Mabel’s model music curriculum

Mabel is aged 14 months and until recently I have been in her company most days. I have observed her taking and making of music. These observations haven’t been systematic. 

But observation is never without theories in mind albeit often vague, ill-formed and unarticulated ones. I am not up to date with what is known about young children’s musical development, although I am reading ‘The Psychology of Musical Development’ by David Hargreaves and Alex Lamont [1] and there is ‘The Child as Musician’ edited by Gary McPherson [2] with illuminating chapters on prenatal development, infants as musical connoissers and musical play.

Mabel, like all coming into the world now has been exposed to music throughout her life and her coming to life. The mobile phone has served to pacify her with carefully selected tracks and car journeys have been accompanied by medleys of children’s favourites. Then, until recently, there has been regular attendance at baby and mother music sessions in the local library. And it is in these sessions that bodily gestures have been learnt in response to the singing and moving. Notably there is the sideways upper body shuffle and then there is hand clapping. There is the waving of hands above the head, a rocking back and forth when sitting and a bobbing up and down when standing. There is lip trilling, blowing raspberries, the imitating of the coffee machine’s whirring and the sound of an aeroplane over-head. Mabel bangs and drums on a variety of objects and there is banging and tapping of her feet to accompany meal times in her high chair. A favourite object is a hand held jingle. And before the lockdown Mable had sat on my lap at the keyboard imitating my actions. Mabel’s first clatterings on the keys were a ‘gross’ success. 

For a while now Mabel has known that in these ways her taking and making of music, her proto musical performances, pleases her carers. She is being musically socialised and a nascent form of creativity is being nurtured. Mabel’s music curriculum is being established – indeed, perhaps a model one.

Mabel’s musical utterances take the form of bodily gestures. They have a strong knowing element, yes cognitive – or rather – shall we say – a matter of cognitive-feeling. We might even speculate that mind-body musical schemas are being created … differentiating-integrating-differentiating-integrating… There’s the kinaesthetic-aural dual coding, well-regulated cognitive loading and an emerging working musical memory as well as a long term one. 

I may not see Mabel for a while. I wonder how she will have musically developed by the time we meet again. 

Why is it so in vogue to speak of musical progression? What about musical development?


[1] Hargreaves, D. and Lamont, A. (2017) The Psychology of Musical Development. Cambridge University Press.

[2] McPherson, Gary E. (2015) The Child as Musician: A Handbook of Musical Development. Oxford University Press.

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