“Being musical is not a special gift of the few, but part of being human” – Gary Ansdell
Of late I have been considering what it means to be a musician. What special skills do musicians have that ‘non-musicians’ do not. I have also been reading the book “How Music Helps” by music therapist and researcher Gary Ansdell. His chapter on core musicality is very interesting and considers the idea that we are all musicians because we are all musical beings. Children are a fine example of our natural musicality. Ansdell presents a narrative about the child as a developing musician. I have been observing my own children’s musicality and how they present it through our days together.
From early in her physical development within the womb my baby had rhythm- her heart. The internal rhythm of her heart beating. A little later on she could hear the rhythm of my heart and of my breathing, whether slow or fast. She could hear the rhythms and variations in my speech and that of others also. As soon as she was born she had her own breathing rhythm. The relationship between baby and mother is both rhythmic and melodic. The beautifully melodic way in which a mother communicates with her baby is innately musical, with high pitched coos and sounds that reflect the baby’s noises. Much has been written on the subject of mother-baby interaction. If you are interested in this area I can recommend Daniel Stern’s writing. His book “The Interpersonal World of The Infant” (2000) is great, as is “The Diary of A Baby” (1992). At seven months her range of sounds increases everyday. She is attracted to music and loves to hear me sing and play. It produces great reactions – a soothing lullaby calms her and the upbeat pieces make her wiggle her entire body!
Children love to bang things… I have a very rhythmic near two year old who loves to create noise and bang on everything- particularly the piano. To him he is making music just as his mother does and he delights in being able to do so. He had the natural desire to use all the elements of music in his improvised outbursts, tempo changes, pitch variation, rhythmic complexities. To him there is no question that he is not a musician- he just is. I have heard some pretty similar pieces from some contemporary composers!
My four year old loves to sing, jump and dance. Her body moves to the rhythm of music. She creatively makes up songs and whistles and she loves to communicate through music. She is also able to shape her daily routine with song as well. Her awareness of music is growing and she has develop preferences which in turn have started to underpin her life and her identity.
I have a six year old who now uses music as a social activity. No one has taught him to sing and yet it is now a highly enjoyable activity which he participates in at the local drama group. It is an activity that provides him with a shared social experience using his voice- the most natural instrument in the world. He naturally understands rhythm and melodic changes. He naturally understands tempo and timbre.
It is only when society provides a definition of what a musical person is do we begin to think we are not one! I suggest this may be true. Many many people are drawn to music. They have a passion for it and even if they cannot play an instrument they are participating in music by just listening or going to a concert. A person’s musicality spans much further than their ability to actually play an instrument, it includes their love for music, and the fact that the elements of music are at the core of a person.
It is because of this that music can provide a way of working with people such as those with Dementia or children. I have noticed that even if other aspects of the person may be in decline (such as speech or physical ability) music ignites a spark inside. It seems to provide something that a person with dementia can relate to, a recognisable experience that they feel able to participate in. It motivates children to move, dance, sing and express themselves. It provides a foundation for being in community and social groups. Music is familiar, we feel it inside, it is within each of us.
Training and Development Manager