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Music Education Research, Vol. 2, No.

1, 2000


Music in the Early Years: Teaching and Learning in the First Three Years of School AELWYN PUGH & LESLEY PUGH, 1998 London and New York, Routledge 206 pp. ISBN 0 415 14181 8 (pb) At this particular time in education, with the dominance, in many education systems, of the core curriculum (language, mathematics and science), it is important that books speci cally for music in the early years are being published. It is also important that such books should not be merely ‘tips for teachers’, but serious, well-researched and detailed. This book is in a series aimed at teaching and learning focusing on the four to six age range. The authors set out a framework for developing the book through four broad sections. The rst and nal sections are shorter, with the main content of interest to practitioners in the middle two sections. The rst section addresses the questions of why music should be taught, and what the focus of activity should be, as well as presenting a view of young children’s development prior to starting school. The middle two sections deal with planning, teaching, monitoring and resourcing. The nal section is designed to support the provision of inservice staff development. It ends with a useful list of resources. The content is fairly comprehensive and should be of interest to a range of audiences, including parents. The reader is invited to critically examine the authors’ stance. “No theory should be taken on trust. All should be challenged and that includes those presented in this book” (p. 49). This is a healthy position to adopt. All writing should both contribute to our understandings and re ect the provisional nature of ideas. Although there is thorough research for each of the aspects of music education presented here, the authors could perhaps have focused more on the literature related speci cally to the age phase identi ed in the title. They state that “whatever is taught in the early years must be placed in the wider context” (p. 14). This will make us “better focused” (p. 14). It is clearly vital for teachers to develop their own music education philosophy. The heavy reliance on research of English secondary education is therefore disappointing. Practitioners could utilise the philosophies of best practice in early years to develop their music understanding. The approach to discussions, for example, on the development of music education and the Swanwick and Tillman ‘spiral of musical development’, create mini-literature reviews which are useful for students who need to research the various perspectives of music educationalists. There are many points where the authors are at pains to state the full spectrum of ideas. The inclusiveness, at times gives the feeling they are a little wary of stating their own beliefs. In other places, however, a rm stance is taken.
ISSN 1461-3808(print) /ISSN 1469-9893(online) /00/010095-0 7 Ó 2000 Taylor & Francis Ltd



The discussion on ‘musical literacy’ and sections on planning and assessing, re ect a curriculum-based approach, adapted to t young children’s development. Observing the child’s musical utterances and developing interventions, which take the child as a starting point, are not used as a main focus. The emphasis throughout is on what the teacher will teach. A generalist may therefore not look to see how the children are developing. Flexibility in the teacher’s strategies with an ability to draw on subject knowledge is a harder route but a rewarding one. It is widely acknowledged that singing, in early years’ settings, is important and an opportunity for social development. Some generalist class teachers, who describe themselves as ‘tone-deal’, lack con dence in their ability to engage young children in singing. The chapter on ‘vocal performance’ may serve to reinforce their fears. With the emphasis on improvement, it discusses the voice as an instrument. A corrective approach to children’s pitch development is taken by labelling the pre-pitch matching phase as ‘monotonism’. The fears of teachers could be emphasised and the de cit models of some children reinforced. The inference that teachers are at fault for not giving starting notes could be inhibiting. This is not the cultural and social context that singing with young children should re ect. Seen in developmental terms, with regular opportunities to sing in a non-threatening environment, children will develop their skills quite naturally. In the chapter on ‘Musical literacy and the infant child’ subject knowledge in ‘musical literacy’ is emphasised. The important question of ‘what is musical literacy?’ is not discussed. It is assumed to be ‘the reading of notation’. Lack of clarity could de-skill a generalist early years teacher with the outcome that young children may be deprived of music. As Swanwick (1994) states “confusion abounds when concepts remain unexamined” (p. 74). Musical literacy needs to be seen in the broader terms of communicating in the language of music. The authors state that “the extent to which composers can extend and develop their work is likely to be more restricted if they are musically illiterate” (p. 86). However, many traditions communicate in music without using notation, developing long and complex works. Although the oral tradition is acknowledged and limitations of conventional notation for contemporary composers discussed, it would appear that there is a speci c aim to teach young children to read conventional notation in parallel with their practical music making. This suggests that they do not believe that it would grow out of the children’s compositions. They recognise that conventional notation does not work well for notating young children’s music (p. 99). However, reading ‘conventional’ notation is seen as a major outcome. The preponderance of Western ‘high art’ music examples is perhaps intended to introduce teachers to unfamiliar music but a wider range would have given a more inclusive message. There is an emphasis on Italian directional words that are increasingly irrelevant today. The nal section makes no apology for being prescriptive. It clearly demonstrates the type of music subject knowledge the authors feel teachers of young children need. The principles set out for inservice work are useful from the teachers’ perspective, however a focus on the child’s experience and early years’ ‘best practice’ models would have been a welcome addition. The back cover suggests that the main audience is the non-specialist teacher. However the layout and accessibility of the text are a little inhibiting. Heavy referencing makes the text rather dense and, unfortunately, masks the sections that are ‘stories’ of activities from various classrooms, which are more likely to engage the generalist teacher. The authors have three target audiences in mind. Besides the generalist teacher they



