“Whistle while you work” is a music practise which has more or less died out in the industrialized world. In London people sit on the train headphones in their ears and a book in their hands desperately trying to create their own personal, private space in a noisy, overcrowded environment.Noise pollution assails us wherever we go these days.
But I would be willing to wager that 99.9% of those people are, in fact, perfectely open to contact with other people if the other person was the first to make the move. Unfortunately many people do not know how to form relationships never having been taught how to or are too scared to do so. They take refuge in a world which they create while listening to music.
Music and house boundaries must be two of the major causes of dispute amongst neighbours.Our demands for instant gratification have led to a lack of tolerance.Overly loud sounds damage us mentally and physically. Tension headaches and gradual loss of hearing being two obvious effects. We are becoming evermore sensitive to its effects. This I believe is having an especially detrimental effect on babies and young children. They do not know what silence and peace and quiet is.Even while asleep they can still pick up the rhythmic vibrations from the television and numerous other pieces of equipment. These energies do not act like a lullaby!
In the days of ballroom dancing the mood was deliberately changed from time to time.- fast and light hearted, slow and romantic and the dancers responded appropriately. Now everything seems to be relentlessly loud and high energy. The dancers appear to respond to no one but themselves. The whole concept of one person leading and the other following with both showing consideration for the other seems to have been lost.
Sometimes without being consciously aware of the fact we are all trying to give ourselves music therapy.This form of therapy must be as old as mankind. From the time we first lived in communities we have used it to heal, to celebrate, to mourn and on countless other occassions as well.
This has been a rather round about way of getting to the subject of music therapy and the child with special needs. I am first and foremost a dance and movement therapist but I have always been aware that a successful session owed 50% to my musical choices. Although I have worked with other groups my main experience is with children with Severe Learning and Physical Disabilities. Some of the children had no voluntary movement in addition to other problems, such as blindness. They would be described by the ignorant and cruel person as being “vegetables” with “no quality of life” . Neither statement, of course, was true. For such children the dance and movement therapy was supplied by me dancing for them on an individual basis. In such cases the accompanying sound became more important than the movement. I had one pupil who I intuitively felt was musical although he gave no outward signs of this. I saw this pupil in a group for one hour a week so it took me a year to establish what his tastes were.
With pupils who were actually able to participate in dance and movement sessions I used music from all periods of time and from all over the world. I discovered, for example, that children with severe Downes Syndrome seemed to have great difficulty in keeping time. This may be because they were unable to perceive a pattern to the music or because having anticipated the rythmic pattern they were not able to physically respond in time. My classes were always about improvisational dance. My first real break-through moment came when two children were dancing to a recording of Australian Aborigines playing the digirido. They were inspired. They created their own choreography , danced in time to the rhythm and interacted with one another. The music had inspired them to create a beautiful dance. “New Age” pieces with their “flow” were always well received. I always tried to offer the children opportunities to decide what we should dance to.
Every session I incorporated a musical activity. There was always great exicitement when I turned up with my full array of instruments. The boys always went straight for the drums. To my surprise I found that if the children were divided into groups each group playing a different instrument it was possible to do quite complicated exercises.These activities were very good for number work and co-ordination. The children seemed to concentrate more than usual while doing this activity.
Ann Rachlin tells the most enchanting childrens’ stories to classical and other kinds of music.Your child might enjoy this as have many, many others.
Music has a valuable part to play in all our lives. It helps us weather the ups and downs of life. But listening to it has become for many people a very solitary activity. We need to learn to create and to share it more.