Early Childhood Music and Movement Association

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Music’s Expanding Boundaries

Andrea Apostoli is Presidente AIGAM (Associazione Italiana Gordon per l'Apprendimento Musicale).
In this capacity, he trains and certifies dozens of Italian teachers each year in early childhood methodologies using Gordon Music Learning Theory concepts. His classes range from teacher preparation coursework, to classes for expectant parents and their preborn children, to regular parented music/movement classes, to professional concerts for parents and their preschool children. Andrea travels to the United States periodically to renew friendships with many of his Gordon Institute of Music Learning (GIML) friends.


The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily promote official policy of ECMMA.



I decided to present my first post discussing one of the five principles Dr. Edwin E. Gordon stated to ensure a good listening experience for young children in order to develop their audiation. It was not by chance that I started with “silence.” I personally consider it one of the most important. The other ones are ‘brevity’, ‘variety’, ‘complexity’ and ‘repetition’, and I would like to dedicate a post to each one.

Some people like to say that the young children have a short attention span - that they can be distracted easily and frequently.
I never agreed with that...A child during the first years of life is never “distracted”. Rather, the child steps from one deep concentration to another one, continually re-concentrating on something else.

Look at children when they pour water, when they look to a little insect, when they play silently on a carpet. If we perceive their breathing and we look their eyes and posture we can easily arrive to the conclusion that children are as focused as a surgeon or an engineer.

Grazia Fresco Honegger, a student of Maria Montessori, and a wonderful woman and professor that I had the honor to know and work with, writes:

"Proceeding by trial and error, Galileo said, is the typical scientific analysis and discovery process that the child also pursues, with an untiring and constant exploration. Every child is a real scientist and shows an ability typical of the human mind - moving from concrete to abstract while learning. But a child needs time. The child has to dedicate himself to it with quietness, without solicitations and interruptions.” (G. F. Honegger, Montessori perchè no, La Meridiana, Bari, 2006, p. 26)

When a musical piece is short and after a moment of silence a child realizes that he hears a new piece that is different (tempo, instrument timbre, tonality etc.), the child has clearly stayed focused. In reality, the child only redirected his attention. It is the ‘object” itself that changed.

Since 2004 I conducted concerts for very young children for the Santa Cecilia National Academy.  We are always amazed about the ability that young children have to listen to real composers (Bach, Debussy, Shostakovich, etc) without requiring that adults entertain them - without lights, video, actors, dancers... “only” music... obviously  short.

In 2007 my illustrated book with Cd for young children Ma che musica! was published in Italy and in 2010 was translated and publiced in USA with GIA.

Again, this presents short pieces of real music played by a wonderful orchestras, chamber music ensembles, and soloists. Again shortness.
Many parents bought the book because it looked like something for children. They didn’t know that the CD was not at all a “childish” one. Then they played it and the discovered that their children will listen to it with a lot of attention.

To conlude this (perhaps too long) post, I would like to say that brevity could be compared with the concept of “tactile learning” or “touch”.
During the first months of life, children attend to, and comprehend, things that they can manipulate. Children explore their own body and the small objects that can be grasped with their hands. They don't even look at the other objects.

I remember that many years ago during a class with 5 and 6 year olds, I used a big ball (more the 1 meter diameter). The class after that one was a newborn and toddler one and I forgot on the floor the ball. I was worried. I was imaging that 10- to 12-month-old children would go and put their hands on the ball and that they might fall down dangerously.

My great surprise was that the newborns did not give any attention to the ball. It was it in fact so big that for them that it became a part of the room - a part of the structure of the room - and not an object in the space.

I think that this type of "tactile listening" is the key to helping very young children to listen to art music.

Thank you


Movement Matters Oct 07, 2011

Thank you for pointing out so eloquently the difference between focusing deeply for short periods and distractability. The current explosion of Attention Deficit Disorder we are experiencing is the opposite of this natural “brevity” and depth of focus that is the birthright of all children.
I think the Honegger quote holds the key: “The child needs time . . .quietness . . . without interruptions.” Our modern world is so unlike this so much of the time, and children - even young children - are under a great deal of stress. I feel that a lot of ADD is really anxiety-based - that it is the neurological result of a child not being allowed to fulfill his normal developmental process! Which requires a safe environment and some uninterruputed time, in order to fulfill a personally directed process of “scientific investigation.” That, to me, is a great definition of “play!”
Constant interruptions and demands made by adults - who do not have the patience or interest in the child’s process - or have the well-meaning intent of “teaching” or “entertaining” - or have real-life demands upon their time that preclude child-centered activity - these interruptions become the “normal” movements that pattern a child’s cognition. The children are less and less able to be in the NOW, because they never complete a internally directed process.
I am happy that your description of “brevity” seems to include safety and quiet around the edges of each “brief” activity, and to suggest the type of “scientific investigation” which is a true form of play!

Andrea Apostoli Oct 20, 2011

Thank you for you comment Eve.
Your view about the ADD is really interesting and I’ve always thought the same way.
Sometimes when the parents take the children to our music courses in the afternoon they arrive late, after a quick driving with the car, anxiety for not finding a parking place etc. And when they come to bring them often they are late, again with the car in a bad position (in Rome you can imagine what I am saying…).
The child seems to me a bowling ball trowed from an anxious hand in the morning, passing trough our class and continuing his race till the moment he goes to sleep…

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