try to address the needs of co-ordinators, student teachers and tutors in higher education. This is an ambitious project with noble aims but is perhaps trying to be too inclusive. HELEN TAYLOR, University of Northumbria at Newcastle, UK REFERENCE
SWANWICK , K. (1994) Musical Knowledge: intuition , analysis and music education (London, Routledge) .

Music in the Early Years SUSAN YOUNG & JOANNA GLOVER, 1998 London, The Falmer Press. 178 pp., ISBN 0 7507 0659 7, £12.95 (pb) The early years have become an area of increasing interest in education and one in which music has a large role to play. Teachers and workers in early years settings regularly acknowledge the importance of music through their practice, using singing, musical games and activities as an important way of developing young children intellectually, socially, emotionally and physically. To continue and enhance this work they need support in the process of developing their own practice. Whilst Jean Gilbert’s well used, “Musical starting points with young children” (1981) has not been the only writing aimed at music and the younger child, it is gratifying to see new books in this area. This book is an important addition to the musical literature for the three to eight age range. It is designed as a working document which will support teachers, parents and carers in various early years’ contexts, to integrate music into the everyday experience of the children. The main target audience is the generalist teacher, however specialists will nd they can refresh their ideas and consider new perspectives. With the clear rationales and integration of theory and practice, a coordinator could develop aspects of any one chapter as the focus for an inservice professional development programme, possibly in conjunction with Hennessy “Coordinating music across the primary school” (1998). Student teachers will nd it particularly helpful when planning for their placements because of the strong links between theory and practice. The layout is accessible and the headings in the various sections make it easy to nd areas of interest. The language is relatively jargon free and explanations are available where terms are deemed to be problematic. For these reasons, any parents wishing to assist their children’s education will nd this a useful resource. The ease with which the theoretical issues are developed into practical examples, and contextualised with teachers’ ‘voices’, helps readers connect with real situations. Summary points in each section help the teacher focus on the main aspects for planning, organising and assessing. Best practice in early years pedagogy is developed through sub-headings such as ‘listen to’, ‘notice’, ‘look for’, ‘observe’, ‘intervention’ and ‘progression’. This enables generalist teachers to make connections with their practice in other subjects and build con dence in music teaching. Developments from simple starting points are provided, which, because the activities are not too prescriptive, give the teacher the opportunity to extend ideas and invent their own activities. This aids the process towards independence in music teaching. Throughout the text the authors avoid speci c labelling of activities to particular ages dividing assessment points into early and later stages. This removes a possible constraint that some generalists may feel and ts



