Representation of Music in Children’s Drawings

(Mini- Study)

Clare Na
Children’s Music Development Final Project
Dr. Lori Custodero
May 08, 2013

Beginning of Spring 2013 semester I started to baby-sit a four years old girl named Ein. She
is a bright little girl who loves to draw. One day while I was baby-sitting Ein I turned on Claude
Bolling Flute Jazz Suite CD while she was drawing. I did not think Ein’s drawings would be
affected by the background music I turned on. After I turned on the music I sat next to Ein and
watched her drawing. And as I was watching her I started to notice that her drawing theme was
keep changing abruptly. I did not expect any change would happen in Ein’s drawings with the
music I turned on.
Before I had the music on Ein was drawing her family picture. With the music on I have
noticed that Ein was adding more characteristics into her family members. I realized with music,
Ein became more creative in her drawings. She was adding more lines, shapes; also created a
variety of visual concepts and had complex designs in her family drawings. I kept watching Ein’s
drawing and observed why she was adding these lines, shapes and various concepts to her
drawings. When the music was in slow tempo and mellow, Ein drew long curvy lines, and circles
in her drawings. When the music was in faster tempo and articulated, she added triangles, drew
yellow cabs, and raindrops. Seeing addition of raindrops in her drawing clearly shown me that
she was imitating the articulations of the music she was hearing.
Through this drawing session, I sighted Ein was affected by what she was capable to reflect
music on her drawings. With music, I also noticed her wider use of space. Ein was using more
different colored pencils and markers to express her thoughts. After seeing Ein’s drawings, I
became assure that music affects on children drawings. I became interested to test out and
wanted to see how music is affecting 4-5 years old children’s drawings.

Methods and procedures
I was curious if music has a significant power to affect on 4-5 years old children’s drawings.
I wondered if will there be a major difference in children’s representations with music and
without music. Also if music does affect in children’s representations, will there be distinct
differences with having music as a background and have children to notate the music. By asking
children to “draw the music” they hear, how children will represent the music and understand the
music they hear? And in result, how do 4-5 years old children represent music?
I formed a mini study mainly to find out children’s representations having music and
without music; how children’s representations music by their own understanding of what they
hear. I aimed to test to see how children are affected by music in their drawings and how
children can reflect music on their drawings. In addition, I sought for how children understand
and represent the music they hear. I designed my mini-study into three stages to experiment with
children’s representations.
Stage I: Children free-drawing in silence (no music)
Stage II: Children free-drawing with background music
Stage III: Children notating the music

Constructing Main Questions
With Stage I and Stage II of children’s drawings I wanted to see if there is a difference or
a change in their drawings with music and without music. Stage III, asking children to
represent the music was to see how children understand the music they hear
and reflect on their drawings. For Stage II and III children’s musical representations I
particularly decided to use the same music to test out musical influence in children’s drawings.
Stage II, using music as the background and Stage III using the same music asking children to
represent the music they hear. I wanted to see by using the same music that children hear in
Stage II and Stage III would children’s representations of Stage II and Stage III have a
common theme happening.

Main Questions
Stage I and Stage II:
(a) The difference of drawings with music and without music. (b) How is music effecting
children’s drawing? (c) How are children reflecting music on their drawings?
Stage II and Stage III:
(a) By using the same music for Stage II and Stage III, are children’s representation the
same or is it different? (b) And if not, how are Stage II and Stage III children’s representations
Stage III:
(a) What is children’s representations of music and their musical notation when they are
listening to music; (b) How do children notate music?

I have conducted my experiments four times on Korean children age 4-5 year olds in
April 2013 in New York and New Jersey areas. I have done two individual experiments on one
boy and one girl to see if there would be gender differences in musical representations. I also did
two group experiments on a small group of 3 boys, and a large mixed gender groups to find out
social peer influence in their musical representations.
• 2 Individual experiments on: Ein (female, 4 years old) and Matt (male, 5 years old)
• 2 Groups experiments on: 3 Boys (5 year olds) and 16 children (Mix of 4-5 year olds and
mix of males and females)
Stage I: Free-Drawing without music
Approx. 10 min of free-drawing
Stage II: Free-drawing with background music
Approx. 9-10 min of free-drawing with background music
Stage III: Drawing the music, representation of music
Approx. 4-5 using the background music from stage II, ask children to represent music:
“Listen to the music and draw the music you hear”.

I directed all 4 experiments of 2 individuals, 2 groups by following the same procedures.
Each experiments lasted less than 30 minutes. I held my experiments at their home, church, or
school where children feel comfortable to draw. For Stage II and Stage III music, I used Vivaldi
Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor RV315 “Summer” 3
movement, Presto. For Stage II,
children hear Vivaldi Concerto twice as their background music while I asked children to do free
drawing. In Stage III, children hear Vivaldi Concerto only for once, and I asked children to
“listen to the music and draw the music they hear”.

