First, it’s great to see this post. (See below.) Early childhood music education and the learning theories behind it are relatively new to the music education profession and extremely important to its future.
Having been an early childhood music specialist for 20 years and also having been in class with Dr. Gordon as he was in the process writing the manuscript for “A Music Learning Theory for Newborn and Young Children,” I’d like to respond with some of my thoughts.
I think Doc would say that absorption, the first stage of Acculturation, begins even before birth—for sure during the last trimester, if not before. Some studies (Sandra Trehub, et. al.) show the fetus responding to music at 5 months in utero. Dozens of mothers I’ve spoken to know their child’s favorite songs prior to their birth and often use that music to comfort the child in the first months and years of life outside the womb.
In response to this blog:
Re: songs without words
I believe that different parts of the brain are stimulated when children hear songs and chants without words, and vice versa. If children listen to songs and chants that are always coupled with language, they attend to both and thus (Doc believes) they are “distracted” by language away from more pure attention to the musical qualities. Still, songs with words—think most lullabies—have a significant cultural place in the home and in society. This does not mean they are of more value to the musical development of children. And, in my opinion, nor does it mean they are of lessor value. They are simply different. Both concurrently stimulate various areas of the brain, and in the one case including a portion that processes language and music simultaneously. Perhaps there is decent benefit for language development through music, but I would argue that language development would occur best when music would not always be coupled with it. So, like Doc, I would tend to take the inverse position as well: music development is probably better when language is not present.
Still, when songs and chants have words associated to them, parents learn them more easily. So, if that means they sing a wider vareity of repertoire throughout the week, that value outweighs the value for children to hear songs without words (ususally for a 45 minute class once a week) simply because it is “more appropriate for their music development.” In EC music classes, aren’t we modelling behaviors we want parents to take home as much as performing for the babies and toddlers? I think we can do some of both. Many parents find songs and chants without words uncomfortable and sometimes just weird. Even still, this is no excuse to avoid them. In the end, I differ with Doc on this in practice, but not in theory
Regarding recordings, I believe them not to be supplementary but indispensible to a child’s music environment. How many live concerts of orchestral music will they see before turning two years old? Modeling musical behaviors in live interactions is key whether one is performing vocally or not. In listening to recorded music, we are modeling movement, but I also accentuate and sing along with the music while I dance. I see no philosophical difference. As to the continous fluid movement Doc purports to be most valuable, I tend to believe him, but again, some parents can find this uncomfortable to do or watch so I do both. I have found a balance between what Gordon believes to be most appropriate for our youngest children and what I am comfortable with in providing while maintaining a strong and vibrant music program for babies and young children.
Please share your questions. I love the dialogue and am happy to hear anyone’s thoughts. Let's keep sharing. Thanks.
Here is the post I responded to.
Preparatory Audiation Type 1: Acculturation