naturally with the different developmental rates of children in this age phase emphasising the need for exibility in assessing musical development in young children. Young and Glover have drawn directly on the work of several writers and explicitly developed their own philosophy of music education for the early years age phase. Their starting point has been to consider the child rst. Paynter and Aston (1970) referred directly to the work of Marion Richardson and Herbert Read who proposed that art in education should start with what the individual has to say (p. 5). Music education “should be child centred and start from the needs of the individual” (p. 2). It is clear throughout Young and Glover’s writing that they believe children should say what they want to say in music. They have speci cally used child development literature (Donaldson, 1987) to evolve their work. This develops Glynne-Jones’s (1974) contribution which looked at the implications of using a child development model based on Piaget’s work. Loane (1984) takes a holistic approach to music making and stresses that children’s compositions are proper music not to be falsely judged against adult music. The in uence of his ideas is particularly evident in the ‘playing games’ section (p. 18). The rich understanding of this age group and their music derives, not only from the writers mentioned above, but also from the authors’ research interests. These illuminate the speci c chapters on movement and composing. Movement and music, arti cially separated by the English national curriculum, are, thankfully, reunited through Susan Young’s research. She af rms that “music and movement are inseparable” and therefore that “It makes sense to work with children in music and movement together both in musical terms and in terms of children’s learning” (p. 36). Glover has researched into young children’s compositions. Teachers have an important role in laying groundwor k for future composing while children are at a ‘pre-composition stage’. The term ‘pre-composition’ could be problematic if it unintentionally leads generalists to infer that children’s music is less valuable than adults. However, this is not what Glover is intending to convey. Through the use of children’s comments she discusses the crossing of the ‘compositional watershed’ evidenced in a move from ‘this is my music and I’m making it’ to ‘listen to this piece I’ve made—it goes like this’ (p. 57). In the ‘notating’ discussion they suggest that in order to understand what the child is meaning when they represent their music, the teacher needs to take on the child’s perspective, seeing and hearing as the child does and doing so with sensitivity and powers of insight (p. 98). The authors explicitly link the music approaches to early year’s pedagogy in other areas and reaf rm that the challenge is in “recognising emergent work in its very early stages and … working from the child’s perspective” (p. 56). The accessibility of the writing should not lead to underestimating the substantial content. Solid rationales for the approaches in each chapter are based on a clear view of the purpose of music education in the early years. A useful addition would have been a brief rationale for the order of the chapters. There is a slight danger of giving the impression of priorities, for example of teaching listening before engaging practically with instruments or notation before singing. A reordering of the chapters might have given a more coherent re ection of their philosophy. A minor editing problem in the accuracy of page referencing within the text could cause some confusion for the reader. However these do not detract from the value and accessibility of the content. I would suggest that due to the strong music education philosophy which is consistent with early childhood development, the accessible style and the attractive layout, this book will prove a very valuable resource to all adults working in early years contexts. HELEN TAYLOR, University of Northumbria at Newcastle, UK



DONALDSON, M. (1987) Children’s Minds (London, Fontana Press). GILBERT, J. (1981) Musical Starting Points with Young Children (London, Ward Lock). GLYNNE-JONES , M.L. (1974) Schoolin g in the Middle Years: music (London, MacMillan). HENNESSY, S. (1998) Coordinating Music Across the Primary School (London, Falmer Press). LOANE, B. (1984) Thinking about children’s compositions , British Journal of Music Education, 3, p. 205. PAYNTER, J. & ASTON, P. (1970) Sound and Silence: classroom projects in creative music (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press).

Primary Music: Later Years JOANNA GLOVER & SUSAN YOUNG, 1999 London, Falmer Press 227 pp. ISBN 0 7507 0646 5 (pb) Conceived as a guide for re ective music education practice in the primary school, this book has been written for teachers of children in the 7 to 11 age range. It begins by outlining the importance of children’s musical life before and outside the school environment, and the need to incorporate an understanding of this into the planning of school music experiences. In particular, attention is drawn to the diversity of musical experiences which are brought to school by children and teachers alike. Creating a link between these experiences and school music is seen as essential to the child’s continuing musical development: Valuing, modelling and including diversity in music in school is most important of all in relation to the provision of a curriculum based on equal opportunities … Gender, race, religion and social and cultural background can all carry strong musical values and practices; some continuity is necessary between the overall picture of music presented by the school and children’s own musical biographies beyond. It will be hard for a child to make good progress in learning if music as he or she knows it simply doesn’t nd a place in the school’s musical map. (p. 6) Such an admonition re ects both an increasing understanding of the rich ‘musical biographies’ of children, presented eloquently by writers such as Campbell (1998), and a focus on the needs, strengths and interests of the individual child. It is the dual themes of diversity of musical experience and nurturing musical development which pervade this book and make it unique. This can most clearly be seen in the kinds of practical activities which are used, throughout the text, to exemplify the planning and implementation of the music curriculum. For example, the chapter entitled ‘Music for Voices’ is organised into three sections devoted respectively to developing voice skills, children’s songmaking and developing part work. The authors discuss utilisation of a range of techniques which are found in a variety of traditions in order to extend vocal techniques in the classroom. Examples demonstrating different vocal styles and methods of tone production are drawn from Bulgarian songs, Inuit throat games, Hildegard von Bingen’s melismatic Canticles of Ecstasy and the popular recordings of Mariah Carey. It is also suggested that teachers provide opportunities for children to develop individually as singers and songwriters, in addition to the more usual practice of whole class singing. Individual songwriting is seen as a medium of personal expression which can help to revitalise interest in singing, particularly in older children. Children’s individual interests can be recorded