Assumptions and Hypothesis
I made my assumptions and hypothesis after observing Ein’s musical representations.
For Stage I: children free-drawing without music. I assumed children would be determined to
draw their current feeling, mood, thoughts, favorite characters, or their friends and family for
their free drawings. I was assuming children would have one dominate figure or theme in Stage
I. For Stage II: children free-drawing with Vivaldi Violin Concerto No. 2 “Summer” 3

movement presto as background music. For Stage II, I was expecting children to have similar
representation to Stage I. I imagined by having music played, children would be affect by it and
somehow their drawing would be disordered. I assumed that children would no longer have a
dominate figure in their drawing. For Stage III: drawing the music, representation of Vivaldi
Violin Concerto No. 2 “Summer” 3
movement presto. I expected children to draw various
lengths of lines, shapes, and symbols to represent the music they hear. No human or any
characters for children’s Stage III representations. Since Presto is a fast movement, I was hoping
to see children drawing fast.

Results on Individual Experiments (Ein and Matt)
Ein Jung (Female, 4 years old)
Date: 4/26/2013, 6:30-7:00PM
Place: Ein’s home, Upper Westside Apartment, New York
Weather: Sunny

Stage I: As soon as Ein saw my cell phone, she wanted to draw my cell phone. She was
concentrating on one object. As soon as she was done drawing my cell phone, she said was done
with drawing. She did not take long to complete the first drawing. In Stage I, Ein drew my
cell phone, because it captured her attending. Her first representation was Ein
drawing “something about her interest, values, purposes, etc” (Bal, 1991, p.215).
Stage II: By having background music for second drawing, I have noticed in change of
Ein’s drawing speed. Although I had Vivaldi Concerto music on as background music, she was
affected by the music and her drawing speed was tailing the music. Seeing Ein drawing in fast
speed it has shown me she “want(s) to actively participate in (music) as she hears it” (Campbell,
Stage III: When I asked represent Vivaldi Concerto, Ein had her own “storytelling”
drawing for Vivaldi music. It was remarkable to see how Ein thought Vivaldi Concerto was
masculine music. Therefore, Ein drew a man holding a gun for her music representation.
“Children and their papers can include other people, as children’s skills as collaborative
storytellers.” (Dyson 1990). Ein explained her representation; she drew a man because the
music was fast, angular, and aggressive.
Matt (Male, 5 years old)
Date: 4/28/2013, 11:00-11:30AM
Place: NJ Korean Presbyterian Church, Orkland, NJ
Weather: Sunny

Stage I: Similar to Ein, Matt also had one dominate figure on in his Stage I drawing and
drew “his interest”. But, Matt drew something he liked and included himself in his drawing as
well. He drew a train and he was the train conductor.
Stage II: Matt’s second drawing was full. He drew three baskets: a fruit basket, a
vegetable basket, and a daily basket. With music, Matt was motivated to “play with different
kinds drawings (arts), by exploring with and investigating” (Althouse, Johnson, Mitchell,
p. 42).
Stage III: When I asked Matt to represent Vivaldi Concerto, his music representation
looked a lot like Western music notation system. Although he did not receive any private musical
lesson, by age 5 Matt comprehended word “music” as Western Classical music.

Results on Group Experiments
3 Boys (5 year olds)
Date: 4/28/2013, 11:30AM-12:00PM
Place: NJ Korean Presbyterian Church, Orkland, NJ
Weather: Sunny

Stage I: When I asked 3 boys to free draw they were excited to “play with different kinds
drawings (arts), by exploring with and investigating”. 3 boys were grabbing as many colored
pencils as they can and freely expressing their excitements. And I observed, “Solitary moments
are rare in the lives of young children who spend their days in nursery schools and playgrounds,
preschool and kindergarten classrooms” (Thompson, 131).

Stage II: Not sure if music did influence in their drawing for Stage II. 2 boys out of 3
boys drew characters. “Children readily copy from one another and form the imagery of the
popular media” (Ducaum, 1984, 2001). One boy drew an Angry Bird, and one boy drew an
unknown character. This shown me the Popular culture influence in their presentations.
Stage III: For all stages, 3 boys were busy talking to each other. While they were
drawing, they were also sharing their thoughts out loud. When I asked 3 boys to listen to the
music and represent the music they hear, their Stage III representations showed musical
elements. 3 boys talked to each other “to ask for clarification, to adjust the pace of the
demonstration, to indicate frustration or confusion” (Thompson, 130). Recalling from their
Stage III conversation, one boy was saying out loud Vivaldi Concerto is a “Cello music” and
another boy corrected him saying, “No, it is a violin music”. Since it was a group experiment and
drawings were done as a group, there was lots of copying and exchanging ideas.

