‘We all seemed to enjoy it’

A year 8 class on a Thursday afternoon before the age of measurement.

To the school hall and moving to Darius Milhaud’s Le creation de monde. Three one-hour lessons of listening.

I had just discovered the piece and at the same time become interested in the way that music is most obviously known – physically.

You see I had read ‘Rhythm, Music and Education’ by Jaques-Dalcroze. This had led me to wonder whether dancers knew more about music than musicians.

And let’s keep in mind Jackie Schneider’s poetic account of her recent teaching.

‘On Monday morning year 2 children looked nervously through the classroom doors at the blacked out music room, they squealed in delight as they saw bubbles appear from around the corner and the twinkle of the disco ball shimmered on the classroom floor. The aquarium from Carnival of the Animals played loudly. As their eyes got used to the darkness they spotted 30 silken scarves in bright lurid colours draped around the music room. They picked up a scarf and they made it swim/glide/soar around the room.’

We can imagine the swimming, gliding, soaring as extended body movements capturing the general character of the music.

(Do early years music teachers sometimes attach jingles to ankles and wrists as a way of knowing music with the body?)

Thinking bodies – that’s where I started with that year 8 class all those years ago.

The class was listening with their bodies, thinking and knowing with their bodies.

Through repetition came sharper aural perception and refinement of movement. Movements became recognizable expressive gestures. Inner feeling was matched to outward expression.

Well, that was the theory, a theory underlying, in one way or another, the world’s most influential music education methods and movements.

There were times to reflect, times to talk and think about the music before re-engaging with the music.

‘The creation of the earth’ – what an idea.

The piece




Lasts some sixteen minutes. That’s a lot of music to map.

But that’s what we attempted over three Thursday afternoons.

What for?


To know a piece of music that otherwise would have remained unknown.

Was that enough?

Seemed worthwhile at the time.

But this was before the age of measurement. And ‘we all seemed to enjoy it and get something from it’.

See http://werryblog.com/2015/06/10/cutting-some-slack/?utm_content=bufferb9957&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer for what it could be like after the age of measurement.

And do dancers know more about music than musicians?


4 thoughts on “‘We all seemed to enjoy it’

  1. A fine example. But what about attached jingles more generally encouraging movement and sound to be coordinated, mutually reaffirmed in much the same way that soundbeams work? So voice before instruments is silly.

  2. This is the nub of our problem- we can’t measure ‘knowledge of’ something (or somebody), only ‘knowledge about’. No doubt which kind of knowledge has a bigger impact on our development, though! I do suspect dancers ‘know’ music better, although, as Dalcroze believed, all listeners experience music as physical responses in the body. Dancers are more aware of these involuntary responses and have the physical capability to harness and amplify them. When I facilitated for disabled musicians, I knew some whom I would call ‘frozen’ dancers and they found musical expression in choreography and in directing the movements of dancers through their improvisations.. .

  3. Audrey, thank you for this thoughtful reply and for fresh insight into the issue.

    I recall reading a book called ‘Knowing in their bones’. The title seemed to put the matter well.
    Although we can’t measure this kind of knowing, we can recognise it when we see it and perhaps describe it. This would be valuable ‘data’. Data, what a terrible word to use in this context.

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