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Singing in Swedish Secondary Schools: A discursive practice.

Conference contribution
Authors Monica Lindgren
Olle Zanden
Marie-Helene Zimmerman Nilsson
Published in
Publication year 2018
Published at Academy of Music and Drama
Language en
Keywords music education, singing, secondary school, discourse analysis
Subject categories Music education


In Sweden, as in several European countries, singing and choral activities in school tend to become increasingly marginalized. The Swedish National Agency for Education recently stated, that playing on musical instruments has come to dominate at the expense of all other activities in the music classroom. Since Swedish music education research only cursorily addresses singing in the classroom, a lack of interest in the matter becomes apparent. Therefore, the aim of this ongoing project is to study singing during music lessons in a public secondary school and in a music profile secondary school, and to describe the interaction between the participants in the teaching situation. Drawing on a poststructuralist and critical perspective, classroom singing is considered as discursively governed. The discourse concept positions itself in between a micro-sociological perspective, where the rhetorical organization of language and action is studied and analysed in an action-related context, and a macro-perspective, considering subject positions as produced by overarching institutional and social discourses. Further, discourse is considered as multimodal. Thus, besides operating via the spoken and written word, discourse also has visual and auditory dimensions. As such, discourse is mediated by both spatial aspects in the classroom and by various artefacts. In the first phase of the analysis, a number of questions were asked to the empirical material. These questions assisted in identifying problematic situations for further analysis. The second phase of the analysis was influenced by discourse theory, which enables to discuss the different subject positions offered, taken and tried by the actors. The empirical material derives from The Swedish National Agency for Education´s most recent evaluation, and consists of video recorded music lessons from two out of ten schools involved in the qualitative part of the evaluation. For this paper, recordings with singing activities were selected for analysis. More specifically, sequences of events that distinctly illustrated each classroom practice were selected and transcribed for further analysis. Findings reveal one prominent tendency for each classroom practice respectively. Singing as a musical adventure-the micro managed musical discourse was constructed in the public school with a music profile. In this classroom discourse, following routines of discipline and order, practising breathing techniques, vocal intonation and articulating song lyrics are prominent. Singing as a pastime activity-the musically undemanding discourse was constructed in the ordinary public school. Prominent aspects of this discursive practice are that anything goes, reducing singing to physical behaviour exempt from meaning. In conclusion, the diversity in classroom singing and its consequences for quality in music education is addressed. Also, the music teacher´s competence and profile is discussed, related to the character of the interaction in the classroom, the discourses that are constructed and the musical knowledge possible for the students to achieve.

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