'being playful' or being expressive with materials
is not limited by the artificial barriers that were
defined by a previous generation. Access to this
incredible range of expressive materials, effects,
media and responses leads us once again to the
The meaning of art in the twenty-first century?
How we give access to meaningful arts
What kind of agenda for research is needed to
understand these changes?
And what kind of curricular and environment is
needed for 'educating musicians to excel in the
To answer these questions and the central focus
of this discussion I will attempt to take you
through the insights that I encountered in the
process of researching the above mentioned
questions and seek to provide some practical
The location of meaning.
In my doctoral research, which examined the
meaning of music to children I discovered that for
music making to be meaningful it needed to be
present in three locations:
The first is; that of the personal, where the
activity and experience of making music are
intrinsically motivated and there is 'flow' from
the experience itself and the ability that the
music making activity has to communicate with self.
This constitutes what I would like to term
'intra-personal meaning'. This meaning may involve
a kind of 'living through' the teacher's experience
at early ages, a sharing in the teacher's joy of
experience. Something of this personal pleasure is
evident when children play along with the teacher
or experience satisfaction of their achievements in
Secondly, music has meaning in the social sense
&endash; that is, making music collaboratively with
others in ensembles, choirs, bands and orchestras.
Communication and meaning is then 'inter-personal'
or about the relationship of self and others.
The third area of meaning is located in a
combination of those mentioned earlier and I have
termed this cultural meaning. This constitutes what
the individual experiences as someone who 'is
musical' or has musical experiences that are
expressive, which results from their inter-personal
and intra-personal experiences with music making.
Fundamentally, this is a sense of well-being and
self-esteem gained through music making and it is
predicated upon a reciprocal interaction of the
music product and the music maker with the
community. This is a distinctly reciprocal and
communicative area of meaning dependent upon
affirmation of the music maker by the community and
acceptance of the community's values as worthwhile
by the maker. (Dillon, 2001b: 122)
Intuition and analysis, a productive
The implications of this in relation to my
philosophy of the student as maker' are that
students need access to all three locations of
meaning (Dillon, 2001b: 151).
Implications for teaching and learning in music
are that teaching music needs to involve a balanced
¥ A process of making music that involves
composing, improvising, performing or realising.
Processes of expressively organising sound in such
a way that it evokes a response from the audient or
for 'the makers' themselves.
¥ A process of meaning making which involves
analysis of the expressive qualities of music and
its effects on the audient, reflective practice in
a variety of media including words- spoken and
written, physical/kinaesthetic response, sung or
rhythmic response using the body or
replication/accompanying response on an instrument.
Swanwick calls this a 'productive tension'
between analysis and intuition (Swanwick, 1994). In
music education there has long been a difficulty in
balancing these seemingly opposing notions. On the
one hand analytical aspects of music learning are
easily placed into ordered sequences of curricular
and are reasonably easily assessed by numerical
means of testing. On the other hand how do we teach
the intuitive? The obvious answer has been through
modelling behaviour/ mentorship- master and pupil
style learning. Swanwick suggest that this kind of
understanding is 'caught rather than
taught'(Swanwick, 1994). Its is learning such
concepts as 'groove' or 'swing' by immersion and by
being involved in someone's life who knows these
concepts intimately, can demonstrate them and take
the student into a selection of their life
containing these understandings and allow them to
experience through them. But how do we
institutionalise such practice? How do we make sure
that all participants 'catch the understanding'?
How do we assess that knowledge?
Rules of thumb for music making in the 21st
In response to my doctoral research and
professional experience I have developed some
'rules of thumb' that influence how we might engage
with music making. Projects undertaken by students
need to do the following:
1) Communicate and express something to our
community and for the community
2) Have a basis in real world art ie make a
contribution to the art form
3) Push the boundaries of that art form
Both arts for art sake and art for pragmatic
and ceremonial purpose should form the focus of the
works and no distinction is drawn between the value
of these works there is unselfconscious motion
between the functional and the purely aetshetic.
