UNESCO-NIE Centre for Arts Research in Education (CARE)

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Name of Author: 
Teo, Timothy Kheng Guan
Thesis (Ph.D.) National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University
Soh, Kay Cheng
Year of completion: 
Country of Research Data: 

The purpose of this study was to examine firstly, the relationship of selected listener's characteristics such as gender, age, race, ability to recognize musical styles, and musical training on musical preference; secondly, the pattern of musical preference among polytechnic students; thirdly, differences in their preferences for Western and non-Western musical styles; fourthly, the relationship of musical characteristics and musical preference, and fifthly, the relationship of cultural attitudes and musical preference. Participants were 183 polytechnic students. The age range of the sample is 16.7 to 22.5 years and four major races in Singapore (Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Other races) were represented in the sample. There were 129 males and 54 females in the sample. A total of 119 (65%) of the participants were not musically trained. Two researcher-designed instruments, the Musical Characteristics Scale (MCS) and Cultural Attitude Scale (CAS), were used for data collection. The MCS was designed to measure three aspects: the participants' perception of the musical characteristics of 25 music excerpts on a bipolar scale, participants' preference for the 25 music excerpts, and participants' ability to recognize the styles of the music excerpts. The musical characteristics were Tempo (slow/ fast), Rhythm (irregular/ regular), Pitch (low/ high), Melody (unclear/ clear), Harmony (dissonant/ consonant), Timbre (dull sounding/ bright sounding), and Texture (unison/ many parts). The MCS utilized a sample of musical excerpts, each lasting between 40 to 60 seconds, from five musical styles: Popular, Classical, Chinese, Malay and Indian. The Cultural Attitude Scale (CAS) is a 24-item scale designed to measure attitudes towards people of other cultures in three areas: Willingness to work with people from other cultures, Respect for different cultures, and Support for multiculturalism in society. All musical characteristics, preference, and attitude measurements were based on five-point scales. Reliability of the instruments was established by means of a pilot test, expert judges' ratings, and a re-test. Four trained music teachers served as judges to determine the ratings for the various characteristics of the MCS and their Cronbach alphas ranged from .77 to .86. The test-retest reliability for the MCS ranged from .70 to .83 and that of the CAS, from .79 to .82. These reliability coefficients are considered high according to the sample size. Results showed that females had higher means in most styles that the males. Across the age groups, no differences were found for the mean preference. By race, Popular and Classical styles were most preferred. No significant relationship was found between the participants' ability to recognize musical styles and musical preference. In terms of musical training, no significant difference was found in the mean preference for all styles except for the Classical style. In this study, the Popular and Classical styles were grouped as Western styles and the Chinese, Malay and Indian style, as non-Western styles. There were significant differences between the preference for Western and non-Western styles with participants showing a higher preference for the former. Results showed that all seven musical characteristics featured in this study were significant sources of variation in the musical preference. Participants expressed their preferences for fast tempo, regular rhythm, moderately high pitch, clear melody, moderately consonant harmony, and moderately bright timbre. There was a significant relationship between cultural attitudes and musical preference. Compared to the Western styles, a stronger relationship was found between the preference for non-Western styles and cultural attitudes. The multiple regression analyses revealed that, of the variables in this study, musical preference was predicted by musical characteristics and cultural attitudes. Of these musical characteristics and cultural attitudes, Rhythm, Timbre, and Support for Multiculturalism were significant predictors for musical preference. The implications of the findings on music teaching and learning, curriculum development and design, and teacher training and development were discussed.

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