For any hearing person, music is integral to our lives.
Every country has a national anthem which may be taught in schools and played or sung at many and varied ceremonies and occasions, inspiring unity and national pride. Many other organisations such as schools and colleges have their songs praising their strengths and fostering a sense of identity. Couples have their special or ‘theme’ songs.
When we enter a store we are serenaded with music chosen to make us feel comfortable and entice us to stay longer and buy more.
Joyful advertising jingles with their subliminal messages encourage us to memorize the product name and make it our next purchase. These jingles can stay in our heads for years, like this famous one about Louie the Fly:
A few bars of a song can revive memories from long ago. I have written about this previously in a flash fiction piece, Vagaries of time.
Music can call us to dance, to relax, to sing, to cry. It can be chosen to match our mood, or can help to create a mood or atmosphere. The soundtrack of a film or television show tells the audience what to expect and how to feel.
Music is also an integral part of education and learning. Learning information in a song can help one remember. Many people like to have music playing when they are reading or studying. I did when studying towards my high school exams, but now I prefer quiet when I write. Programs such as Accelerated Learning recommend using Baroque music to help learners stay relaxed and focused, increasing retention.
I have previously written about using songs in the classroom, such as I love the mountains which I learned from Bill Martin Jr. and affirmation songs such as those of Anne Infante here and here. I have also composed class songs and chants such as Busy Bees chant, and used songs to support class work, for example The Ugly Bug Ball when learning about mini-beasts.
I have used music to calm and settle after play breaks, and music for activity between seated activities. I used songs in the morning to signal to children that it was time to be ready for the day’s learning, including action songs or songs about our learning, for example a phonics song:
But of course, once we were settled, every day started with an affirmation song, or two. It got everyone into a happy expectant mood. It’s hard to be sad when singing (unless it’s a sad song).
. . . and songs in the afternoons to send the children home happy and singing with joy.
As a year level we would sing songs to settle the children when lining up to return to class after lunchtime play. The children hurried to join in and sang their way joyfully into class. This is quite different from when I was at school and we would line up in silence and then march into school in step, subdued and quietly obedient.
I composed songs as a child but did not continue the practice as an adult, except for one: a lullaby that I sang to soothe my baby girl to sleep. A few years later I decided to learn to play the keyboard from a very talented musical friend who guided my writing of the accompanying music. This remains my one real musical accomplishment!
For someone who does not consider herself at all musical I certainly enjoy, and promote the use of, music in many different ways.
On that note, I leave you with my flash fiction response to the prompt set by Charli Mills of Carrot Ranch Communications: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story influenced by a musical score.
A collective gasp interrupted the music mid-beat.
All eyes turned synchronously, as if worked by unseen strings, towards the French doors, burst open and revealing a silhouetted figure framed by billowing gossamer-like curtains.
Out of the darkness the figure emerged: clothed in black with coat tails flapping, a top hat in one hand and a white-tipped cane held aloft in the other.
The conductor revived the orchestra as the figure glided across the floor, seized the heroine decisively and whirled her around and around.
The spell now broken, the cast joined in the dance to tumultuous applause.
I hope you can imagine the score that would be written to accompany this piece and its change of moods.
What score would you give it?
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of the article or my flash fiction piece.
I’m casting my vote for a rendition of your lullaby, too 🙂
I’ll see what I can do i.e. bribe my musical friend! 🙂
Hi Norah. I love reading your blog and have a special interest in this particular focus, as you would expect! I love your Final Act and can hear Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (Eroica) firing up furiously in the background as I read. Nice! I also absolutely LOVED Ken Robinson’s TED presentation, too. What a cool, funny and full-of-wisdom kind of guy he is.
I can’t imagine my life as a non-musician. Now that’s scary. I could really relate to what Ken Robinson said about dancer Gillian Lynne, with her teachers telling her parents that they thought Gillian had a learning disorder, probably ADHD, most would now think. Thank goodness for the specialist who suggested to her mum to take her to a dance school, as she wasn’t sick, she was a dancer! And there began her amazing story.
