The Validity and Efficacy of Spheres of Musical Understanding: A Fluid, Situational, and Context Specific Model


  • Joanne Rutkowski


The purpose of this paper is to propose a model for the development of musical understanding that is fluid, situational, and context specific and to begin to investigate the model’s validity.  The approach we employed for development of the model was primarily philosophical and theoretical - observations while teaching, viewing video recordings of young children in interactive music environments, analyzing other models and theories of development of musical understanding, and discussion and reflection on our own practice and the practice of others. In this paper, we present the model, comparing and contrasting it primarily with Gordon (2013) theories of Preparatory Audiation and Audiation (2012) and Voyajolu & Ockelford’s “Sounds of Intent” model (2016). To begin to validate the model, two early childhood music researchers independently observed a video recording of one child during a 60-minute preschool music class, documenting his musical responses and initiations as well as periods of seemingly lack of musical engagement, attempting to label each with the model. The observers were able to explain the child’s engagements with the model: It was clear the hypothesis of a fluid model based on various musical contexts was supported. Refinements to the model for easier use was recommended as well as observations of children in other situations and contexts.