Noa, a 10-Year-old Composer: A Case Study


  • Michel Hogenes The Hague University of Applied Science



Case study, Cultural-historical activity theory, Music composition, Music notation, Play.


The present case study aims to contribute to the knowledge of music composition as a meaningful activity in music education. An extensive amount of literature on music composition is available; however, music composition as a regular classroom activity is rarely seen in elementary schools. The effects of closely guided music composition, in which extra attention is paid to the revision of music compositions, on engagement in music education and music achievement in a single subject situation were studied using a three-step-model for music composition based on the cultural-historical activity theory. The authors conclude from this case study that executing music composition activities is possible and potentially accessible for elementary school children. The used music composition model offers classroom teachers and music specialists’ possibilities to teach music composition in elementary schools and make music composition accessible for elementary school children. The current study shows that an intense collaboration between a student, as novice, and her teacher, as more knowledgeable adult, leads to more complex compositions than was seen in classroom situations. The intense collaboration offers the teacher the opportunity to adapt to ideas, needs and interests of the student. Therefore, to offer all children in a classroom situation the assistance they need, working in small groups is suggested.

Author Biography

Michel Hogenes, The Hague University of Applied Science

Teacher Education Department


Barrett, M. (2003). Freedoms and constraints: Constructing musical worlds through the dialogue of composition. In M. Hickey (Ed.), Why and how to teach music composition: A new horizon for music education. Reston, VA: MENC.

Berberian, C., & Zamarin, R. (1966). Stripsody. New York/ London/ Frankfurt: Peters Corporation.

Cole, M. (1996). Cultural psychology: a once and future discipline. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Boer, M. de (1994). Stemming. Muziek voor de basisvorming [Tuning. Music for the early stages of secondary education]. Groningen: Wolters-Noordhoff.

Dissanayake, E. (2000). Art and intimacy: How the arts began. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Hagen, H., & Hagen, M. (2006) Ik zie lichtjes in je ogen. [I see little lights in your eyes]. Amsterdam: Querido.

Hagen, H., & Hagen, M. (2006). Daarkomt de tijger [There comes the tiger]. Houten: Van Goor.

Hancock, H. (1962). Watermelon man. CD Takin’Off. New York: Blue Note Records.

Hogenes, M. (2010). The Child as Composer. Paper presentation. Beijing: ISME.

Hogenes, M., Oers, B. van, Diekstra R.F.W. (2012). Playing music. A perspective on music education using cultural-historical activity theory of education. Unpublished.

Hogenes, M., Oers, B. van, Diekstra R.F.W. (2014). Music composition in the music curriculum. US-China Education Review A, 4(3), 149-162.

Hogenes, M., Oers, B. van, Diekstra R.F.W., & Sklad, M. (in press). The effects of music composition as a classroom activity on engagement in music education and academic and music achievement: A quasi-experimental study. International Journal of Music Education.

Karpov, Y.V. (2005). The neo-Vygotskian approach to child development. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Miles, M.B., & Huberman, A.M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis: an expanded sourcebook. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Mills, J. (2009). Music in the primary school. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Newman, D., Griffin, P., & Cole, M. (1989). The construction zone: Working for cognitive change in schools. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Oers, B. van (2009). Developmental education. Improving participation in cultural practices. In M. Fleer, M. Hedegaard, J. Tudge (Eds.), Childhood studies and the impact of globalization: Policies and practices at global and local levels. (pp. 213-229). New York: Routledge.

Oers, B. van (2010). Children’s enculturation through play. In L. Brooker, & S. Edwards (Eds.), Engaging play. (pp. 195-209). Maidenhead: Open University Press/ McGrow Hill.

Oers, B. van (Ed.) (2012). Developmental education for young children. Concept, practice and implementation. Dordrecht: Springer.

Pompert, B. (2004). Thema’s en taal. Voor de bovenbouw [Themes and language. For the upper grades]. Assen: Van Gorcum.

Stake, R.E. (1995). The art of case study research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Stein, G. (2007). I am Rose. In J. Yolen, A.F. Peters, & P. Dunbar (Eds.), Here’s a little poem. A very first book of poetry. Cambridge: Candlewick Press

St. John, P. (2010). Crossing scripts and swapping riffs: Preschoolers make musical meaning. In M.C. Connery, V.P. John-Steiner, and A. Marjanovic-Shane (Eds.), Vygotsky & Creativity. A cultural historical approach to play, meaning making, and the arts. New York: Peter Lang.

Van de Veer, R. & Valsiner, J. (1991). Understanding Vygotsky. A quest for sythesis. Oxford, UK: Blackwell.

Vygotsky, L.S. (1978). Mind in Society. The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Wardekker, W. (2009). Cultuurhistorische theorie [Cultural historical theory]. In M. Hogenes, F.Teunissen, & W. Wardekker (Eds.), Opleiden in Ontwikkelingsgericht perspectief [Educating in Developmental perspective]. Assen: Van Gorcum.

Wertsch, J. (1987). Vygotsky and the social formation of mind. New York: Oxford University Press.

Yin, R.K. (2009). Case study research. Design and methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.