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Interactive Movement and Verbal Motives (Kinaesthetic Learning)

And he who mingles music with gymnastic in the fairest proportion and best attempers to the soul, may be rightly called the true musician and harmonist in a far higher sense than the tuner of the strings…

Plato, The Republic[1]

Educationists should bear in mind that while rhythm plays a preponderant role in art, […] it should constitute a no less important factor in general education, coordinating all the spiritual and corporal movements of the individual, and evolving in the latter a mental state in which the combined vibrations of desires and powers are associated in perfect harmony and balance.

Jacques Dalcroze, Rhythm, Music, and Education[2]

These two quotes are wonderfully combined by Lucy Duncan Hall in order to show the dialogue between the ideas for music education by Plato and Jacques Dalcroze.[3] Dalcroze Eurythmics, or “the corporal study of music rhythm”[4], a music education system based on the idea that “the sense of rhythm and measure could be developed by movements of the body in time to music; that there is an intimate relation between rhythm in sound and rhythm in the body”[5] “approaches the Greek education, according to the expressed conviction of many educators”.[6] Considering the time period which separates Plato and Dalcroze, the idea of using interactive movement in music education and learning seems to have a timelessness and a great strength.

According to Dalcroze, “a fundamental requisite in any expressive work” is “a real feeling for rhythm or movement”.[7]He emphasised “the importance of bodily movement in understanding music, suggesting that music is not heard by the ear alone but by the whole body”.[8] As Duncan Hall says, “this expression of rhythm by means of bodily movement, which Dalcroze discovered” (and which includes a whole sequence of movements) “was the most effectual approach to the study of music, [and] is therefore seen to be fundamental to all arts”.[9] It can be astonishing how students’ perception widens when they experience the musical phrases through movement, before they play it on their instruments. This applies to the greatest variety of rhythms, as “the many elements of music which a child may learn to hear and feel, expressing them in movement, can only be suggested in this enumeration [in a variety of movements and rhythms], as […] that music, coming from the dance originally, contains all the rhythm it is possible for a body to express”.[10] Dalcroze “lays emphasis upon the great variety of music rhythm” and not a rhythm “as a monotonous, metronomic regularity of beat, like the ticking of a clock”.[11] Expressing all these different rhythms through movement can give another dimension to students’ perception which can result in freeing their way of thinking and unblocking them from the rhythmic problems which they may face.

The movements can be different depending on the character of the melodies. “Stepping, marching, running, leaping, springing, or skipping, according to the tempo and the rhythm of the music” can illustrate “the division of time in music into pulses” which “corresponds to equal divisions of space”.[12] The music educator can use all the different kinds of movement to show the student the different characters of the music (lyrical, aggressive, sweet etc). “Accelerando, ritardando, crescendo, diminuendo, the different touches are all capable of expression by the body in quickened or retarded movement; in inhalation and exhalation accompanied by muscular tension and relaxation; in erect, tensed, contracted, or relaxed positions of the body while marching”.[13] This concept applies perfectly to wind players, who, apart from the arm muscles, have to move and direct their musical phrases through their air by tensing or relaxing the abdominal muscles in their inhalation/exhalation.

Movement and interaction in the learning process are the foundations of kinaesthetic learning, where “learning takes place by the student carrying out a physical activity, rather than listening to a lecture or watching a demonstration”,[14] an approach which is connected with the experiential learning theory presented in the first chapter. Kinaesthetic is one of the most effective learning styles, as “learning research shows that most people prefer learning by experiencing and doing (kinaesthetic elements) especially when reinforced through touching and movement (tactile elements)” and “kinaesthetic learners retain best, even if they make up only 5 percent of the population”,[15] which can show how the different learning styles can still be very effective in different types of learners and a mixture of them in teaching can be a very useful tool.

