Creativity in Music

Education and Beyond

Theoretical Framework Summary

 by Dr Phil Bancroft and Dr Tom Bancroft

Video Summary:

What follows below is a brief framework
laying out the contents of the paper.
I. Who are we?

We are Medical Doctors/Jazz Musicians/Improvisers and Composers/Educators who work in...

A) Developing Artistic Practice- ie developing our own artistic practice as Jazz Musicians,
and Composers.

B) Developing Teaching Practice- in our practice as teachers working 1-to-1 with students in helping develop their artistic practice- from beginner instrumentalists/improvisers up to Post-Grad level. But also as Education Resource Developers-
 developing resources and training to  help other teachers (often non-specialists) to develop
 their students artistic practice or creative learning, or to use creativity to achieve wider educational goals.

C) Developing Theories of Creativity; throughout we have been developing and
testing theories around creativity in a process similar to Action Research. Theory, Design, Test, Repeat.

II. Creativity Research and Talking about Creativity

A) The Research Literature on Creativity is amazing and extensive
     but has a number of limitations, and often doesn’t ‘fit’ our work very well.

      1. Tends to study successful world-famous creators- often dead white men.
      2. Often based on Problem-Solving models and definitions.
      3. Is ambivalent about creativity in education.
      4. Is not so interested in creativity that goes wrong or why- more in‘successful’ creativity
      1. A lot of research on the effect of emotion on creativity

i) Ideal emotional states for creativity

ii) Effect of mania, bipolar, depression

iii) Effect of happiness or sadness on creativity

      1. Very Little research on effect of creativity on emotion - 'how does being creative make you feel'
      2. One example is Csíkszentmihályi's work on Flow- which does link creativity and emotion- 

i) Flow is defined as an ideal state achieved in activities with clear fixed goals
  and clear criteria for success

ii) This means it is not a good fit with many non 'Problem Solving' creative activities - which we loosely term 'Stuff Generation'.

B) Talking about Creativity is Problematic

      1. Csíkszentmihályi has a metaphor-

        trying to describe creativity is like

        blindfolded people touching different parts of an elephant, and trying to work out what it is. Very apt!
      2. Slippery language, Myths, Misunderstandings, Falsehoods.
      3. Imprecise (use of) terms: Confusion between creative processes, experiences, outputs and outcomes.
      4. We often collapse into talking about our own personal experience and relationship with our own creativity- and whilst this is very important it acts to prevent developing a shared understanding and set of shared  'fit for purpose' concepts and terminology.
      5. Ignorance of improvisation in the dominant western classical model (INI) of music-making.
III. Definitions: Outputs vs Outcome vs Process

To improve clarity of discussion, we propose 6 definitions.

    1. Output-  the concrete end result of a creative process- eg a piece of 'stuff' eg work/music/art, or a new process or solution.
    2. Outcome- full range of consequences including: the output, how it felt for all involved during and afterwards, and how we evaluated it looking back.
    3. Process- 'what we did'.
    4. Experience -'how it felt'.
    5. Intentions - 'what we thought we hoped to achieve'.
    6. Primary Locus of Meaning - which part of the Outcome is most meaningful wrt the goals of the activity - this can vary from being 100% output focussed  "this is a totally original work" to 100% experience focussed  "it really brought the team together".


IV. Intrinsic Emotional Challenge of Creativity

We believe creative processes possess an intrinsic emotional challenge, felt both by beginners and by experienced creative people.

This challenge is over and above challenges common to other difficult tasks requiring skill on which we might be judged.

This challenge will be experienced differently by different people, depending on many factors including their experience and personality. Often it is experienced as being something that says something about the person - "I can't do this. I don't know enough. I am no good at this."

Understanding that this challenge is intrinsic to creative processes, - "this is not me - Creativity can be tough. This could still end in success!"  - changes how you feel, what you are then likely to do, and what you learn.,

We feel it is important to have the understanding that Creativity is something which:

  • has potential positive and negative outcomes,
  • can not work, but feels like it isn't working even when it is
  • if it goes badly can even have a negative and even traumatic effect on people.

In education asking beginner creatives or unconfident teachers to pursue or lead creative activities without :

a) understanding the impact of the emotional challenge, and

b) providing solutions to mitigate its effects, 

can result in failed creative processes, with negative outcomes,

This can leave both beginner creatives and  unconfident teachers feeling-  'I'm not creative', and 'I'm not doing that again!'.

Why should this be?

