Listening with 'big ears': Accountability in cross-cultural music education research with Indigenous partners




Prest, Anita

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Research Studies in Music Education


In this theoretical article, I examine various conceptions of focused listening—including those held by specific First Nations communities—to determine how each conception might offer insights for listening while conducting cross-cultural music education research. First, I discuss the notion of “Big Ears,” as it is understood by the jazz community. Then, I turn to scholars from various First Nations in British Columbia to learn about their conceptions of listening. I outline decolonial listening strategies as proposed by Indigenous Arts scholar Dylan Robinson, before learning about the role of listening from a settler-Canadian who formally Witnessed the testimonies of Indigenous residential school survivors over a period of years while working for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. I examine the writings of music education researchers who have proposed listening as an important strategy in cross-cultural/intercultural pedagogy and research, albeit in different circumstances and for different reasons. Finally, I describe/reflect on my process of learning to listen cross-culturally as a settler-Canadian music education researcher engaged in communitybased participatory research (CBPR) over the course of three studies, and list some of the ongoing questions I have. I conclude by proposing a revised understanding of Listening with “Big Ears” as one possible way for non-Indigenous researchers using a CBPR approach to enhance their application of Indigenist research methodology, especially in demonstrating their accountability to Indigenous co-researchers, participants, and communities, as they engage collaboratively in music education research.



cross-cultural research, decolonization, First Nations, listening


Prest, A. (2022). “Listening with ‘big ears’: Accountability in cross-cultural music education research with Indigenous partners.” Research Studies in Music Education, 0(0), 1-13.