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Saturday, March 04, 2017

Learning the language of music: is it child’s play? | OUPblog

Photo: Wendell Hanna
Please take a look at the below article written by Wendell Hanna, Professor of Music Education at San Francisco State University.

Photo credit: “Piano Musical Instrument” by b1-foto. CC0 Public Domain via Pixabay.

The Italian Reggio Emilia approach is now considered the most progressive and desirable early-childhood educational approach in the world. These schools value children’s innate abilities and nurture artistic and creative intelligences through play-based emersion in the “poetic languages” such as visual arts, music, poetry, dance, drama or photography.

But how might a particular language, such as music, be taught in playful and natural ways that honor a child’s inborn abilities for language learning?

Careful observation of children’s musical development has shown that it is never too early for musical learning. Musical aptitude may actually begin in the womb. According to music psychologist Donald Hodges there may be specific genetic instructions in the brain that make the mind and body predisposed to be musical, “Just as we are born with the means to be linguistic, to learn the language of our culture, so we are born with the means to be responsive to the music of our culture.” Neuroscientists even have claimed evidence that babies are wired for music from birth. This “wiring” forms as the fetus responds to outside voices, music, and sounds from deep within the womb. These neurological mechanisms may also have an embedded relationship with language. 

The Children's Music Studio from Oxford University Press  

During the child study movement of the early 20th century, the Pillsbury studies were the first long-term observational studies of children’s free music exploration. This classic study followed children from two to eight years of age and explored music activities, such as spontaneous improvisation on instruments, with very little adult intervention. Based on their observations, Moorhead and Pond found that: 1) all children had the ability and interest to experiment both with instruments and their voices to create music; 2) there was a strong relationship between the use of rhythm and speech; and 3) children naturally use movement and dramatization to embody their music-making. The Pillsbury studies were groundbreaking in the field of music education because they revealed that even without formal instruction, children were able to improvise and create semi-structured musical pieces.

More recently, a study was conducted involving children ages ten to thirty months where children were left alone to play with a variety of instruments. Video analysis revealed that children took great pleasure in producing sounds, displayed particular styles of performing, and used repetition and variations during improvised performances. Children’s music engagement, without adult intervention in everyday settings such as the playground or at home, has been found to contain complex expressions of children’s understandings of the world around them. These studies make it quite evident that children’s innate musical potential is often underestimated.

Musical play has been studied in music education research and has been found to be a natural way of engaging with music learning. Musical play has also been shown to increase overall auditory discrimination and attention as well as heighten musical skill development. When adults participate alongside children in musical play, the benefits are increased even further.
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Source: OUPblog and Reggio-inspired Music Channel (YouTube)