Let us examine Soul Suburban Shakedown as an
example of these rules of thumb. The process of
producing a Rhythm and Blues CD with the band Wally
on the Window (Dillon, S. C. and Talia, J. 1999)
served to communicate and express musical and
lyrical ideas to a local community interested in
the musical style and the combination of the
particular performers. As a commodity in a
commercial sense it was an experience located in
'real world' musical activity. In terms of
innovation, whilst the R&B style may not be
considered a complex musical form, we actually did
push some boundaries in the hybrid recording
process using combinations of analogue and digital
technology and within the rhythmic 'groove'
experimented with 'New Orleans' style shuffle
rhythms. These 'rules of thumb' are not always
easily satisfied but attention to them provides a
model for quality and the potential to challenge
and produce 'flow' for the participants. The CD as
a project experimented with analogue tape for its
high-energy recording qualities and digital editing
and mastering. The process was a unique
re-examination of 'high&endash;end' analogue
technique in a world where digital sound prevails
without many of us asking what was lost when we
made those movements to digital sound? Music making
in this sense becomes research and reflective
practice which impacts on the skill development of
the musicians involved. This is a rich context for
development and a more dynamic interaction with
production. What I am describing here is a process
of attending to these ideas as a framework for
production and a way of using them as a tool for
analysis of the product as part of a critical
reflective process. The process and product are
then not only meaningful to the participants and
community but contribute to the development of the
domain. This also grounds us in the genre, style
culture or discourse.
Initiation into a discourse.
I believe as does Swanwick suggests that our
purpose as educators is to initiate the young in to
a discourse that values expressive arts making and
critical and philosophical arts thinking (Swanwick,
1994). The relationship between arts teacher and
student needs to be that of artist to artist.
Experiences need to be built around real artistic
needs of the community for music for ceremony,
entertainment, expressive communication within
cultures and sub cultures and a need to extend the
pedagogical boundaries of the art and the arts
interaction with other media.
Art can be taught through domain projects-
simulations (Gardner, 1992) having a basis in 'real
world' practice (Bruner, 1986, Dewey, 1989) if not
part of a cultural need of the community ie
commission or recording. We can also create new and
experimental contexts to create music within and
respond to. Beyond the classroom we need to extend
our skills through access to ensembles built around
people rather than people built into ensembles.
Innovative combinations of instruments and
composers of media and size should abound as a
response to context and availability- some for a
moment or purpose or an experiment, others becoming
institutions and reframing the definition of
ensembles. Styles ranging from improvisational jazz
ensemble, through electronic art ensembles to rock
bands, choirs, big bands, chamber groups,
orchestras and multi media ensembles that cross
arts discipline should be the norm. These ensembles
'work' for the community, for their own youth
subculture and extend the boundaries of their art
form and present music to the wider community.
Students need access to 'experts', mentors who
perform with their instrument or are active music
makers in the community. They need access to
technical and analytical skill development
extension programs. In these ways students will be
able to make meaningful music in personal, social
and cultural ways. They feel the obligation as
members of the discourse to expressively create and
reflect on art made by them and for them by
teachers, peers and the community.
Meta Skills- the skill of skill acquisition:
Where in this process do students gain the skills
needed to excel?
Zane Trow in his keynote at the Arts Ed 21 C
Colloquium(Dillon, 2001a) talked about the kind of
artist and skill he sees in the mixed media-multi
arts of such ensembles as 'Rock and Roll Circus'.
Defined as 'physical theatre' their skills come as
equally from gymnastics and circus as they might
classical ballet. Their main skill is the ability
to acquire skills necessary to make the kind of art
they need to make and to change rapidly from one
show to the next adjusting and acquiring skills as
the performance requires. Where did they learn how
to do this? Who taught them these generic skills?
These kinds of artists no doubt have strong
backgrounds in any one of a number of disciplines.
More importantly they are able to transfer these
skills of analysis of form to discover the essence
or spirit of the expressive form. They can
translate that understanding into a creative
structure that replicates that form and can isolate
the skills needed and create a regime of practice
that builds the skills needed to acquire those
skills and then use them expressively in
performance. This ability to acquire skills, this
meta-skill, is essential in their work. This is
what is meant by the productive tension between
analysis and intuition and the fusion of creation
and reflection into a unified expressive art-work.