collaboratively by both children and teacher in a class songbook, while children’s individual progress can be noted anecdotally by the teacher as part of a more formal assessment record. The observation of individual progress also forms part of another teaching practice which is integral to the authors’ conception of successful music education. This is the notion of scaffolding learning in order to challenge children to go beyond their present limitations of skill and knowledge. Opportunities for critical listening, for example, permeate the music classroom: Expectations should be high. All too often listening demands are minimal and as a result do not hold the interest of the children … The aim is depth of detail rather than breadth and super ciality … Listening skills are lifeless without application to real music making situations. Just listening carefully to sounds is not of itself a musical activity, only a preparation for musical contexts in which children are using their aural sensitivity to their own creative ends. (pp. 19–20) The reader is coaxed into considering a broad range of possibilities for expanding the musical horizons of students. In providing numerous examples of practical applications of this advice, the authors will undoubtedly succeed in persuading teachers to broaden their own ideas regarding the scope of classroom musical activity. Teachers are challenged not only to re ect on their own practice but also to increase their awareness of available resources, both in regard to members of the school and the wider community, and to classroom repertoire. In the chapter ‘Maximising Opportunities’, for example, the authors state that by utilising the skills of staff, supplemented by community musicians, parents, older students and outreach programmes from professional companies, schools can demonstrate that “there are many equally valuable musical pathways to take; that there are many different ways of being musical” (p. 111). Such considerations are also evident in the choice of repertoire for integrated activities in the chapter entitled ‘Music, Dance and Drama’. A programme relating to European folk dances provides an exemplar of approaches to multicultural music education, while a section on ‘Music, Words and Drama’ contains activities encompassing musical forms as divergent as rap, Steve Reich’s Different Trains. Judith Weir’s ten-minute opera King Harald and Sondheim’s musical Sunday in the Park with George. In other chapters there is also a clear representation of the authors’ standpoint on equity, with women composers taking a prominent place in the discussion of early music in the chapter on classroom music research, ‘Investigating Music’, and discussions on gender stereotyping in instrumental playing. Children’s creative encounters with musical materials are also seen as essential to the development of their music making in all its forms. Creativity is encouraged in relation to singing, instrumental work and listening, in addition to its more usual context of composing and improvising, with the need to provide time for consolidation of creative work being stressed. Once again, the focus on the individual diverges from the familiar small group approach to creative activity. Suggestions are made regarding ways in which the class can focus on the creative ideas of one child at a time. This avoids the super cial explorations and conglomerations of work which may result from group work in which a lack of individual discrimination and ownership is evident. Individual creative work is seen to be complementary to small group and whole class work, all of which can be facilitated by the ‘music tools’ of notation, music technologies and music notebooks. Concentrating on the individual within a whole class context might perhaps present



the greatest challenge for teachers in classrooms containing in excess of 30 children. However, numerous practical ways of approaching this task are provided by the authors particularly in the sections on ‘Strat]egies for Working Alone’ and ‘Strategies for Whole Class Music’ (pp. 113–121). The chapter on ‘Continuity and Progression’ also challenges teachers to plan based on monitoring individual progress and ensuring continuity of experience for each child: Instead of trying to secure progression by sequencing activities in order of ‘dif culty’, a strategy which is doomed from the start, teachers are able to approach the development of skills and understanding by adapting levels of work appropriately, whatever the chosen content. (p. 217) This approach, common to early childhood planning but less familiar in later primary years, may require the greatest commitment to change in the primary teacher who is likely to prefer the security of levels of perceived dif culty when planning. It is an approach which is exempli ed in the organisation of activities within this book, where levels of ‘dif culty’ are not indicated. While I agree strongly with the authors’ view on this issue, this organisational strategy might create some problems in implementation by the less musically experienced teacher. It therefore seems that the greatest bene t of this admirable book may be derived by the more musically experienced practitioner. However, there is much which can be readily used by all teachers: from the highly practical activities to the planning and organisational suggestions, and the comprehensive bibliography and discography. To those wishing to provide musical experiences which transcend the limitations of the mundane and re ect an insight into the boundless musical potential of every child, I commend this book unreservedly. KATHRYN MARSH, Sydney Conservatorium of Music, University of Sydney, Australia REFERENCE
CAMPBELL, P. SHEHAN (1998) Songs in their Heads: music and its meaning in children ’s lives (New York, Oxford University Press).