The Amazing Human Musical Mind, Part 8
Part 8 of Mr. A‘s series about music’s impact on cognitive development in children & toddlers addresses four types of musical activities that parents/educators should engage children in: those that find their singing voice, those which advance audiation ability, those that develop movement to a musical beat and those that develop moving to music for expression.
The post goes on to talk about how most parents/teachers aren’t necessarily interested in generating singers, but explains that music is a language (I’ve seen so many musicians make this analogy – Victor Wooten speaks about it a lot, for example) and that its development is meant to foster thought birthed in language. That video from Anthony Wellington that I posted last week also demonstrates some examples of this, and I even remember a video with Victor Wooten and this insane drummer named Steve Smith, where they took turns playing something on their instrument and the other person would replicate it on theirs – bass replicating drum tones and drums replicating bass tones. It was incredible, and really spoke to me about the expressive nature of sound. But, anyway, he clearly equates singing to the musical equivalent of speaking a language.
Even past this though, he says something that’s interesting to me about other areas of mental development that are enhanced through music. Music instruction apparently increases mathematical ability significantly. In particular, he calls out spatial and temporal reasoning – which is interesting to me also because in our software (remember, I design clinical software for nursing homes) some of the attributes we track are cognitive functions such as orientation to person, place and time. As people become older and lose cognitive function, they first begin to experience a degradation in their sense of time, forgetting what time, day or date it is, for example, or how many days since a family member visited. Next, as cognitive capability further diminishes, their recall ability for place lessens. They might forget that they’re in a nursing home, or forget where they spent the morning, for example. Naturally, this progresses until they might not remember where they’re from or where they were married, etc. Finally, they lose their sense of person. This can be their name – which happens to women more than men, because often, through marriage, a woman’s last name will change, so those neural pathways are less deeply entrenched, since they essentially have 2 names, and in a way, 2 lives to keep track of. It often manifests as elderly residents forgetting the names of family members, staff persons, famous figures on television, and so on.
Anyway, let me try to keep work out of play. The important thing here to me is this: Anything that can strengthen our mental capability, especially memory and reasoning, is a godsend and should be embraced, if at all possible. The effects, later on in life, especially, are what can enable us to maintain autonomy and a better quality of life. And, with music, in particular, its enjoyable too.
Ok. So, Mr. A talks about cognitive studies conducted on young students who were given no musical instruction and those who received either singing, rhyrhm or piano lessons. After two years, those who received rhythm lessons (go bass!) scored higher than the piano or singing students on temporal tasks. All who received music lessons scored significantly higher on spatial and temporal skills than those without. The singing and piano students’ scores were the same.
With the next post, he promises to share methods to encourage children to find and grow comfortable with their singing voices. I’m sure our daughter is going to love this. 😉
Here are the other parts in the series:
There are four types of musical activities you should do with your students; those that help the child find and be comfortable with their singing voice, those that advance the child’s audiation ability, which is the ability to think in music and sing what has already been thought, those that develop moving to the beat of music to which they listen, and those that develop moving to music for expression.
For most if not all of you, developing singers is not what you are about. This being the case, you may wonder why I would have you help the child learn to use his or her singing voice. After all, isn’t that the job of a music or singing instructor? The answer to this is found by again comparing music to language. How many of you would teach your children language skills by never having them talk? After all, you’re…
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