Investigating aural : a case study of its relationship to degree success and its understanding by university music students

Wright, Colin Richard

September 2015

Thesis or dissertation

© 2015 Colin Richard Wright. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

The central aim of this research is twofold: first, to examine the relationship between university music students’ aural ability as measured in examination marks and overall success on a music degree programme; and second, to investigate current university music students’ views on aural and its importance in a music degree programme. Previous research indicates that aural skills are vital in developing musical expertise (see Karpinski, 2000a), yet the precise nature of those skills and the emphasis placed upon them in educational contexts merits attention. An extensive review of literature provides an introduction to terminology as well as a framework with which to understand research perspectives on aural, specifically to address aural in practice and aural as process. Two empirical studies are carried out as part of a case study investigation in this thesis: Study 1 compares aural test scores with overall marks obtained in a music degree so as to investigate their potential correlation; Study 2 analyses the views of current undergraduate and postgraduate music students from the same institution via focus groups about aural alongside their response to the data obtained in Study 1. Findings indicate that there are positive correlations between students’ aural test marks and overall degree results, although these are not always significant. The views of current students about aural reflected shifts in understanding from undergraduate to postgraduate level, with the former offering specific ideas about what it entails and highly subjective attitudes towards it, and the latter providing abstract and broad appreciation of aural in music practice. The students provided tentative remarks about the findings of Study 1. Related issues that emerge within the research, including the students’ views on training, singing, and the role of module choice in gaining a music degree, are debated as part of the thesis.

School of Drama, Music and Screen, The University of Hull
King, Elaine, 1974-
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