Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

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  • Publication
    Open Access
    On the processes of songwriting : a case study of popular music songwriters in Singapore
    Chong, Soon Khong

    Music composing has been regarded to lie at the heart of music pedagogy (e.g., Winters, 2012) as it has been argued to underpin the development of musical skills and understanding (Glover, 2002; Odam, 1995; Paynter, 1982). P. R. Webster (2013) went as far as to say that music composing increases musical intelligence. Music composing has also been argued to promote the development of imagination, inventiveness, and creativity (Paynter, 2000; P. R. Webster, 2013). Additionally, music composing promotes agency development (Cape, 2014; Mantie, 2008). Moreover, music composing (particularly songwriting) has been shown to contribute to mental health (Baker, 2016; Baker et al., 2009; Dalton & Krout, 2006; Kinney, 2012; Kumm, 2013; Palidofsky & Stolbach, 2012; Rio & Tenney, 2002; Silverman, 2013; Wolf & Wolf, 2012). Finally, music composing contributes towards national economy when individuals become professional music composers in the realm of popular music.

    Despite these benefits, music composing is insufficiently taught in schools (e.g., Hogenes et al., 2015; Juntunen, 2011; Lum et al., 2014; Makris et al., 2022; Menard, 2015; Suomi et al., 2022; Westerlund & Partti, 2013) due to a lack of teaching confidence and know-how among other reasons (C. Byrne & Sheridan, 1998; Lum & Dairianathan, 2014; Strand, 2006; Westerlund & Partti, 2013; Winters, 2012). The manner in which the subject is taught is also a cause for concern for it tends to focus on procedural aspects rather than creativity (Wise, 2016). Additionally, there have been advocacies for more use of popular music in general music education to bridge the gap between what students enjoy outside schools versus what is taught in schools (Colquhoun, 2018; Dimitriadis, 2009; Ng, 2018).

    To help address the above concerns and to inform pedagogy, the present case study examined the lifelong learning and music-songwriting processes of five professional popular music composers (including me as one of the participants) in Singapore. The specific research questions for the present study are: (a) What are the thinking processes of professional music-songwriters when composing popular music? (b) How are lived experiences, attitudes towards music, beliefs or anything else involved when professional music-songwriters compose popular music? (c) How do professional music-songwriters learn to compose popular music? The study involves two components: (a) narrative biography; and (b) music-songwriting task. For the latter, the Stimulated Recall (STR) method (Burden et al., 2015; Calderhead, 1981; Collins, 2005, 2007; Lyle, 2003; Pohjannoro, 2014, 2016) was used. Data collected consists of interviews and autobiography (for me as participant) as well as artifacts (Musical Instrument Digital Interface [MIDI] files, audio files and Digital Audio Workstation [DAW] session files) as stimuli for the STR method. Dual Process Theory (DPT) which attributes human information processing to System 1 (S1) and System 2 (S2) thinking modes (Frankish & Evans, 2009) was adopted to underpin the present study.

    Themes emerged from the data of the present study include: (a) Music songwriters employed S1-S2 synergy with agility for creativity; (b) music-songwriters employed imagination and adaptation to create novelty; (c) music-songwriters worked under constraints and trade-offs defined by client specifications, design integrity and music theory compliance; (d) music-songwriters considered affect as an impetus for music-songwriting; (e) music-songwriters adopted composing strategies often involving digital technology; (f) music-songwriters learned through lifelong engagement in a wide range of musical activities; and (g) learning motivation of music-songwriters was contingent on five social factors.

    The present study is novel in that by studying both the composing and learning processes in a single study, it established the relationship between the modes of listening (distracted, attentive and purposive) during learning and the modes of thinking (S1 and S2 according to DPT) during music-songwriting. Findings from the present study implicate the need for teachers to perform two roles: (a) to help learners build a foundation for learning music-songwriting; and (b) to facilitate the process of music songwriting.

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  • Publication
    Open Access
    Proof and proving in the Singapore secondary school mathematics curriculum
    Navinesh Thanabalasingam

    A mathematical proof is an unbroken sequence of steps that establish a necessary conclusion based on truth preserving rules of logic. However, in practice it may be a series of ideas and insights rather a sequence of formal steps. It has been a common belief that this abstract concept is out of reach to students and even some teachers and hence not the focus of the general mathematics curriculum.

    This study treats proof in a broader sense, recognising that a narrow view of proof neither reflects mathematical practice nor offers the greatest opportunities for promoting mathematical understanding. It explores proof and its aspects, proof and its place in the curriculum, students’ and teacher’s conceptions and beliefs about proof in the context of the Singapore mathematics curriculum in secondary schools.

    Two teachers and four students from their respective classes in a secondary school in Singapore participated in the study that was carried out in three phases. In the first phase all the subjects (both teachers and students) did a questionnaire (conceptions) comprising modified secondary four national examination questions on mathematics (elementary and additional mathematics). In the second phase the teachers did a survey (beliefs) on their beliefs about teaching proofs while the students did the same about their beliefs of learning proofs. In the third phase, based on the data from the first two phases (conceptions and beliefs), subjects were interviewed for clarifications and further elaborations.

