Approaching Musical Intelligence in the Classroom
The MENC standards indicate that there is much more to music than listening to it in the background while performing unrelated cognitive tasks. Musical intelligence involves understanding, interpreting, responding to, and creating music. Opportunities to interact with music should be available daily. Fully integrating musical intelligence into the classroom is possible while respecting and understanding the following principles.
- Music facilitates brain development (Jensen, 2001).
- Early childhood music experiences should revolve around understanding, interpreting, responding to, and creating music (Andress, 1999).
- Music is facilitated through musical education (Gardner, 1993).
- Musical intelligence develops in stages.
Brain Development and Musical Intelligence
Music has an effect on brain growth and bodily systems. Jensen (2001) reports that music reduces stress and enhances the function of the immune system. Music can help children relax or can be used to excite. It affects the heart rate, blood pressure, and improves blood flow (Jensen, 2001) and also has an effect on memory. It develops the memory through melody and beat, and through its connection to the emotions. Music can also improve coordination and the ability to listen and respond.
The tempo and genre of a musical selection influences blood pressure, relaxation, respiration, and body temperature. Music that is loud and fast can slightly raise body temperature, quicken respiration, and elevate blood pressure. Music that has a slower tempo and is softer can lower body temperature and slow respiration. Music has an effect on brain chemicals and physical systems in the body (Jensen, 2001).
Understanding, Interpreting, Responding, and Creating
Music involves interaction (Andress, 1999). It is not a passive experience, but an active one. The interaction occurs through understanding, interpreting, responding to, and creating music. In order to interact with music, music must be listened to, as opposed to being heard. Hearing and listening involve two very different processes. Hearing is a passive physical process that is used to take in stimuli (Jensen, 2001). Listening involves the ability “to filter, analyze, and respond to sounds” (Jensen, 2001, p. 43).
How does one facilitate listening in the early childhood classroom? Through creating experiences to understand, interpret, respond to, and create music (Andress, 1999). Talk to children about the music they hear. Ask what the music sounds like; is it fast or slow; what kind of feeling does it communicate; what instruments might be involved; what instruments could they use to recreate it? Provide opportunities for children to manipulate objects to create sounds, play musical instruments, and clap out musical beats. Children may respond to music by talking about it, dancing, moving, and creating representations of it through drawing, clay, or other medium. Children should have the opportunity to create music through construction of musical instruments, experimentations with the notation system, and through pretending to be a conductor or musician.
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