Asselin and Mooney note that “people remember 90 percent of what they say and do, as opposed 30 percent of what they see and hear”.[16] Even if it has been introduced in the schools quite recently, “the interaction of teacher and pupils within the social arena of the classroom is a central element in all educational institutions”,[17] and for instrumental teaching it is one of the most useful and creative tools. Especially for oboists, kinaesthesia can make a great difference to the most important part of oboe playing: the breathing. “Oboe players must become conscious of their breathing. To increase our awareness of breathing, we must use kinaesthesia - our movement sense. […] It tells us whether we are moving, and how we are moving. […] We can use kinaesthesia to notice how much air we breathe in and out. We can become conscious of the quality of our breathing as we create music”.[18]

Apart from rhythmic movement, the use of verbal motives can also give a great result (sometimes in combination with movement like clapping). Verbal motives (the use of words for melodic and rhythmic patterns) help the students to feel and experience through words the strong and weak beats of more complicated rhythms, and the direction and shaping of melodic phrases. The use of words for this purpose was supported by Dalcroze, but highly developed by Carl Orff: “The rhythm of the words helps the child to understand the musical rhythm. ‘The rhythmic verbal motives give to the child the opportunity to understand easily every kind of musical measure without difficulty’”.[19]

What really benefits this process is that the accents in music can be shown obviously by the accents in the words (prosody).[20] In clapping, for example, “accents are listened for in the same way, clapped when heard, and the weak beats are thrown away”. With the use of verbal motives, “starting with the words, the children are being taught the relevant rhythmic accents through the accented rhythmic syllables”.[21] A short example of this is the use of “lemon-lemon-lemon tree” for the rhythm of 7/8.[22] This method of polyrhythmic exercises gives the students the opportunity to feel familiar with a great variety of rhythms, to feel and experience the accents in music, and to direct the musical phrases naturally; it not only applies to general music education but to instrumental teaching too and with great benefits.

The use of language and words for better understanding music was also supported by Kodaly, whose conviction was that “children will learn how to read and write music with lasting success only when allowed to make direct connections with aurally familiar materials”[23] and particularly through singing, which, as he declared, “is the principal means of teaching”: “A given work of music will be living reality for the child because he has experienced the structure of the work with its melodic and rhythmic elements through his own singing. He has absorbed it and stored it”.[24] The use of language, words and singing for the better understanding of music can greatly help a student in a very lively way. It can be a very creative, imaginative and direct way of experiencing the melodies and rhythms, and “these pleasant experiences” can even “later bring with them the wish to get to know a larger number of classical works”.[25] Learning through pleasant experiences like these can work as a source of motivation, and encourage the student to be willing to learn and discover more and more about his music and his instrument.

This idea that successful learning is based on pleasant experiences and in similar active training methods, as described above, was highly developed by Suzuki. The core of his education system was “the love and the respect of the uniqueness of the child (student), as very important elements for his truly seamless development”.[26] In his educational system, the development of the student was dependent on the encouragement and motivation he has from the parents and the teacher. “The teacher, the parent and the child create an ‘equilateral triangle’, in which every side is equally important and the harmonic cooperation between them is truly essential”.[27]

In the Suzuki method, there is, as in Dalcroze, Kodaly and Orff, movement, singing and lots of space for student’s improvisation. He believed that “all children can be trained in music exactly as they are trained in their ‘mother-tongue’”[28]; Kodaly used the “mother-tongue” too: not the process in which children learn it, but “the words of mother-tongue, and later its idioms, characteristic images and sentence structures [which] give a feeling of security to the child because the world and people around him reflect similarity in word and thought”.[29] As “the musical mother tongue is closely linked to the spoken mother tongue in its rhythm and accent, its logic, structure and imagery”,[30] the use of language and words is of great use in music learning. This familiar material, especially in the form of verbal motives, can free the student very much, and even lead him to gain improvisation skills: “In purely musical terms his [Kodaly’s] study of oral tradition […] suggested that the repeated use of such pre-existing patterns might well be what makes improvisation possible, indeed typical of a great deal of folk music”.[31]

Movement and interaction including verbal sounds and words can liberate the student and engage him to experience music with all of his senses. All these elements together can “contribute, everyone with its own way to the clarification of the total meaning”, a complete music experience. “The rhythmic, melodic and harmonic music elements come to life through the constant flow of time” and with this flow of time “every sound has a meaning”. Everything written in a score (adagio-allegro, accelerando-ritardando, piano-forte, crescendo-diminuendo) “instead of being interpreted statically, without movement and direction inside, they should be experienced actively and consciously. Feeling why these music symbols are in this particular place can make music interpretation a whole vibrant experience”, as Hadjinikos says, while he connects these ideas with the methods of Dalcroze and Orff. This result can be created “through experiencing music with flowing movement and the senses”, since “movement connects the body, the soul and the spirit” and brings through music harmony and balance in all three, ideas which are connected with the quotes of Plato and Dalcroze above.[32]

[1] Plato, The Republic, quoted in Duncan Hall, Lucy, ‘Creative Effort-In Dalcroze Eurythmics’, Francis W. Parker School Studies in Education, Vol. 8, 1925, p. 51.

