Thursday, October 16, 2008
Drawing and painting music with young children
Bach E-major Partita Preludio by Rachel Leddy (c. 1990-91)
watercolor on paper
When our children were little, it was part of my job to monitor the university radio station during the classical music hours when I was not at work. The hours I spent at home were always spent with our two kids, especially when they were little. We spent much of that precious pre-schooling time at the kitchen table with crayons, pencils, and watercolors, or with materials for making collages, and the music on the radio (music that I programmed) simply became part of the drawing and painting experience.
Once in a while one or the other child would consciously paint or draw the music, and the above painting by the three- or four-year-old Rachel (who is now nearly 22) was a visual response to the Preludio of the Bach E-major Partita, BVW 1006, as performed by Nathan Milstein. She made it in the course of the three or so minutes that the movement takes to play. There are very few pieces of art in the world (in my mind) that approach the deep feeling and honesty of this painting. (The scan does not really do justice to the original, which has a grey circle behind the "eye" in the center.)
We often brought our children to concerts when they were little, and we always brought pencils, crayons, and paper with us. Our family archives are filled with the spoils from those events, and our children learned to involve themselves in listening to music by participating in it, even before they began to play themselves.
I know that there are many of parents with young children who would love to take their children to concerts with them, but they are afraid that small children would be distracting for other members of the audience. My advice is to find free concerts like student recitals at colleges, and community orchestra concerts, and bring your kids. Make it clear to them that their "job" is to draw the musicians so that everyone can remember details about the event that someone in the family or group might otherwise miss.
Drawing musicians, particularly string players, is very difficult for adults, but little kids seem to enjoy drawing challenges. And if the drawing becomes a little tiring, they can always listen to the music.