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A Cultural Psychology of Music Education$
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Margaret S. Barrett

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199214389

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199214389.001.0001

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On being and becoming a cathedral chorister: a cultural psychology account of the acquisition of early musical expertise

On being and becoming a cathedral chorister: a cultural psychology account of the acquisition of early musical expertise

Chapter:
(p.259) Chapter 11 On being and becoming a cathedral chorister: a cultural psychology account of the acquisition of early musical expertise
Source:
A Cultural Psychology of Music Education
Author(s):

Margaret S. Barrett

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199214389.003.0011

The life and learning experience of a cathedral chorister is a unique one. The domain of musical practice in which the cathedral chorister participates has been shaped around the sound of the boys' voice prior to adolescence and the attendant physiological changes that occur at that time. Unlike other musical practices in which young people participate, the performance peak for a chorister occurs around the ages of twelve or thirteen years. Once the processes of voice change commence, the unique sound qualities of the cathedral chorister can be overlaid by the unpredictable ‘cracks’ and ‘swoops’ of the developing male voice. Nevertheless, in a relatively short period of time — about five years — many cathedral choristers develop musical expertise and perform at the highest levels. How does this occur? What individual, social, and/or cultural conditions support the development of this early expert performance? What might we learn about the acquisition of expertise through the study of this practice? This chapter explores these questions through an account of a longitudinal narrative case-study investigation of life and learning in an English cathedral choir.

Keywords:   English cathedral choir, musical expertise, cathedral choristers, musical practice, male voice

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