This process involves the unselfconscious motion
between the extensive repertoire of post modern
expressive tools and the fashioning of these into
art that effects the audient and produces leaders
in the arts community rather than mere repertoire
I have listed here how we might replicate such
skill development in a tertiary institution.
1) Provide a broad range of excellent artist in
residence and sessional teachers that can
demonstrate these skills.
2) Have lecturing staff act as 'animateurs' who
'broker' arts experiences.
¥ Who can turn artistic knowledge as
demonstrated by artists in residence into generic
¥ Who can create domain projects that stretch
the boundaries of arts making.
¥ Engender a culture of research into analysis
and replication of excellent arts practice.
¥ Create a discourse of making and reflection
that stresses a dynamic philosophy of the
expressive quality of art and its effects on
culture and community.
The university needs to:
¥ Provide a research infra structure and value
system that dynamically examines and re examines
the nature of art, culture and community.
¥ Create an interface with the local, national,
international community and the Creative Industries
that socially engineers opportunities for artists
to present artistic products in whatever forms and
media are available.
¥ Provide resources for skill development based
upon the developing needs of the students to
challenge and develop the boundaries of
expressiveness in sound and across media. This
means skilled people, literature, research,
multi-media and action research that models how to
gain and develop new skills.
Whilst this provides general structural
differences to the kinds of policies and curricular
required to accommodate 21st century student needs,
where does this place the traditional notions of
So what constitutes skill development in the
Skills development for industry in Australia has
traditionally been associated with TAFE colleges
rather than Universities but traditional
conservatoriums are not far from being highly
exclusive TAFE colleges and the pathway to
incorporating these kinds of disciplines into
universities raises the issue of skill training and
education. In the Creative Industries we are
seeking to educate a different kind of musician to
that which might have come from a TAFE like
institution. We are trying to create the kind of
'flexible worker' described in much of the rhetoric
of the late eighties which resulted in Dawkins
reports and policies (Dawkins, 1988) for schooling
and universities (Hinkson, 1992). We are trying to
create musical leaders in the domain rather than
orchestra or band 'canon fodder' or even trying to
fit non- western and contemporary music within 19th
century European concepts of music making and skill
development. In the same way that notation systems
are incapable of capturing complex aspects of
rhythmic groove many notions of traditional
European musical training and education are
inappropriate for the understanding, communication
and training of these musical forms. This is why I
argue for conceptualisation of skill and meta skill
development and expanded notions of musical form
and educational constructs. This is not to say
that skill development at a level of excellence is
unnecessary rather that the notions of skill need
to be matched to the purpose of expressiveness
rather than for reasons of tradition or pedagogical
What is different about 21st century skill
development is that it is embedded in real world
need rather than pedagogical sequence alone and
leads to clear changes in the ability of the
musician to be more expressive in musical forms.
This expressiveness is made available by the sheer
range of musical effectors and effects that
unselfconscious motion between time, space and
media provides. What has changed is that aural and
musicianship training, now focuses upon a range of
representation systems which best facilitate the
ability for the musician to express themselves- to
communicate, store and think in musical ways. This
means that we may train musicians to use C++ and
Java as well as excellence in notation. Even this
traditional representation is enhanced by its
digital presence in such musical production tools
as Sibelius and Finale so this too requires
reinterpretation about how we engage with it as a
technology for music making and as a partner in the
process. We need to provide access to ways of
reading visual and aural information in a variety
of representation systems from wave file editing to
MIDI. We need to provide skills of use, access and
projects that utilise a variety of technological
tools for musical production, thought and feedback.
Most significantly we need to value a culture of critical analysis
of technology and representation systems in
relation to their effect on our ability to express,
understand and think musically.
Expanded notions of performance, creation,
skill and analysis.