Music has been my life from as far back as I can remember. I was called “hyper” by all and sundry and literally couldn’t sit still. (I still can’t!) One night, sitting at the dinner table with my parents, I started to sing softly. My dad told me to stop, so I sang in my head, feeling the groove with my head bouncing to the beat and my shoulders wriggling to nuances in the song. My father said disgustingly that I should be sent to a “funny farm”. ☹ I went on to study Music at uni and well, you know the rest!! I’ve absolutely love/ed teaching Music, especially to my most promising keyboard student whose name I won’t say – but her initials are N.C.! Now as an ESL teacher, as well, I’m always using music as a learning tool in my classes and students really enjoy it. What a perfect way to teach a language! (And I get my music fix, too!)
So, it would be great if all teachers could recognise our “ADHD” students and channel their energy into the arts. Students can be given an instrument to play in class and their classmates would depend on them to provide the accompaniment for the songs and activities. I’ve seen students’ self-worth increase three-fold in this situation. These students became the class heroes! Woo-hoo! Some of these students have taken up Music in high school and uni and I’m so chuffed that they have found their “niche”.
I love the way you have always used music as an integral part of your teaching, Norah. Many times I’ve wished that I had been one of your students! What fun we would have had!
Keep up the fantastic blog, Norah – I am so honoured to have you as my friend!!
P.S. Yes, I think a flute version of your song would be wonderful!! I’ll just look around and see if I can find a flute player to record it for you – hang on, I think I know one who lives in my house!
Hi Robin, Thank you so much for joining me on my blog. Your comment means a lot to me. I was hoping the music may have hooked you in! Thanks for suggesting Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (Eroica). I had to have a listen – beautiful!
I’m glad you enjoyed listening to Ken Robinson too. I’m quite a fan of his work.
I can’t imagine you as anything other than a brilliant musician either – music is your life. I can’t believe your father told you that your singing was disgusting. No ‘funny farm’ for you my girl, just a great sense of humour.
I love the suggestions you have made for including music in the classroom, and how it makes the children feel like heroes. The richness that music brings to your teaching is incredibly powerful and the children (and now adult students) benefit so much from the joy you share with music, laughter and positive encouragement. They are indeed fortunate, as was I when you did your best to teach me!
I thought about you when I read this story by Anne Goodwin called Melanie’s Last Tune; pictured you as the caring teacher in your studio and Melanie popping back to visit the one person who had meant so much to her. I think you may enjoy it, but have a tissue ready. http://www.short-story.me/mystery-stories/477-melanies-last-tune.html
I’ll transcribe my lullaby so it can be read and see if that musical Robin (who just coincidentally lives at your house) can play it on the flute for me. If she can’t, nobody can!
Oh, Norah, “Melanie’s Last Tune” is such a beautiful, moving story and indeed I did have a student like that whom I often think about. We were very close and she’s now in London finding herself, working as a carer and exploring Buddhism. She’s a brilliant flutist and an adorable young woman. I miss seeing her.
Now, about your lullaby recording …! Let’s make a plan.
I’m pleased you enjoyed Anne’s story about Melanie. I’m sure she’d be happy to know that.
I’ll be onto that lullaby real soon! Promise? 🙂
Thank you both for reading Melanie. It’s lovely to have such supportive feedback. Although, a bit surprised by the identification – I thought the teacher was a little overinvolved as a character? Eagerly awaiting the recording of your lullaby. And Beethoven is fab.
Thanks Anne. I didn’t see the over-involvement – just the caring. I’m looking forward to resurrecting the lullaby too! 🙂
Love the post and the flash and especially the inventive ways you describe of assisting the children’s learning through song. But one thing is missing – where’s the recording of your own composition?
I don’t have a recording of the song, and I’m sure it only got Bec to sleep so that she didn’t have to listen to it anymore! I no longer have the keyboard so am unable to play it for you. I’ll have to see if my flutist friend would play it for me. I think it would sound beautiful on flute. I found the music I had written and thought to include it but the pencil was too faint to scan. 😦 Thank you for asking though. You are always very attentive. 🙂
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Some music is too beautiful to listen to while driving, I find. Today I had to turn off the radio as I risked giving it my full attention!
I agree. And relaxing meditative music is not too good whilst driving either!
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You’re so right, Nor! Music is one of those things that seems to really penetrate through all the superficialities and (sometimes) drudgery of life. Getting older – yes, I am reflecting on getting older. Before you scoff, remember that feeling old is new for me, but you should be used to it by now!!! – seems to mean that those overwhelming moments of gleefulness and joy which in hindsight seemed so common through childhood and the teen years, become less frequent. But music is one of those ways that the same feeling of indulgence in the moment, focus, and happiness can be found. Well, I think so anyway! Perhaps this is in no small part thanks to your efforts to embed music throughout life for me – and for all the children who have grown in your classrooms. So, thank you! And great FF piece. A very majestic atmosphere!
