Implementing the Mixed Instrumental Ensemble Practice in Japan: The Application of Instructional Template (IT) and Flow Assessment

Implementing the Mixed Instrumental Ensemble Practice in Japan: The Application of Instructional Template (IT) and Flow Assessment

Shizuka Sutani (Okayama University, Japan), Taichi Akutsu (Seisa University Japan, & Shujitsu University, Japan) and Richard K. Gordon (California State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1894-5.ch010


This chapter investigates the cases of implementing the mixed instrumental ensemble practice in the field of music education in Japan; it rests on the believe that considering music as social phenomenon and human practice with interaction. This study sets two specific aims as follows: to blend various different kinds of musical instruments in ensemble settings. Particularly, in the process of implementing the practice, researcher designed Instructional Template (Gordon, 2015) was applied as a tool to foster and organize classroom interaction among learners and teachers. This study also explores the possibility to assess the affective component of music learning in practice. Custodero's (1998, 2005) Flow Indicators in Musical Activities was cited to examine learners' flow experiences. Implementation of the mixed instrumental ensemble practice fostered interaction among learners; thus, students experienced flow in more varietical ways in their social/musical context.
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This chapter investigates cases of implementing mixed instrumental ensemble practice during music education by applying Gordon's (2015) Instructional Template, and Custodero, (1998, 2005) Flow Indicators in Musical Activities (FIMA); the research rests on the belief that music learning and playing is a social phenomenon and human practice requiring intense social interaction and collaboration.

Music was inextricably bound to social life in ancient Greece (Alperson, 1987). “The Greek word mousike referred primarily to a variety of practices involving melody, rhythm, words and gestures performed by amateurs, bards and dramatic actors” (p.4). The Greeks also became familiar with primary mixed instrumental music playing. Alperson (1987) emphasized the significance of music as human practice and warned that a philosophy of music that tends to rest on technical aspects will narrow understanding of the spirit of this art. Similarly, in the Confucian tradition, music was also a passionate humanistic activity. In China, music represented great enjoyment among ordinary people by creating harmony in musical ensembles through the employment of multiple types of instruments (Koyasu, 2010).

Nevertheless, music education, in our contemporary time, faces obstacles in regaining this joyful and collaborative spirit. Lamb (2010) suggests that music educators need to re-engage in music as a diverse socio-cultural practice. Lamb describes as follows:

The emphasis on interaction differs from the emphasis on music education as either skill or talents... By emphasizing the interaction and the meanings of these interactions to the individuals, groups, social structures... we gain much richer and deeper knowledge that subsequently demonstrates music as a meaningful and relevant educational endeavor (p.25).

Contemporary music educators tend to overemphasize an aesthetic dimension and performance rather than process. As a result, many music educators tend to focus on developing skills and talents of students exclusively. In the U.S., music education seeks “the longer list of achievement;” and “the obvious exclusion in this discipline is in the realm is affective” as Custodero (2010) overviews and criticizes the U.S. K-12 National Standards for Music Education (MENC, 1994).

In Japan, there is a negative view for mixing different types of instruments in ensemble settings encouraging socialization (Akutsu & Takeshi, 2013). Instead, ensemble organizations have been the dominating teaching model in music classes for many years. In fact, for past few decades, music classes in Japanese public school have taught recorder exclusively without much interaction among learners. The recorder is the primary and the only instrument students learn during their school years. Recently, some schools have added instruments such as koto and shamisen, the standard Japanese traditional instruments; however, most schools teach the single instrument, the recorder. To counter the static music education existing in many music education classes this study undertakes an examination of an experimental opportunity to implement mixed instrumental ensemble in Japanese music education practice.

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