Monday, August 16, 2004

Musical Beginnings

Musical Beginnings: Origins and Development of Musical Competence is a collection of articles on developmental psychology that explores how and when musical ability is developed. It is sadly out of print, even though it was written only eight years ago. What makes this book unique among the literature on musical development is the heavy emphasis on the very earliest stages of development, from prenatal sound perception to preschool perception of time sequences. Over half of the book is devoted to these early stages: "Prenatal auditory experience" by Jean-Pierre Lacunet, "Musicality in infancy research: biological and cultural origins of early musicality" by Hanu˘s Papou˘sek, "Infants' auditory sensitivity towards acoustic parameters of speech and music" by Christoph Fassbender, "Intuitive parenting: a hidden source of musical stimulation in infancy" by Mechthild Papou˘sek, and "The development of the perception of time and temporal regulation of action in infants and children" by Viviane Pouthas. These are fascinating articles, though I am somewhat sceptical on how accurate the psycoacoustic measures are, based as they are on a variety of indicators such as head turning and non-nutrative sucking in combinations with visual reinforcements or observer-based forced choice.

The other three articles are more standard, dealing with school age children. The results are interesting, though not any different than The Developmental Psychology of Music and not as detailed. I don't think I will use this book in my psychology of music course, though I will point it out to students who are interested in infant development as their individual project.

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