16 children (mix of female and males, mix of 4 year and 5 years olds)
Date: 4/29/2013, 11:00AM-11:30AM
Place: Bright Learning Center, Palisades Park, NJ
Weather: Rain

Stage I: Comparing with the other group (3 boys), all 16 children had their own
“storytelling” drawings like Ein and Matt from the individual experiments. All 16 children had
their distinctive image they wanted to draw. Similar to Ein and Matt, most of 16 children had one
dominant subject in their drawing. I have noticed just like Ein and Matt, most of 16 children
were not in hurry in drawing. They were drawing on their own pace of time and highly
concentrating on their drawings. Like Ein and Matt, all 16 children would not hand me their
drawings until the have completed. In Stage I most of children draw their meaningful event they
had or their family. It was interesting to see how most of children drew sun on their drawings.
Although it was raining out side, 16 children were not affected by the weather and drew their
image they had in their head. 16 children’s Stage I representations were reflecting
“the scenarios and cast of characters in their (children)’s lives” (Rogoff, 87). As I have guessed
most of 16 children did draw their current feeling, thoughts, or their family for this stage.
Stage II: Most of 16 children’s representations were unfinished. But with music on, most
of children were motivated to “play with different kinds drawings (arts), by exploring with and
investigating” like Matt (individual experiment). 16 children were using more
different colored pencils and included more shapes and symbols for their
Stage II and Stage III “Copying” and “individualism” were happening strongly. Similar to 3
boys, some of 16 children were talking while they were drawing and were sharing their thoughts
with their friends. I have noticed that children copy from each other very quickly. “Copying” and
“talking” was popular with girls. There was “copying from their neighbors” like the 3 boys, but
the level of copying from each others was not as strong as 3 boys. A Russian psychologist, L.S.
Vygotsky emphasizes much of children’s learning originates in their interactions with peers. He
believes that children develop and learn through the interplay of personal initiative and
intersubjective experience. Vygotsky stresses that the assistance a child needs to experienced,
peer someone who is able to perform at a level slightly in advance of the learner’s present
capability. A child who has successfully participated in an activity or explore an idea in
conversation can repeat and practice that activity or experiment with that idea with increasing
independence. Eventually, the knowledge, skills, and subsumed into their own repertories of
thought and action. “What the child can do in cooperation today he can do alone tomorrow”
(Vygotsky, 1983, p 268) Taking Vygotsky’s argument, most of 16 children were “borrowing”
their neighbor’s idea rather than “copying”. Most of children may have taken an idea from their
neighbor but most of children adapted the idea and made their own representations.
Stage III: Because there was such a high level of “copying” from each other, it was hard
for me if 16 children were representing the music of their own understanding. Like 3 boys, 16
children had musical elements for this stage.

Conclusion: Answering the Main Questions
I was aiming to prove that children are affected by music in their drawings and children
can reflect music on their drawings. After 4 experiments and seeing the results of all the
experiments of children’s representations of Stage I (without music), Stage II (having
background music), and Stage III (notating music) I came to the conclusion that music does
affect in children’s drawings. In Stage I, all of children had a strong imaginary of what they
wanted to draw. By having music played for Stage II (having background music) most of
children were encouraged to “explore” with their ideas by drawing. Matt and most of 16 children
had no main theme happening for their Stage II representations. Most of children were
motivated use more different colored pencils, various lengths of lines, shapes, symbols, change
of drawing speed, wider use of paper were found in their Stage II and Stage III representations.
When I asked children to “listen to the music and draw the music they hear”, Matt, 3 boys and 16
children included Western music natation in their Stage III representations. For Stage III, I was
expecting children not to have any dominant figures in their drawings for this stage. I expected
children to represent musical ideas within the boundaries of using different color pencils, paints,
crayons, etc. and drawing techniques such as use of altered length of lines and shapes to express
their musical thinking and understanding. I assumed that students to notate music in their own
way, their invented notations. And since Vivaldi Concerto is a dramatic and fast piece, I thought
children would draw many lines and their drawings would look disordered. I was hoping to see 3
boy’s Stage I representations. I was amazed to see how 4-5 years old children notate and
understand music. Unlike my expectations, children were representing music in totally different
ways. I was hoping to see graphs or block system in their Stage III representations. They were
notating the music on their own way. Ein thought Vivaldi Concerto was masculine. Matt, 3 boys
and 16 children had Western music notation in their Stage III representations. It was fascinated
to see how most of children already use Western notation system to notating music they hear.

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