[2] Jaques-Dalcroze, Emile, Rhythm, Music, and Education, New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1921, quoted in Duncan Hall, Lucy, ‘Creative Effort-In Dalcroze Eurythmics’, Francis W. Parker School Studies in Education, Vol. 8, 1925, p. 51.

[3] Duncan Hall, Lucy, ‘Creative Effort-In Dalcroze Eurythmics’, Francis W. Parker School Studies in Education, Vol. 8, 1925, p. 51.

[4] Duncan Hall, Lucy, ‘Dalcroze Eurythmics’, Francis W. Parker School Studies in Education, Vol. 6, 1920, p. 141.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Duncan Hall, Lucy, ‘Creative Effort-In Dalcroze Eurythmics’, p. 54.

[7] Ibid, p. 51.

[8] Hallam, Instrumental Teaching, 1998, p. 181.

[9] Ibid, p. 52.

[10] Ibid, p. 53.

[11] Duncan Hall, Lucy, Dalcroze Eurythmics, p. 142.

[12] Ibid, p. 141.

[13] Ibid, p. 142.

[14] From retrieved 29 of April 2014.

[15] Lancard Brown, Learning Styles and Vocational Educational Practice.

[16] Asselin, S. B. & Mooney, M., Diverse Learners: Strategies for Success, Glen Allen, VA: Virginia Vocational Curriculum and Resource Center, 1996, (ED 406 529) quoted in Lancard Brown, Learning Styles and Vocational Educational Practice.

[17] Delamont, Sara, Interaction in the classroom, p. 18.

[18] Caplan, Stephen, The Breathing Book, Oboe Edition, Foreword by Allan Vogel, Mountain Peak Music, 2014, p. 2.

[19] Androutsos, Polyvios P., Μέθοδοι Διδασκαλίας της Μουσικής: Παρουσίαση και Κριτική Θεώρηση των μεθόδων Orff & Dalcroze [Methods of Teaching Music: Presentation and Critical View of the methods Orff & Dalcroze], Edition Orpheus, Athens, 2004, p. 97 [quoting the introduction of Arnold Walter in the English edition of Music for Children, p. VI].

[20] “In linguistics, prosody ([…]from Greek προσῳδία, prosōidía, [prosɔːdía], "song sung to music; pronunciation of syllable") is the rhythm, stress, and intonation of speech”. “In music it is the manner of setting words to music” accordingly to this rhythm and intonation of the speech. From and from retrieved 28 of April 2014.

[21] Androutsos, Polyvios P., Methods of Teaching Music: Presentation and Critical View of the methods Orff & Dalcroze, p. 97.

[22] I used this while teaching a group of young oboe players, who could not play the rhythm of 7/8. When I came up with the idea to start singing “lemon-lemon-lemon tree” they immediately started playing the 7/8 with lots of excitement and great ease.

[23] Ringer, Alexander L., ‘Kodaly and Education: A Musicological Note’, College Music Symposium, Vol. 11 (Fall, 1971), p. 62.

[24] Kokas, Klara, ‘Kodaly’s Concept of Music Education’, Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, No. 22 (Fall, 1970), University of Illinois Press on behalf of the Council for Research in Music Education, p. 51.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Stamou, Lelouda N., Μία Ανθρωπιστική Προσέγγιση στη Διδασκαλία της Μουσικής: Η Φιλοσοφία και η Πράξη της Μεθόδου Suzuki (Ένα εγχειρίδιο για σπουδαστές, παιδαγωγούς και γονείς), [A Humanitarian Approach to the Teaching of Music: The Philosophy and the Action of Suzuki Method (A manual for students, pedagogues and parents)], University of Macedonia Publications, Thessaloniki, 2012, p. 31.

[27] Ibid, p. 38.

[28] Ibid, p. 24.

[29] Kokas, Klara, Kodaly’s Concept of Music Education, p. 50.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Ringer, Alexander L., ‘Kodaly and Education: A Musicological Note’, p. 62.

[32] Hadjinikos, Giorgos, Το ρετσιτατίβο στις όπερες του Μότσαρτ: Πυξίδα για την αναγέννηση της μουσικής αντίληψης [The recitativo in Mozart operas: A Compass for the renaissance of the music perception], (Athens: Nefeli Publications), 2007, p. 54-56.

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