In relation to instrumental skills we need to
expand the notion of instrument or principle study
to include other sonic production devices such as
synthesizers, turntables, computers and new
combinations of technology and acoustic sound
production devices. We need to include real time
and non real time performance modes and engender a
philosophy of engagement with technology (Brown,
2000) that activates the expressive quality as the
focus. Notions of repertoire as a list of great
music alone should give way to concepts of
repertoire as replication of important musical
processes. As well as excellent notated works we
need excellent replicable processes. The concepts
of musical analysis and musicology need to be
presented as part of our initiation into the
discourse. This includes the expanded notion of
repertoire, the effects of context on the making
and production of that music and a quest for
understanding that leads us to comprehend the
effect of music and the combinations of elements
(effectors) which created that effect. Skill in the
traditional sense needs to be expanded to reflect
the unselfconscious movement between media, time
and space that is the central argument of this
thesis. Skill and meta-skill acquisition,
production and reflection, research and development
in a clearly integrated system makes skill or
analysis forge a productive relationship with
intuitive understanding (Swanwick, 1994).
Sustained involvement: an artist for
In student as maker I argued that a sustained
involvement with arts making evolves from a
continuing relationship with music making that is
Personally in terms of the dialogue we have with
our selves as artists to express our being. We gain
what Csikszentmihalyi calls 'flow' from this
(Csikszentmihalyi, 1994, 1996, Csikszentmihalyi,
Rathunde and Whalen, 1993).
We gain a distinct social meaning, as we know
others in a non-verbal way. The flow we get from
'swinging' or 'grooving' as a group of musicians
part of sharing in the expressive discourse'. A
wordless way of knowing others.
Finally, we gain cultural meaning because each
act of arts making reflects something of the
culture that generated that art. There is a dynamic
and reciprocal process where the artists' work is
valued by the community and the community takes the
artist and the work and suggests that it
contributes to the definition of that community.
Music makers and all artists need access to all
of these locations of meaning. Over emphasis of any
one or elimination of any one results in negative
outcomes such as:
Poor personal meaning = the lone artists in
his/her room playing the same riff over and over.
First for bars of any song is all they remember
from their music lessons.
Poor social meaning = the artist who could just
as easily get this meaning from sport. The
experience is less specifically and uniquely
Poor cultural meaning = the one concert a year
that washes away 12 months of poor teaching and
negative music experience.
Excellence in artistic expression and
production is intimately associated with continued
quality engagement with music making, artists need
access and meaningful experience in all three
locations to fully comprehend and actively engage
in the discourse.
In the beginning of this essay I talked about
the conditions of post modernity that produced the
ideas in Soul Suburban Shakedown. I discussed the
paradox of raising the question that if many of our
relationships are becoming non present ones and we
are made by our relationships with others what kind
of people are we making? The answer to that
question can be easily answered by reference to the
idea of the student as maker. In this kind of music
making we communicate with self in a personally
meaningful and expressive way, we communicate with
expressive others in ensembles and responsive
performance (Social meaning) and we communicate
both with our community and become part of
something that community reflects about itself.
Making music in these ways grounds us in deeply
present relationships. Arts making becomes an
aesthetic diving belt that grounds us in
relationships of presence and provides not only
active participation in this communication but a
significant means for critical analysis of the
discourse and leadership in the domain.
I have argued for expanded notions of
performance, creation, skill and analysis. I have
provided a framework for a curriculum that will
develop these ideas so that they lead to the
outcome of production of musicians who are able to
excel as artists in the twenty-first century. I
have emphasised a philosophy of meaningful making
and critical reflection. These ideas may appear to
be merely theoretical or abstract philosophical
arguments or at worst empty rhetoric. The evidence
from my case study research over a seven-year
period suggests that the type of philosophical and
theoretical constructs I am proposing here does
generate the kinds of outcomes that I have
described. Furthermore participants from this
program have consistently demonstrated musical
leadership and significant production in a broad
range of music and sonic arts industries in the
years that followed their secondary music
education. If such a program works with general
student population in a secondary school setting
then imagine what would be possible if these
philosophical tenets, values and access to
resources framed tertiary music education and
So how do we educate musicians to excel in the
Creative Industries in the first quarter of the
By providing access to meaningful music making
experiences that are relevant and reverent to
community, that are critical and reflective of its
past, present and future and that continually seeks
to extend the boundaries of expressiveness within
across and beyond the discipline.
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