V. Models to Explain the Emotional Challenge: Birth Death

VI. Technical vs Emotional vs Processing Challenge


VII. The 7 Processes + 2 Toolkits Map of Full-C Creative Process


NB Please fill out our survey on the 7&2 map and be part of the research! click here

VIII. Structure vs Freedom

Structure vs Freedom


IX. Creativity & Meaning

This is a huge area - beyond the scope of this summary or even the full paper.....

    1. Problem Solving (PS)- has a clearly defined objective and has defined stages - Preparation/Incubation/Illumination/Evaluation or verification- with Eureka Moment. Some of these processes/stages happen unconsciously and below awareness.
    2. 'Stuff Generation'  - shares many features with PS but is different wrt timescale, context, goal, role of unconscious processing eureka experience and is more like exploring a personal aestehtic than solving a problem.
    3. Meaning in creativity - broader than ‘meaning’ of words.
    4. Constructivist -meaning created by individual based on own experience, attitudes, beliefs, culture family.
    5. Embodied Knowledge - meaning that comes from a pre-verbal stage, that si known but may not be able to be explained, meaning that is held in the body through physical experiences and learning.
    6. Creative Cognition: portrays the eureka type sudden insight as “the sudden unanticipated restructuring of the problem” Finke (1996 p164). meaning derived from comparing pre-inventive structure to banks of (meaning stored in) pre-existing knowledge.
    1. Technical Challenge- creating a meaningful output- the concept of ‘meaning’ signifies something different in differentt artforms or domains - AND is constantly evolving as people/artforms/society evolves.

In many models/traditions- eg Big C creativity- true creativity is seen to require prior knowledge

    1. Associative vs Syntactic 

Associative- meaning relates to prior knowledge

Syntactic- meaning relates to pattern/organisation not to prior knowledge, meaning is embedded within the creative product,.

    1. Primary Locus of Meaning- in Core C the primary meaning is how the interaction feels for the participants - the experience - and the output is almost inconsequential. We don't release and relisten to recordings of parenst babbling with their babies.  Later in Full C Creativity the meaning is embodied in the output - how the creator felt while doing it is a side issue.

X. Right Kind Of Knowledge vs Wrong Kind of Knowledge.
    1. Wrong Kind Of Knowledge (WKOK)-
      derived from the analysis of finished artworks- alot of theory or critical analysis- processing heavy.
    2. Right Kind Of Knowledge (RKOK)- concise, open, practical, rapid-access, generates options.


XI. Full C vs /Baby C Creative Processes
  1. Full C- creative person has to deal with full technical/emotional/processing challenge
  2. Baby C- large part of technical challenge dealt with by activity leder/designer- to reduce emotional and processing challenge for learner creatives

XII. Examples of Interventions in ABC Music Resources

A) Supported Creativity- 

Split Role, restricted choice, age-appropriate notation, use of form-
repetition/contrast/variation/resolution, visual reinforcement


B) Use of IT- creative workspaces, guaranteeing meaningful outputs

A film showing a range of Baby C activites:

C) Use of Shape Notation, AB grid, and Pitch letters

D) Create/Perform Cycle

E) Phrase Building Skills

From pre-musical sounds, actions, single sounds per beat, rhythms, pitches, lyrics

F) Early Improvisation

real-time choosing, stand on icons, conducting- sound silence, call and response,
repeat alternate jumble, Human Piano

G) Teaching Jazz Improvisation- to Undergraduate/Post Grad level

H) Creativity in Jazz Education Small groups 

I) Developing a culture of 'Fear-free' improvisation in Youth Jazz Orchestras

P4/Yr3 Composition/Performance- Lego project at Clackmannan PS

P6/Yr5 Composition 

P5_6/Yr4_5 Composition/Performance- Professor Leyton project at Clackmannan PS

XIV. Music Education- Specialism vs Generalism

XV. Core C


  1. Communicative Musicality
  2. Primary Locus of Meaning- engagement and interaction- connectedness- not output.
  3. Metaphor of sending out a message to the universe- creativity required to create a unique message.
  4. Is this why brains are creative? Is this the centre?

XVI. Reframing Creativity-
    1. Evolution through an individual person’s life; evolution through human history
    2. Central role for Core C.
    3. Not problem solving / meaningful stuff generation

XVII. What Is Creativity?
    1. Is it one thing? Is it many things? Is it constantly evolving?
    2. Is there a common (set of) characteristic(s)?
    3. What is the role of the unknown?
    4. Multi-dimensional Conceptual space (Gärdenfors) (PB)

Link to our the Full Paper- here.
This is a sizeable resource, so we suggest you look at the Executive Summary first for an overview.