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The study was bounded from September 2007 to May 2008.

Musical Understanding

We define musical understanding as the abilities to engage musical imagination, musical

intellect and musical creativity and to be able to apply evidence of such knowings to musical

performance. A classic example of musical imagination is found in the very different ways that

Franz Süssmayr, Richard Mauder, and Robert Levin finished Mozart’s Requiem. We see a

glimpse of musical imagination when we listen to Rod Stewart add his distinctive style to great

American popular song standards. We hear musical imagination in the raps of hip-hop artists and

in the ballads of pop singing stars. Imagining the music that could accompany the flying scene in

the movie E. T. or the galactic explorations in the American film classic Star Wars are further

examples of musical imagination. Children use their musical imaginations when they create a

descant to sing over a given melody or when they work in what Lucy Green (2002, 2008)

identifies as “friendship groups,” creating their own versions of their favorite pop recordings.

Kids in the garage jamming on their guitars, keyboards, basses, and drums show musical

imagination of the highest order. Children in preschool use their musical imaginations when they

find sounds to accompany the story in a picture book.

Musical intellect is the ability to see within the given. For example, reducing a Chopin

Nocturne to five primary pitches by applying Shenkerian analysis is one instance where musical

intellect is engaged. Finding the hemiola in the rhythm of an English madrigal is another such

instance. When students are able to discuss with significance and substance two different

performances of “Que nem maré” on the CD Perfil, by the artist Jorge Vercilo, they are engaging

their musical intellect.

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