Early Childhood Music and Movement Association

ECMMA: 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.

Music Syntax vs. Music Theory

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A few days ago the father of one of my very young early childhood course “students” came to me saying: “Excuse me I would like to ask you for some information, but sorry, I don’t know music and it could sound stupid.” Then he continued: “I play saxophone in a blues group and in a traditional Klezmer music group but I did not study at the Conservatory”.

I answered: “From what you are saying, you don’t know the theoretical description of the music but you know the music!”

I told him what Edwin E. Gordon said one day during a class here in Italy during an AIGAM course, explaining what he felt about his double career as a contrabass student with Philip Sklar (the first contrabass  of the NBC Orchestra conducted from Toscanini), and his experience in Jazz with the Gene Crupa Jazz band.

Gordon said: “They (the orchestra) knew all about music. The others knew the music”

We know that today is no more like it was in those times. We have musicians as Keith Jarret, Winton Marsalis, Stefano Bollani and many others that can play both classical and jazz music in a really meaningful way knowing the theoretical description of musical phenomena and audiating the music syntax at the same time.

I explained more to that man that perhaps he doesn't know the music symbols and the theoretical description of what we see in notation, but if he plays in two different musical groups where he has to improvise in different styles, then for sure he knows the music syntax. I think that  we often forget the distinction between the concept of syntax and the theoretical description of it. 

If you ask for example to the parents of a 5/6 year old  child who speaks fluently in his language using verbs, adjectives, nouns and sentence construction in a correct form: “Does she understand English syntax and grammar?” Be sure that they will answer “No! Our child has not yet attended the elementary school!”

But, the syntax elements are functions, and not theoretical concepts. If I use them in a correct and meaningful way... if I use an adjective as an adjective and I use the verbs in the correct conjugation, I know them!

Two days ago at the end of an Early Childhood class,  I suspended the final cadence of the Hello song:
Musica musica ciaooooo (Sol),
ciao (Sol lower octave) - long silent pause -
Ciao! (Do).

After the second “ciao,” (sol lower octave) all the children were stuck, with their bodies stopped, suspended. One of them was holding in her hand a small water bottle and was staying with that in the air, stopping a movement that started before the silent pause...
I waited so long to see what could happen...
Nothing. They where waiting for the...
(Oh yes, they don’t know what is called.)

But for sure they know the function of it!

Andrea Apostoli

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