It’s no surprise to any CLC-er that we believe music has the power to speak to the youngest children in deeply personal and powerful ways. Recently, we’ve been wondering especially about the emotional power of music for very young children, and how we can use music of different moods to support the various moods our classroom, too! Formal studies show that “children at the age of 4 are able to begin to distinguish between emotions found in musical excerpts in ways that are similar to adults” (Nawrot, 2003), but we thought we’d see how even younger children’s work and play change when the sounds of their environment change too.
This Winter, we have been experimenting using different kinds of music which include many tempos, modes, volumes, and rhythms during our Work Time, transitions, and Lunch Time. During our clean up ritual after Work Time, we’ve chosen to play “Fantaisie-impromptu, Op. 66” by Frederic Chopin, because of its fast tempo and rhythm, followed by a lulling, calm melody and then back again to the quick tempo and rhythm. We observed that the children began to put things away quickly, with a sense of urgency that wasn’t there before! With the teachers’ encouragement, we asked the children to “feel the music” and move their bodies how the music made them feel. We saw them working with elation and concentration too.
We also experimented with using our paints at the easel while listening to the song “The Dress Looks Nice on You,” by Sufjan Stevens. Inspired by the sweet, peaceful, upbeat tones and melody of the music, the children gravitated to a beautiful array of greens and blues.
One child described their Sufjan palette painting as “blue skin.”
Later, during Circle Time, we led a more focused reflection on the feelings inside of songs. We played the children pieces of these songs, and all listened closely to the way the music was making us feel:
After listening to the sounds of these songs, we asked the children, “what do you notice?”
“Don’t Tell Me” by Ruel
Robin: They are sad because she was in love.
Bayar: It’s just a song for dancing.
Ettore: He’s crying.
“The Moon of Manakoora” by Les Paul and Mary Ford
Sammy: This song sounds like they are ghosts. This song is too spooky.
Kian: The song is slow. Did you know that I know a song in French?
“Valse Sentimentale, Op. 51, No. 6” by Tchaikovsky
Hiram: This sounds like the songs you played…for Ballet Friday.
Elena: I feel mad when you play this, I don’t know why.
Sedona: It’s sad song. I want a happy song.
“One of These Things First” by Nick Drake
Wilson: He is excited, are you excited, Sarah?
Hiram: There is more than one instrument in this song.
Elena: It’s happy to I’m smiling.
“715-CrEEKS” by Bon Iver
Robin: His voice is like a robot!
Doudou: There’s no music, just his voice.
Wilson: He’s a robot and he’s yelling! He’s giong to sing too loud so cover your ears! Cover your ears, Rattany.
As always, the children showed us how innately attuned they are to complicated emotional landscapes, and how music specifically can help frame discussions about feelings. In the coming weeks, we will continue to layer our classroom with different sounds, and do more close listening to different kinds of music, all the while paying close attention to how the music makes us feel, think, describe, and work.