Haytor View Early Years Music Project – Blog 5

Haytor View Early Years Music Project with BSO Devon Associate Hugh Nankivell Thursday June 25th – afternoon session.

Today we developed a new game invented last week, but played again this week for a long time – here it is, as described by ‘A’.

Someone plays music
Everyone else is in another place
And then we listened
And if we heard it
We came running out

In this session I engaged loads with a new child (to our group) ‘L’ – she was fascinated by ‘The Listening Game’ and we went all around all the space listening to all the sounds and singing about what we could hear. Later we sang a litle song about this journey at the assembly.

Lovely moment of playing with ‘M’ some real playing together, he conducting me to play really really fast! His hand tight on the fretboard of the Uke for stop and hand off for play. All going really well until he banged his head on the end of the neck of my guitar!

Today ‘E’ again made several new songs including one directly influenced by today’s provocation, which was me bringing in a box with musical objects in and was directly inspired by ‘E’s’ Gems songs from last week. The new song was called:

‘Cakes and Magnifying Glasses For Friends’.

‘E’ was managing the objects (she was puppeteer?) and singer and instrumentalist and her instrument of choice was the claves.

Afterwards I asked her ‘Why did you use the sticks?’
and her answer was: ‘because I needed the stick sound’!
Later I had this little conversation with her about a story she had been telling.
Me: ‘If you could play an instrument [in this story] what would you play?’
E: ‘I would play the fish shaped tambourine’
Me: ‘Why?’
E: ‘Because it sounds like fairies’

These are two perfect answers for a composer to give to any question about orchestration.

‘E’ later told me that she was going to tell a story and a song – and seemed able to incorporate anything else into it – and the ideas of other children especially – with police cars and fairies and dinosaurs and trains and more. It seems as if ‘E’ is able to happily use and incorporate the whole world into her stories.

When she had finished her multi-faceted story I had a little chat with her.
Me: ‘What is the difference between speaking and singing in a story?’
E: ‘It makes a difference to my voice, ‘cause your voice might not be the same as their voice.’
Me: ‘What do you mean?’
E: ‘ ‘Cause their voices have a different tone.’

Then she demonstrated the difference between a fairy voice and a policeman voice and explained that
E: ‘They change their voice in capital letters.’

I was really struck by her use of the word ‘tone’ and later found it had been used that morning by her class teacher when describing different voices in a story, and also the teacher had explained that capital leters or large coloured letters or different fonts in a story can be used to denote different effects. ‘E’ is able to hear something, grasp what it means and then incorporate it into her own creative life almost immediately.


The objects and the claves featured in ‘E’s’ song ‘Cakes and Magnifying Glasses For Friends’


Haytor View Early Years Music Project – Blog 4

Haytor View Early Years Music Project with BSO Devon Associate Hugh Nankivell Thursday June 18th – afternoon session.

Varied and wonderfully creative session today at Haytor View with many new songs from new composers, including ‘S’ who drew a picture and then sang the picture (see picture of ‘S’, next to her picture listening back on the iPhone to the song ‘Living In A Boat’ after I recorded it). She performed it many times during the afternoon. In the assembly I sang it while she played and she became quite embarrassed, but kept it going. At hometime we sang it again together to her mum who wanted to know what she had been up to, and this time ‘S’ did the singing, confidently and comfortably.

S listening to her song with score

S listening to her song with score

Living in a Boat
We’re living in a boat
And wearing a crown
And dying in the water
A Mum woke her up
A monster came and took her away
And we’re gonna live in a boat again.
That’s everything.

I observed ‘E today singing throughout the session and I think that she improvised and composed at least five songs including:

  1. a re-write of ‘The Magic Word’
  2. ‘I Had A Shower Before I Went Downstairs’
  3. Fire Alarm
  4. Gems For Friends
  5. Cave Gems From The Mine

The inspiration for each song was clear and I could see the pathway between ‘E’ observing something and then turning it into an instant song. This reminded me of the aboriginal concept of ‘Songlines’ singing the world into existence and having a series of sung maps to find your way around the world. The net curtain inspired the ‘I Had A Shower…’ song (‘E’ sang it inside the net), the ‘Fire Alarm’ song was immediately after we had been evacuated into the field for a fire alarm, and the two gems songs came after discovering a box with two pink gems in.

I particularly observed three musical moments from ‘E’ today.

