Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Memorizing the alphabet, counting reliably to ten, getting the notes of the scale in order--any of these details, if imposed too soon, can block the flow of magic that creates music and poetry or stimulates fascination with numbers. People who were always good at these rote-learned systems are probably as shocked as I was when I first heard people talk about how restrictive the alphabet actually is, or how many words the Inuit people have for snow.
This morning I was reading an essay by Alison Gopnik in the August 16 New York Times on the subject of how young children characteristically explore, as opposed to adults who exploit. Taking tone as the object of exploration young children should be encouraged to move freely within a range of sounds that correspond to the ringing of bells or the piano played with the pedal down. This is quite the opposite of the fashionable regimen of Mozart CDs.

Young children, once aroused by this vast mysterious richness, don't lose interest in sound. On the contrary, they hear and respond confidently to aspects of tone that the force-fed, young and old alike, miss.