Audiation, aural training and the visually impaired pianist in South Africa

Published in: Journal of the Musical Arts in Africa
Volume 15, issue 1-2, 2018 , pages: 119–130
DOI: 10.2989/18121004.2018.1556897
Author(s): Silvia van ZylSouth African College of Music, University of Cape Town,


This article explores the concept of ‘audiation’ as conceptualised by Edwin Gordon (2012 [1988]) and its relevance in the training of visually impaired piano students. The theoretical framework for this study incorporates psychological and learning theories such as developmental, Gestalt and positive psychology, the apprenticeship method and implicit learning. Data were collected through listening-based experiments and interviews with participants, which included both visually impaired and sighted piano students as well as an experienced piano teacher. Research findings from the case studies suggest that the long-standing aural training and music teaching practices implemented in South Africa may need re-evaluation, in particular for the visually impaired. The limited emphasis on the aural training of the latter students and the excessive concentration on sight-reading activities required by Gordon’s audiation training need to be reconsidered. New teaching insights may be gained from the integration of emerging learning and psychological theories such as the dynamic systems theory within a multidisciplinary framework. The adoption of such a framework within aural and music teaching methodologies in South Africa may benefit not only the visually impaired, but also sighted music students.

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