There are many kinds of good music, and each has its place. Even very small children enjoy listening to music that expresses different feelings.
Collect some music by well-known classical composers. Many libraries have records and tapes you can check out with a library card. And many radio stations play music written by these composers. If you live in a western culture, you may want to select one of the following compositions:
Peter and the Wolf (Prokofiev)
Nutcracker Suite (Tchaikovsky)
Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Dukas)
Sixth Symphony (Beethoven)
The Messiah (Handel)
Fireworks Music (Handel)
Grand Canyon Suite (Grofe)
Mother Goose Suite (Ravel)
Carnival of the Animals (Saint-Saens)
Peer Gynt Suites (Grieg)
Pines of Rome (Respighi)
Ask the librarian or salesman at the record store to help you find descriptive music, music that tells a story or creates a mood.
Select a piece of music to listen to as a family. Have a family member summarize the information on the jacket of the record. If you are using the radio, the announcer may give a brief summary before playing each selection.
Family members might want to sit on pillows on the floor or just on comfortable chairs. Very young children might be encouraged to move quietly to the music. Shorter selections will hold their attention best.
When the music begins, ask each person to close his eyes and imagine what the music might be expressing. Tell the others that we are almost always surrounded by sounds, but we learn to “tune them out.” Tonight we want to “tune them in.”
After listening to the music for a few minutes, ask the following questions:
How does this music make you feel?
What colors do you think of when you listen to this music?
Can you imagine what might be happening?
Is it fast or slow? Loud or soft?
Can you hear a melody? Is it played more than two times?
Can you tell when the melody changes a little bit?
Can you hear the sounds that are made by the different instruments?
Do you feel like quietly moving your hand to the beat of the music? Do it if you like.
Do not expect immediate answers. Tell family members to think about their answers while the rest of the music plays. Let them sit back and relax. Avoid loud talking, which could be distracting.
Ask the same questions when the music is finished. Respect each person’s answer. Each family member is unique and will have a unique response to the same music.
Repeat the activity described above on another night. One of the pleasures of listening to music more than once is that the melodies become familiar to us. We enjoy recognizing a melody and anticipating what comes next.
Choose a kind of music other than classical—perhaps jazz or folk music. Bring some examples to enjoy together.
Have a “Name That Tune” night. Guess the names of songs played by the family member in charge.
Pick one composer and bring several recorded examples to listen to. Or you could bring several records featuring the same instrument—the piano, guitar, or violin, for example. Or bring several examples of music from one country or one historical period.
Attend a concert as a family.
Take a walk in the country and pay attention to the sounds of birds, babbling brooks, the wind, and even silence. Talk about the sounds. Go home and listen to the third movement of Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony.
Take a walk on a busy street in town. Listen to the horns honking, cars screeching, and jackhammers working. Go home and listen to George Gershwin’s An American in Paris.