Monday, December 21, 2009


Generally, we have learned that children from birth to approximately age six do not express music like adults. Early childhood, a period of rapid change and development, is the most critical period in a child's musical growth and has been identified in the literature as the "music babble" stage (Moog, 1976; Gordon, 1988) or primary music development (Levinowitz and Guilmartin, 1989, 1992, 1996). Even the youngest infant is wired to receive music and discriminate among differences in frequency, melody, and stimuli (Bridger, 1961; Trehum et al, 1990; Standley and Madsen, 1990; Zentner and Kagan, 1996).
The years from birth through age six are critical for learning how to unscramble the aural images of music and to develop mental representations for organizing the music of the culture (Holahan, 1987; Davidson, 1985). This process is similar to that which unfolds for language during the "language babble" stage. The body of knowledge acquired through research thus far supports the notion that, like language development, young children develop musically through a predictable sequence to basic music competence, which includes singing in tune and marching to a beat (Levinowitz and Guilmartin, 1989, 1992, 1996). Consider this analogy; in cable television, visual images are readily available for any channel; however, to see them you need a cable box to unscramble the images. During primary music development, children create a "box" or mental representation to unscramble the aural images of music. This multifaceted, complex mental representation is known is "audiation". Audiation is paramount in importance because it is basic to all types of musical thinking. Without audiation, no musical growth can take place.
Early childhood is also the time when children learn about their world primarily through the magical process of play. The substance of play in very young children is usually comprised of the environmental objects and experiences to which they have been exposed. If the music environment is sufficiently rich, there will be a continuous and ever richer spiral of exposure to new musical elements followed by the child's playful experimentation with these elements.
Edwin Gordon has identified early childhood as the period of developmental music aptitude (1988). During these years, music potential or aptitude, which is based on the complex construct of audiation, is in a state of change. Because of this state of change, the child's musical aptitude is vulnerable to positive or negative influences through both instruction and environment. Without sufficient stimulation and exposure, a child has little with which to experiment and learn through his or her musical play. The most typical negative influence on developmental music aptitude is simply neglect. Hence, the inborn potential for musical growth may actually atrophy.
Just as all children are born with the potential to learn to speak and understand their native language, all children are born with the potential to learn to perform and understand their culture's music. When a child has developed a mental representation of his or her culture's music, the inner reality (audiation) should enable the outer performance to be more accurate. By first grade, many children develop the ability to perform the music of their culture with accuracy. However, many children do not.



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