Sam Mason, one of our Associates for Wessex, is actively involved in Babigloo, a sensory theatre show for babies and toddlers aged 0-15 months. Babigloo is an 18 month long research project looking at news ways of presenting music for babies in partnership with the BSO, JAM and SAMP, Portugal.
This past week I have had the pleasure of collaborating, exchanging and developing ideas with a truly inspiring team of Portuguese musicians and dancers, led by the wonderful professor Paulo Lameiro, a leading expert in developing musical learning experiences and concerts with babies.
We had joined together with the rest of the Babigloo team, a fantastic creative mix of theatre producer, director, actors and wordsmith, to explore specific methods of working with babies from 0 – 12 months and to start developing our ideas for a new musical performance for babies “Babigloo”. This is a joint collaboration between Jam Jar Theatre Co and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra participation department.
We spent two days based in the Lyric Theatre in Bridport, discussing methods, exploring creative starting points and learning from the wealth of experience our Portuguese friends so generously imparted with us.
We discussed how babies react to sound within the womb and how their understanding of pitch and intonation develops not only from the voice of the mother but also from the rhythm of the heart beat and the manner of the movement of her body. We looked at the practical needs of running a music session with babies. Actually you need to do a lot of exercises with 1 hand as the other is holding a baby! Which instruments and sonorities worked best with babies and which musical styles were more effective in their learning and responses.
In a way it felt like going back to square one. There were so many aspects to consider and when you actually thought about how a baby listens, learns and reacts to sound it made me really re- question and think about how I teach music to all ages. It was going back to the beginning – literally!
So, we had two days to explore these theories and to create some ideas for a hands on practical session on Friday. We had set ourselves a deadline to produce and run a workshop for babies at the Rossmore learning Centre, where we would present two sessions to two different groups of mothers and babies. I can honestly say I was very nervous. I had so many questions in my head at the start of this session. How would the babies react to the session and how would the parents react? Would the mothers feel comfortable in the session, would they trust us, would they let us hold their babies, would they all join in?
Our session was a mixture of key pitch related vocal sounds, combined with improvisation taking it’s lead from sounds the babies made within the session and live or recorded musical repertoire.
The reactions to the session from all the participants was fantastic. The babies were so engaged, their huge eyes, following your every move, their physical movements reacting to the different sounds, and the mothers seeming genuinely touched and intrigued at how engaged the babies were. There was a real sense of trust, calm and enjoyment in the room as we witnessed the interaction of these little people to the sounds and sights of the session.
I have to say I feel I have been deeply touched by the whole experience. I very much enjoy working with early years, but had never worked with children below 12 months. To have had the opportunity to go back to the basics of communication and learning: sound, movement, inflection, intonation and touch, backed with a wealth of experience and pedagogy was fantastic. I very much look forward to exploring this area further and developing and extending our ideas for music making with early years with the “Babigloo” team and players from the orchestra.