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Sociocultural Enablers and Inhibitors of Musical Creativity: A Cross-Cultural Comparison

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Fostering musical creativity

Are some social and cultural environments more conducive to musical creativity? The MUSICALCREATIVITY project studied several music cultures in a an attempt to answer this question.

Climate Change and Environment

With the support of EU funding, the 'Sociocultural enablers and inhibitors of musical creativity: A cross-cultural comparison' (MUSICALCREATIVITY) project examined music cultures to establish whether some promote greater creativity than others, and, if so, why.In this context, the two major goals were to identify sociocultural enablers and inhibitors of musical creativity, and to understand their mechanisms of influence. The third goal was to recommend strategies that will promote wider engagement in creative activities and also increased creative risk-taking.Selecting Helsinki in Finland, Cape Town in South Africa and Los Angeles in the United States, project members carried out comparative case studies to create a foundation for cross-cultural comparisons. The music scenes from these three areas were chosen for their distinct cultural attitudes and belief systems, as well as their different approaches to music education and its funding. They also have multiple music scenes and varying degrees of institutionalisation, commercialisation, ethnocultural diversity and socioeconomic inequality. Musicians from the areas of classical, jazz and local folk/traditional music were chosen. For each of the three scenes, qualitative research included ethnographic participant observation of performances, rehearsals and learning situations as well as in-depth interviews. Transcriptions of the interviews with 110 musicians, music educators and other music personnel served as the primary data set for the project's main results and findings. Ethnographic data were used to frame and contextualise the interview data. This allowed for a more accurate and culturally sensitive interpretation. Research produced a model describing what musical creativity entails, and identified the inner resources facilitating musical creativity and sociocultural factors promoting or inhibiting it. MUSICALCREATIVITY was also able to explain the developmental and socio-psychological mechanisms through which sociocultural factors influence capacity for musical creativity. Following, strategies were recommended to help overcome inhibitions and promote increased creativity. These can be employed at individual, educational and policy levels. MUSICALCREATIVITY succeeded in contributing an improved theoretical understanding of the nature of creativity, relevant beyond the domain of music. Its proposed practical applications will help increase awareness of creativity-inhibiting practices and promote broader public engagement as well as greater degrees of creative risk-taking.


Musical creativity, socio-cultural enabler, socio-cultural inhibitor, musicians, public engagement

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Climate Change and Environment

2 April 2014