What is the first that comes to mind when you read the word CHILD? Your child’s name perhaps, or "play" or "development" or "sweet/naughty".
What comes up when you read the word COMPOSER? Is it something like "Mozart", " writes music", or "artist"?
Totally different worlds: children and composers?
What comes up in your mind is guided by who you are and by your relation to CHILD or COMPOSER.
Your way of viewing is also influenced by the general opinion and attitude towards them in your time and culture.
What have children and composers in common?
Before the 18th century there was not the same kind of attention for children as nowadays.
They just had to grow up as soon as possible.
That changed due to the ideas of writer/philosopher/composer Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778).
"Every age has its own maturity," he said. He thought that education had to be adjusted to the character type of the child.
And he said that a teacher only can be successful in educating if he takes into account the individuality of a child.
We live in the 21st century now and a lot happened since Rousseau. We gained new insights in human behavior through the development of psychology among other things.
Educationalists have examined upbringing and schooling. The physical and mental developmental phases that children go through have been scrutinized of many specialists.
Many children in our time are extra sensitive for impressions, atmospheres and energies. They are sometimes called highly sensitive persons. "Just be yourself" is easier said than done for them.
That asks for an open attitude from the side of adults. Children hold up a mirror to us by their way of behaving and luckily in our time a lot of grownups are willing to look into it.
A composer invents and writes music. He or she does so by organizing tones whereby elements like melody, harmony, rhythm, dynamics, tempo, instrumentation and performance play a role.
How does the composer get an idea? Inspiration from a higher source? Intuition? That is not always so clear in artistic professions.
In former days it was very common to “borrow” music from others and adapt it. The art of it and a moral duty was to turn the piece into something even more beautiful. The composer Georg Friedrich Händel (1685-1759) is known for it.
In Western Europe in our time someone is usually called a composer when it is his or her profession. We recognize the music by its specific personal style. That has not always been the case.
Until the time of Rousseau composing was a skill that some musicians had and that was used in service of the church, royalty and nobility. Having your own musical style was not important.
At the end of the 18th century it became possible to publish sheet music . In that way the music was available to everyone. Also concerts were no longer just for the higher classes.
Now composers got a far larger audience and could become popular. The personal style became a real topic. The first composer who could provide for himself as a free artist was Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827).
Children and composers
Every child has made up his or her own song at one time. Is there a composer hidden in every child? Music is a natural element in communication. Children experience music. Even if they don’t understand the structure (yet), they can feel the impact. Every child does that in its own way.
In the text about early musical stimulation you can read how music is experienced right from the beginning of life. The musical experience is intertwined in a complexity of impressions: To hear a voice, to see a face, to be rocked, to be hugged.
Music is in every child you could say then. People who have chosen music as a profession often speak of a special musical experience they once had as an incitement. Once a certain piece of music has made a deep impression that made them want to sing or play a certain instrument themselves. Also stimulation by parents plays an important role.
Through the ages a lot of composers have written music for children sometime. That is not surprising. They want their music to survive their time. They want people to know their music and to learn to play it from childhood up.
Some composers have given special attention to children and childhood. For instance because they write music especially for children. Another reason is that they want to express their own childhood experiences in music. Or they want their music to be performed in a special way or context, in order to keep the attention of a child audience.
Some composers have thought about a method to make it easier for children to learn to play an instrument. One of them is Walter Carroll.
Benestad, F. (2005): Musik och tanke. Huvudlinjer i musikestetikens historia från antiken till vår egen tid.
Lilliestam, L. (2006): Musikliv. Vad människor gör med musik - och musik med människor.
Sloboda, J., Davidson, J.W., Howe, M.J.H. (1994): Is everyone musical? The Psychologist s 349-354.