    The findings related to curricular materials show that both Elementary Mathematics (EM) and Additionally Mathematics (AM) textbooks are structurally similar in terms of the proportion and type of proof tasks available. There is a higher concentration of proof tasks in the AM textbook compared to the EM textbook, suggesting a possible bias towards AM in containing proof tasks. Most proofs were found in the Geometry strand for both textbooks, suggesting a possible bias towards Geometry in containing proof tasks. There is a lack of variety of proof tasks in both the textbooks. Regarding teachers' conceptions related to teaching proof, it was found that there is diversity and depth of proof strategies used by teachers. Also, teachers' conceptions of proof were heavily influenced by their own mathematical knowledge and understanding of concepts and theorems. Students mainly perceived proofs as difficult problems to work on. Challenges related to the learning of proofs, stemmed from textbooks and school notes lacking in clarity and articulation using complex language.

      29  158
  • Publication
    Open Access
    An acoustic study of segmentals and suprasegmentals of English in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou
    Yang, Rong

    English in China has attracted much research and scholarship in the past few decades, but there is a general paucity of acoustic-phonetic descriptions of English in China. The present study adopts a region-based acoustic approach to thoroughly investigate phonetic features of English spoken by university students from Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, which are arguably the most economically progressive cities in China. Specifically, it aims to describe segmental (vowels and consonants) and suprasegmental (rhythm) features of Beijing English, Shanghai English, and Guangzhou English, and conduct a cross-variety comparison among the three varieties. In addition, the study seeks to determine how sociolinguistic factors such as linguistic background, academic level, and disciplinary major affect the English pronunciation of speakers from Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou.

    This study enlisted the participation of 45 female university students from Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou with varying academic levels and disciplinary majors. They were recorded while reading short passages and sentence sets from the test materials. Their speech data was primarily analysed acoustically, with perceptual analysis to complement the acoustic analysis.

    Overall, the findings indicate that Beijing English, Shanghai English, and Guangzhou English had both shared features and distinct characteristics. There was a significant difference in the first formant (F1) values of vowels between Beijing English and Guangzhou English; however, no significant differences were found in the second formant (F2) values between the three varieties. There were also significant differences in vowel duration between Beijing English and Shanghai English, and between Shanghai English and Guangzhou English. Speakers from all three cities did not distinguishing certain vowel contrasts to varying degrees. Regarding consonants, aspiration was maintained between voiceless and phonologically voiced stops for speakers from all three cities. Shanghai English had perceptually more rhotic words than Beijing English and Guangzhou English, showing significant differences in F3 values and significant differences in the distances between F2 and F3. In terms of consonantal features, speakers from all three varieties exhibited vowel epenthesis, the substitution of /θ/ and /ð/, and various vocalisations of dark /l/. Rhythmically, the nPVI values were not significantly different between the three varieties.

    The linguistic background of the speakers had the most impact on all three varieties of English. Vowel quality and duration were more influenced by sociolinguistic factors, while rhythmic patterning was the least affected.

    The findings of this study have helped to advance the understanding of the pronunciation features and the development of English in China, thereby contributing to the linguistic feature pool of Chinese English (CE) as a whole and the positioning of CE in the World Englishes framework.

      12  166
  • Publication
    Open Access
    Characters of music education : Confucian and Daoist inspirations
    Lu, Mengchen

    What is music? What is education? Putting the two together, what is music education? These are fundamental questions that philosophers of music education have sought to address. Notwithstanding recent attempts towards philosophical diversity, the philosophy of music education remains largely Western in orientation, with limited presentations of Asian philosophies. This study aims to play a part in redressing the imbalance.

    The purpose of this philosophical thesis is to systematically examine four key Chinese characters related to music education as used in Confucian and Daoist texts: sheng (聲: sound), yin (音: tone), yue (樂: music), and jiao (教: educate). My specific research questions are: (1) How are the four characters construed in Confucian and Daoist philosophical texts, in particular, the Analects and the Daodejing? (2) Based on my analyses, what inspirations might Confucian and Daoist philosophies offer music education?

    To answer my research questions, I analyse 23 passages from the Analects of Confucius and Laozi’s Daodejing, and sketch some possible inspirations for music education at the end of each analysis. After analysing the passages separately, I conduct meta-analyses across passages to further understand how notions of music and education might differ between the two philosophical traditions.

    My analyses reveal that in the Confucian tradition, sheng ranks the lowest: it refers to sounds that even animals can hear and music that does not have ethical value. This is followed by yin and finally yue (music that Confucius deems ethical). The Daoist ontological ladder of music is quite the opposite. Laozi places yue (music he deems attractive but distracting) right at the bottom, preferring instead, to value yin and sheng at an equal level over yue. Most importantly, for Laozi, music at its highest transcends sound. With respect to education, both Confucius and Laozi share a similar mistrust for words and prefer shenjiao (身教: teaching by example). While Confucius argues that education is needed because it is the ethical thing to do, Laozi reminds us to do it ethically—never forcing, never bullying.

    From four characters, eight additional ones emerge from my analyses: ren (仁: humaneness), li (禮: ritual), le (樂: joy), cheng (成: complete), wu (無: nothing), he (和: harmonise), xi (希: rarified), and Dao (道: the Way). Synthesising all eight characters, I posit my Confucian-Daoist inspired theory of music education, one that can be thought of using the metaphor “the mountain and the water” (shanshui 山水; Analects 6.23). Finally, I arrive at the central philosophical argument derived from my analyses of the philosophical texts: music education can be thought of as the education of human becoming and Way-making.

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  • Publication
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