earlier today my team and i conducted what we believe is a first-in-the-world design for a learning intervention specifically leveraging the properties of redstone in Minecraft, for a collaborative music-making activity.
conceptualised, designed, and built by our high school intern - Lionel Lim - the music composition environment deliberately steers clear of mimicking codified representations of music and musical instruments.
it is instead designed to surface the naive and evolving intuitions about music which learners with little or no formal background in music education might have. in this way, it is aligned with our team’s existing work in Disciplinary Intuitions.
Minecraft was chosen as a music creation tool and environment because it represented a way to explore the nature of the social collaboration associated with group-based music-making from the perspective of embodied cognition. That is to say, instead of presenting participants with facsimiles of virtual instruments (say, in a manner similar to the popular music creation app Garageband from Apple), a three-dimensional environment was designed and built within Minecraft in which participants – through their avatars – would be able to explore and interact with elements within the landscape concurrently and collaboratively. In turn, their interactions would result in tones being generated, and participants would be given opportunities to influence the resulting music through the editing (or ‘modding’) of the in-world elements. Such interactions are possible because one of the phenomena engineered in to the Minecraft environment is analogous to the presence of electrical current flow.
From the perspective of the learning sciences, the study leverages principles of embodied cognition. It also draws on the work of Gee (2007) with respect to his work on the notion of projective identity. From the perspective of musicology, the study was designed as a response to Baker’s and Harvey’s (2004) work on ‘music as social behavior’, in which they considered a range of ways in which the social psychology of music might be empirically investigated. They concluded their chapter by drawing attention to a wide range of social psychological research questions that remain ripe for exploration, and encouraged researchers to “use imaginative” methods in approaching them.
Understood thusly, our approach does not focus as much on the nature of the actual music collaboratively ‘composed’, but more on the social processes through which participants seek to create (what might be eventually be construed as tuneful) music in the first place. As such, Laurillard’s (2001) work on conversational frameworks was used to analyse the transcripts of conversations among the participants as they seek to make music. Specifically, the focus is on how any participants might have taken initiative to ‘step up’ to guide their fellow participants in aspects of the interaction in which they may have been more proficient (such as music background in determining the cadence of the notes).