Music Education & The KAI

– D. Brinkman

I became interested in the KAI because of my dissertation dealing with the effects of structure and creative style on musical composition. I had been struggling with how to design a creative style measure, and I was excited to see an article in the Journal of Creative Behaviour by Edwin Selby concerning KAI. KAI seemed to be an appropriate instrument for my study, and so I attended the Certification course.

As a music director, it is fascinating to think of applications of Adaption-Innovation Theory to both music and education. Steve Zeisler (one of the workshop participants) and I speculated about various composers and their place on the adaption-innovation continuum. J.S. Bach might be seen as an adaptor – taking the style and conventions of the Baroque and applying his special genius to compose works that are considered capstones of that era. His contemporaries saw him as someone who had stayed with the paradigm to long – he was seen as old-fashioned. I see the 20th Century composer John Cage as an innovator. Cage was always looking for new and controversial ways of expression in music. His piece “4’33” consists of a pianist sitting at the keyboard for four and a half minutes without playing!

In the world of education, the possibilities of application of adaption-innovation theories are endless. The numerous group and individual contacts we have with students might be more efficient with an understanding of relative KAI scores. Consider a trumpet student studying with a private teacher. One of the pair has lots of ideas for ways to improve the sound, shape the phrases and interpret the music. The other prefers modelling the student’s progress to the sound and the style of a well-known professional trumpeter. The possibilities for problems in communicating, progressing musically and coming to a satisfactory recital performance are real, as are possibilities of greater insights because of contrasting styles. It matters not whether the teacher or the student is more adaptive or innovative, but knowledge of the other person’s style could be tremendously helpful.

D. Brinkman, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Originally published in KAI News, 1994