Monash University
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Sound in sight: an autoethnographical case study of teaching and learning western music theory

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posted on 2017-03-01, 05:53 authored by Ashton-Bell, Robert Linton Tavis
This thesis explores the phenomenon of teaching and learning of western music theory within university level education. The teaching and learning of western music theory concerns an intangible medium, which can pose difficulties in its understanding. Western music theory is multifaceted and pluralistic in nature, with its learning hinging upon the interpretation of individuals situated within particular musical cultures. This being said, the subject also contains historical and sociocultural structures that define particular approaches to music. Due to this interpretative nature of music, a divergent educational approach is required rather than one that is convergent. Adopting a hermeneutical phenomenological stance stemming from a constructivist epistemology, the current study uses an autoethnography as central to its examination. Expanding around this central inquiry is a student survey and investigations to current pedagogical approaches adopted in western music theory teaching and learning. Also building from the central autoethnographical exposition, a section of this thesis is dedicated to visualising the structures inherent to western music theory. This has been done in order to devise visual approaches to the teaching and learning of a subject that contains very abstract and intangible concepts, which are often difficult to describe in words. The last section of the current study tethers concepts from all prior chapters to make pedagogical suggestions based upon its research. Such suggestions aim toward a learner-centred, visual approach to western music theory structures. On the other side of the pedagogical coin, the multitudes of musical interpretations can be facilitated through the concept of musical thought, which is unpacked and explored throughout this volume. This thesis aims to provide teachers and learners with a visualised approach to the teaching and learning of western music theory. The current study also aims to contextualise the reader with understandings of the nature of music and hence musical thought. This volume has been made with supporting materials that do not aim to induce a dogmatic approach, rather outlining a divergent approach as a means of teaching and learning western music theory.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Jane Southcott

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre



Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Education