Composition is a pathway by which people explore society, culture, and history while discovering their place within these spaces. Because of this, composition deserves a central place within the music curriculum. It is a unique creative experience that people have undertaken throughout time immemorial to mark their personal voice and group traditions upon the cultural and historical landscape (Paynter, 1992, p. 21). Composition within the music curriculum affords students the opportunity to explore sounds, organizational systems (forms, etc.), notational systems, musical vocabulary, music history, and other musical concepts through in-depth self-guided interactions they develop a new understanding of the ideas as a whole (Upitis, 1992, p.155). Finally, creative musical activity can be a useful conduit for the management and expression of emotions (Paynter, 1992, p. 10).
From a young age, children are fascinated with sound and thus are inherently music makers. Through the experience of playing, children seek to make sense out of their environment, so too with sound (Barrett, 2003, p. 3). As children grow and enter school, too often this curiosity and creativity is inadvertently subverted in the push for academic and technical achievement. Music education regularly follows this trend in its emphasis of music literacy and performance. Composition is thus buried or relegated as a music literacy and/or standard notation assessment tool. However, composition can, and should, be seen as the basis for musical learning. Students study compositions, learn about the “great” composers, discover musical notation as used by composers. Yet, one factor is missing. Students must be encouraged to and shown how to compose for themselves. Through this seemingly innocuous process, students develop their own creative voice and come to understand and appreciate the work of others. In this act, students become attuned to their own emotions and abilities.
For these reasons, composition will become embedded within the broader music curriculum. Students will experience fundamentals of music vocabulary and notational literacy through direct interaction and application of the concepts through focused compositions. Listening activities and elements of music history will be analyzed by composing “in the style of” such works to allow students to unfold the complex layers of sound and gain an appreciation for the techniques of the composers. Students will discover how to compose and address the major issues of why people compose. In this discussion, students will be introduced to tools by which they may create their own music, for whatever reason, in whatever setting they choose. Therefore, students may become more inclined towards creative expression through music and become more discerning consumers of music.