Too late! I had already scoffed! The feeling of getting old is not new to you – it is unfamiliar to you! You are getting older, not old!!!!! As am I (cheeky girl!) I love that you look back on your childhood and teenage years as ones frequently interspersed with overwhelming moments of gleefulness and joy. Music is certainly one way of recapturing those moments. Glad you enjoyed the flash. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Bec. 🙂
Bec, I love the comments you make here almost as much as I love Norah’s posts. You make a great double act.
Oh gosh, haha, thanks Anne! (I do always secretly hope that you’ll get a chuckle when I try to be funny.) And likewise – I appreciate that I am able to read your thoughts bouncing off Norah, too. I feel you and I may have been cast from the same mould !
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Anne, you are just too generous and gorgeous! Thank you. 🙂
I have to say I’m picturing Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers 🙂
Your picture is a little more similar to what I had in mind than what Charli suggested with the Ugly Bug Ball! 🙂
Now how come you guys didn’t export Louie the Fly back to us? Not in the spirit of the Commonwealth, I’d say. I wish you hadn’t opened up the music to adverts can of worms, Norah! My head is now filling with carpet cleaner and chocolate bars.
And neat the way you leave us to add our on score; I’m buzzing with some melodramatic piece of building tension ending in something Busby Berkeley would have given us…
I’m pleased I’ve got you tapping through the day. Don’t like the thought of a head filling with carpet cleaner though. Get that one out of there! Sadly, for me, I didn’t recognise the name Busby Berkeley. Of course when I asked Dr Google I realised how familiar much of his musical choreography is. I have never taken much note of directors, choreographers or film score composers. Perhaps I should. Thanks for enlightening me. 🙂
What a lovely post! Music is so integrated into our lives and this was the first I’ve read your posts on affirmation songs. How uplifting, especially “I Love the Mountains.” It’s so inclusive, as if we are one great earth connected through verse. I also love that the singers in that Discovery video were not necessarily great singers, emphasizing the importance of sharing a song. Louie the Fly was new to me! Great example of a classic jingle! I remembered the Ugly Bug Ball right away–my kids loved Disney Sing-Alongs. So much music that by the time we get to your flash we have no trouble imagining a score, it’s interruption and resuming. I’d like to think of a dapperly dressed ugly bug in tails and top hat! Wonderfully creative!
Thanks so much for your very generous comment, Charli, and the smile at the end! I hadn’t thought of an ugly bug dressed in tails and top hat, but why not? Sounds a bit like Jiminy Cricket himself! I wonder who the heroine is. Maybe they are at the Ugly Bug Ball. Now you’ve got me thinking. Interesting though about the images we readers create from the descriptions that authors give. Tell too much and we’d prefer to create our own picture. Tell not enough and you never know what the reader might come up with! Thanks for sharing. 🙂
Great flash fiction piece, I love it. And yes, I really can hear the score for this image. I might have to clear time in my schedule to reconnect with the dusty piano to see just how well it really sounds when transcribed into notation.
I agree that music really can play an integral part in the learning process, and also influence our moods, feelings, emotions and experiences. When I was studying hospitality and housekeeping at university, we would start every day with a group dance off to upbeat music – the collective activity and routine helped kickstart our days in a positive energetic mindset. At the moment I’m teaching Miss7 French by using a lot of visual media. The french sing-a-longs means she gets to have fun whilst learning new words and also practicing correct pronunciation.
I’m pleased you enjoyed the flash and that it has inspired you to a little musical creativity of your own.I’d love to hear how it plays out!
I love that you have experienced a kickstart to a positive energetic mindset in your studies. It is such a simple activity with a very powerful effect.(I read somewhere that music was forbidden in Afghanistan when the Taliban was in power. How sad would that be?)
Interesting that you talk about teaching Miss7 French. I bought an Accelerated Learning French program. I really enjoyed it and found it very effective. It combined a lot of different strategies for learning, music being one of them in addition to visual media, colour cues and actions among others.
Thanks for sharing your insights, Hope. 🙂