Babies move with music in the womb
At 22 weeks gestation, the foetus is experiencing music and other sounds. We know the auditory system is fully functional and the brain is processing sound. Italian researcher Rhodari has shown mothers can calm their child and assist them to fail asleep by singing the same music they sang while pregnant.
New born babies communicate through music
Colwyn Trevarthen, one of UK’s foremost researchers of young children’s innate musicality writes:
“ … I have seen what power music has in communication with infants. Mothers’ songs, action games and dances, and instrumental and recorded music of more popular ‘folk’ kinds, appeal to young infants many months before words have any sense, pleasing them, animating them and calming them to peaceful sleep. Infants also participate musically with skill. They hear music and they join in. We are certainly born musical. This musicality is an expression of the moods and self-regulations that infants and their companions, old and young, can share.” (Trevarthen 1997)
Colwyn Trevarthen says humans use musical forms in their speech – noticeable changes in pitch, strong rhythms, variety in volumes and changes in speed – to attract and keep the baby engaged. The baby imitates these musical ideas, with adult and child seeming like dance partners. It is now thought that this very early musical communication has been valuable in human evolution, because it strengthens bonds between parent (or carer) and child.
Very young babies can’t move their body like us, but they use their facial expression, eye focus and sounds to respond to the music and their mother’s voice.
Howard Gardner proposed the theory of multiple intelligences. Gardner argues that there are eight different types of intelligence and people can be intelligent in different ways. One of these is Musical/Rhythmic Intelligence.Most adults and children show ‘intelligence’ in all areas but excel in one or two. It is much easier to learn new things when it’s presented in a way the learner easily understands and feels comfortable with. Identifying children who favour a ‘musical/rhythmic intelligence and encouraging them to participate in lots of different musical activities will help them, in particular, to achieve learning outcomes. These children will love to sing, dance and hum, easily pick up on rhythms and patterns in music and be sensitive to sounds and tones of voice. However, as we will see, musical activities will help all children achieve learning outcomes.
The fear of music in early years’ settings
Given these strong reasons in support of music why does it lag behind other early years’ creative expression? The following reasons are suggested:
- a lack of awareness, knowledge and appreciation of children’s spontaneous musical behaviours in their everyday play
- little awareness of the role of music in the development of relationships and the pedagogical implications of this
- limited ideas about how to foster children’s innate musicality
- lack of confidence and fear of exposure of perceived lack of musicianship
- a tendency to over-emphasise ‘accurate’ performance
- a belief that music depends on genetic endowment
- worry about the noise that musical activities might make.