Music, Creativity and Learning

I’ve had a great day exploring ideas around music, creativity and learning: a new idea, an idea in beta. It all came from the research i did late last year around the creative processes involved in making and performing music and what we can learn from that about learning in general. If you’re a regular reader, you’ll have already heard me talking about ‘co-creation‘, an idea i first explored around music. I’m now expanding this further, to see if i can find a good narrative about music and what it can teach us about creativity and learning (and how we can apply that in the organisational space when we think about learning design, communication skills and reputation).

7 Stages of Co-Creation in Social Leadership

We can break down the process of co-creation to explore how it works in Social Leadership, creating shared value and vision.

I’m interested in music because it’s a universal language, because it catches our attention, because it’s embedded throughout our social lives, but hardly features in our formal ones. And yet it’s so powerful: music sticks in our heads, it draws out our feelings, it draws us together to sing in harmony or, at the very least, loudly and drunkenly at football matches. It’s tribal and collaborative and gives deeper insights than you might imagine into how our brains work and how we share ideas.

We use music to share stories, to warn people, to draw people together around a camp fire or to warn them to stay away. It’s emotive and pervasive, can be recorded or raw when live. It’s a dark art that’s mastered by few but desired by many and it’s hard to capture it’s spirit in print.

Learning music is about more than formula and notes, but you can learn music theory and land on just these areas. Some people play by ear, others by rote. How do these things differ and what can we learn from it about learning in general? I interviewed thirty musicians for the book and got thirty different answers, but common themes emerged. Themes about agility and collaboration, motivation and co-creation. Themes that i think we can apply more widely.

Here’s where i landed: my first draft of a structure for a workshop around music, creativity and learning:

Music in Learning

My first draft structure for a workshop around Music, Creativity and Learning

I want this to be experiential: to involve picking up and playing instruments as much as talking about them. Music is visceral: it’s what we feel as much as we say.

I’ve grounded the book in fact: the neurology of music, communication theory and a series of interviews. But music transcends facts: it’s about deeper levels of meaning, it conveys emotions through it’s tempo and style.

I’m taking the workshop through three stages: first the neurology and theory, second, aspects of creativity and performance, and finally what we can relate to organisational learning and communication.

It’s a draft: that’s why i’m sharing it here. I’m on a journey with this, it’s a rehearsal, an iterative process that will culminate with sessions i’m running in London and San Francisco in June. I’m sure by then it will have evolved further.

I often feel a qualm when introducing this subject: a fear that it will be seen as trivial, ephemeral, whereas in fact creativity and innovation, effective performance and tempo in learning are key features of agile organisations and individuals. We shouldn’t be afraid to explore different routes to make these accessible.

I won’t publish the book until later this year: in fact, i enjoyed writing it so much i may revisit it to add more chapters. That’s the thing about music: once a song gets into your head, it’s hard to shift it.

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
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20 Responses to Music, Creativity and Learning

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  13. Just returning to this post as I soak up the sun in Spain – a good time to reflect on a common interest. Enjoyed the graphic and exploring the links between music and learning.

    Thank for the thought provoking post Julian, will be discussing it with my son who is a musician and thinking in this way about his own learning.


    • julianstodd says:

      Thanks for the feedback Nick 🙂 i’m developing these ideas ever further: the music and learning book should be published early next year and i’m developing a two day residential programme around ‘creative communication’ that covers some of this. Busy times…

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