All the World's a Stage: Noticing Life's Musical Sounds

Belinda Takahashi, Ph.D.
August 31, 2011

As you go outside and take in the picture perfect sights in nature or the dramatic skylines of the urban world, why not try something a little bit different: open up your ears and become curious about all the interesting sounds around you. So much of our experience outdoors is visual (which I guess explains why exploring a new place is called sightseeing and not sighthearing). Becoming aware and sensitive to the diverse sounds that surround us can be just as "eye" opening and rewarding—not only as a wonderful complement to the sights, but fascinating all on its own. 

Quite often we hear and react to a sonic landscape without even being conscious that we're hearing anything at all. To be fair, as the world has gotten more populated, industrialized, and noisy, we have developed the capacity to ignore sound, something quite useful but also potentially limiting. We need to adjust our auditory filters to truly appreciate the full spectrum of sound, allowing for a richer, more complete experience of the world. 

Children are naturally more open to sound and love to discover and explore new ones. Going outside and having them tune into what they're hearing is a great opportunity to start sharpening their ears and introducing them to basic musical concepts.

How do I get my child to open her ears and start finding the music around her?

Go outside and have her start listening! You can do this anywhere and everywhere. Encourage your child to listen to and discuss what he's hearing when you're at the beach, in a forest, or by a stream. Noticing the cornucopia of sounds outdoors will open up a sonic world allowing your child to hear and appreciate the environmental symphonies that surround him.

Good places to start: 

Rain
Wind
Forest 
Ocean
Waterfall
Cave 
Farm
Footsteps (on leaves, in snow, on rocks, in a stream...)
Thunder and lightning
Campfire
Jungle
Birds
Insects 
Animals
City sounds

Listen to how these sounds change depending on the season and time of day, if you're alone or with a group of people. Can you hear a melody coming from the singing birds? Are the waves that are crashing calm and soft or loud and fierce? Are the rhythms of the rain slow, moderate, or fast?  Do you hear any patterns in them?  Can you find the smallest sound in a forest?  Are the animals in a zoo making noises that are happy, agitated, or scared?  How long can you hear your echo in a cave? 

Talking about sound and the outdoor music around them in this way sets the stage for future musical endeavors. It gives them an encyclopedia worth of sonic experiences to draw from and a knowledge of basic music fundamentals. It also trains children's ears to become actively engaged. Ultimately, becoming open to the infinite possibilities of sound will deepen your child's experience of the world. This non-limiting approach can cultivate a broader appreciation for all types of music, expand the boundaries of what constitutes music, and enliven your child's aural imagination.

 

An Emmy award-winning and internationally recognized composer, Belinda has been immersed in music since her childhood.  Starting as a concert pianist, she turned to music composition at age 10.  She received her bachelor's degree at Oberlin Conservatory and later went on to the Eastman School of Music, where she was awarded the sole spot for a full graduate fellowship and received her M.M. and Ph.D. in Music Composition.  As a university professor, she has taught Music Composition, Music Theory and Orchestration at various universities including the Eastman School of Music, Rochester University, Drake University and Montclair State University.  Belinda is a recognized authority and sought after speaker on children and music.  She is currently ranked as the #1 "Mompreneur" by Babble.com and has been interviewed for her business and creative acumen in publications such as Time Magazine, Venture Beat, Forbes, Fast Company, among many others.  She is a seasoned media producer having managed over 100 people and co-creating the Juno Baby and Juno Jr. brands. The Juno Company represents the culmination of her lifelong devotion to music, experiences as a mother and love of children.

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