Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Couple of Pre-Schoolers Walk Into a Music Room

That's what happened here yesterday (actually, three).  The only rule is that there is to be no speaking in the piano area unless absolutely necessary.  Percussion instruments of various kinds are scattered around and the children are invited to join me in music as they desire.

So I begin--wrong, I did not begin.  The oldest (4 1/2) began rhythmic drumming on the drum she had brought.  So I joined her, playing a modern march for children from Lowell Liebermann's brilliant Album for the Young.  I segued into other less obviously square rhythms, one in 5/4, then a free-wheeling Serenade by Grieg with all kinds of ritards and dynamic extremes.  I pay no attention to the children, only to the sounds they make while I play, and I am continually astonished at the degree to which they are with me--not in the obvious sense of keeping the beat, but responding to highs and lows, registral as well as dynamic.

Sensing a heightened level of attentiveness I launch into Schumann's Geschwindmarsch.  The little girl gets it and, at Schumann's audible invitation, turns herself into a panther, hiding then pouncing, just as the music does.  Delighted, I broke the rule to say so. Meanwhile the two others, younger (one not quite 2) had become quietly fascinated with other objects in the room.  Were they listening?
Who knows?

I suspect they were because one of them announced that he was tired.  (See Sept. 12 post "A Young Listener Gets Tired" -- my most-read blog post ever.) I completely agreed with him that an awful lot had been happening.  So we changed course.

Unable to get them interested in singing Down in the Valley with a pianistic wind accompaniment (invented by a young student years ago), I sat one child on my lap, had him rest his hands on mine and played the Sicilienne by Alfredo Casella which ends, as do many of his pieces, with a tone cluster, played by the child.  Naturally the other older child wanted a turn, so we did it for Casella's Bolero.  Then we wound down and called it a day.

It might have baffled a parent to witness this mildly chaotic environment of active listening.  Listening to good music live should evoke a kaleidoscopic chaos of response.  No one should have to start out on a lifetime of musical involvement by sitting still (heaven forbid!) or even with pre-organized responses, like steady beats (there goes the vitality!).