  1. She knows how to cadence (make an ending), and when singing songs it is really clear to the listener when she has finished. So she does have a clear structure in her songs and we can follow the story and know when it has ended.
  2. ‘E’ really has an understanding of orchestration (using different instruments). Today she had a ukulele and some shakers and I was asking her how she could play them together and she answered ‘I play them at different times’. In the re-written ‘Magic Word’ song ‘E’ said that the Uke could be for ‘please’ and the shakers for ‘thankyou’. This awareness and need to use different sounds for different words is a clear understanding of orchestration, even if it seems random as to why the uke should be for ‘please’ and shakers for ‘thankyou’.
  3. ‘E’ was today not interested in repeating songs, or even sections of songs. Many conventional songs have repeated words or choruses, but with ‘E’, when composing her story songs she feels no need to have repetition. I think that she is thinking about telling a narrative story with no turning back to previous sections. This makes me wonder about what the impact will be if I have a session with her all about the verse/chorus structure in song, suggesting that she creates one? Will this stymie her wonderful narrative non-repeating structures or inspire her to something new?

Haytor View Early Years Music Project – Blog 3

Haytor View Early Years Music Project with BSO Devon Associate Hugh Nankivell Thursday June 11th – afternoon session.

Today there was a very clear connection between ‘A’ and ‘E’ who had not obviously engaged with each other before. In fact they became friends. They made songs together and they performed together. When we did an assembly I asked them if they wanted to play as a duet or with me as well, and ‘A’ was very clear that they wanted to play without me. So they did!

‘A’ is 4 and ‘E’ is 5 and a further developmental difference emerged today as they played and created with each other. At one point they were making up a new song and ‘E’ explained that it should go ‘Loud, Soft, Loud, Soft.’ I am sure that ‘E’s’ intent was that this should refer to the dynamics of the piece and that it would be in four sections with part one being loud, part two quiet and so on.

When the two girls performed in the assembly I announced the song as ‘Loud, soft, loud, soft’ and they then performed it. ‘A’ sang the words ‘loud soft loud soft’ as the lyrics while ‘E’ played the ukulele and looked a little bit surprised. ‘A’s’ understanding of a piece called ‘Loud, soft, loud, soft’ is that this might refer to the lyrics, but not that it might be a description of the underlying structure for the musical content, whereas ‘E’ does seem to have that comprehension.

At one point ‘E’ decided that they needed a stage to sing on. They spent a short amount of time building the stage out of the blocks in the classroom, but then spent a very long time decorating it. There was a bit of a stand-off at one point when tidy up time had been called and most of the class were tidying up, but the stage-designers were still at work as they had been told they could perform a couple of song on the stage even after tidy-up time had been called! The understanding that music is not just music but is operatic in scope, involving song and singing, instrumental playing, movement, design and more. The attention to detail from this small group was really wonderful.

stage designing and dressing

stage designing and dressing

Haytor View Early Years Music Project – Blog 2

Haytor View Early Years Music Project with BSO Devon Associate Hugh Nankivell Thursday May 21st – afternoon session.

Today I met another girl – this time aged 5, called ‘E’ – who spontaneously composed songs and happily wrote, played and performed them, including doing a solo in the assembly with the parents at the end of the afternoon. ‘E’ was in many ways like ‘A’ from the previous week, but with at least three differences which could indicate developmental change. Firstly, when ‘E’ wrote out her song ‘A Place To Go In The Summer’ she used words (see the accompanying photo). The previous week ‘A’ ‘wrote her song out as squiggly lines, and this week ‘A’ again wrote out another new song as squiggly lines. I think it is great that these scores are made, but it is clear at this stage that the squiggles do not bear any direct relationship to the actual music, they seem to be a kind of place-holder indicating that a song has been made. ‘E’s’ score from today did bear some relationship to the music she was singing, as it was her lyrics.

E's' song

E’s’ song

I observed the second difference when ‘E’ sang a long improvised song (two minutes in total) directly to me all about a camping trip. ‘E’ very clearly had an idea about the story she was telling and began singing her story accompanying herself on the ukulele. Half way through she put down the uke and picked up the frog guiro set (see picture) at a significant moment – when she sang words about time passing. She then proceeded to go back to the uke for the ending of the piece. She also did a lovely little bow at the very end. The idea that you might use different sounds/instruments to denote different moments in a story was really beautifully demonstarted here. And the third was that ‘E’ had a confidence to sing out on her own. ‘A’ is not lacking in confidence, but seemed to want the support of her friends when she performed, whereas ‘E’ sang on her own all afternoon and was very happy to sing to parents and familes at the assembly.

Frog Guiro

Frog Guiro

I am really enjoying this musical journey at Haytor View and there is so much more to say than I can write here!