Music as a Tool of Communication to Promote Literacy
The presence of music is felt in the everyday living of people and in the different levels of interaction that occur. Likewise, there are different forms by which this is perpetuated into society as information and communication technology sees to it that there are enhancements to everyday living and efficiency in terms of time, geographic distance, and cost. As this becomes the trend, it can not be discounted that music, being a part of everyday life, serves as a functional tool of communication that has proven itself through time and in different settings (Ebong 38; Mark 158).
In a more specific context, music serves as a medium through which language is taught to autistic children (Siegel 219). This is because of the fact that methods of teaching that rely on the right side of the brain, with singing as an example, has the possibility of helping an autistic child compensate for the inability to learn language (Siegel 219). Taken in a larger picture, there is a general relation that can be seen from that of education and music with the latter serving as a tool to promote literacy among young children.
With these in mind, there are three large concepts which this research paper intends to investigate, which include communication, music, and education. The basic assumption is that music serves as an effective form of communication and serves to contribute to the promotion of literacy among young children. As literacy is promoted, music can be seen as a possible integral component of education for the students.
These three interrelated concepts, with the general premise taken above, serve as the focus of this study. The information that is gathered from previous studies done, as well as relevant literature, makes up the theoretical framework of this research.
Defining Music, Communication, and Literacy
In this section, the three important concepts are defined to gain a general understanding of the associated characteristics and elements that are seen from these three. First, music is formally defined by Edwards and Holland, in its most simple terms, to be the “sound in time” or “time defined by sound” (134). With these, there are associated elements that can be discerned from this particular definition from which music stems from. It includes the tone, beat, harmony, melody, and others that define the musical characteristic of a piece. Likewise, it can also be seen that music is not a language nor is an input/output system but has the capability to bring in and out data in the heads of individuals (Hyde).
On the other hand, communication is seen to envelope and is associated with different schools of thought. First, it involves the “transmission of messages” (Fiske 2). This requires that there is a message that is sent from a particular sender to a receiver. There is a model for this that has within it different concepts that are associated from each sender and receiver that affect the efficiency and accuracy of messages sent from one end to another (Fiske 2). Second, it also deals with the “production and exchange of meanings” (Fiske 2). Still in consideration of the relationship between the receiver and the sender of the message, this particular school of thought deals with the investigation of the interaction between the culture and text (Fiske 2). There are certain failures that are attributed to the differences that come as a result of culture.
Lastly, literacy, in general, is considered to vary in definition for the different fields of interest today. For example, when a person is referred to as computer-literate, this means that the person is adept in the use of computers. However, taken in the context of language, this means the familiarity and skill in terms of both written and spoken language (Garton & Pratt 1). A person would then have to exhibit knowledge of the written and spoken aspects of language in order to be considered literate.
Patterns of Communication and Music
There are several points where communication and music converge. These patterns where the two are considered similar to one another provide the basis for which music proves to be an effective means of communication.
Gozzi proposed a metaphor that puts communication and music side by side. The elements that are associated by Gozzi with that of communication interaction include: a) “speaking to each other,” b) “content of communication,” c) “relationship level of communication,” d) “patterns of interaction,” e) “patterns of emotion,” f) “culture patterns,” g) “comfortable interactions,” h) “uncomfortable interactions,” i) “one person dominates,” j) “equal interaction,” k) “repetitive interaction pattern,” and l) “creative interaction.” The respective aspects of musical interaction that are considered to be a match to these factors include: a) “singing a part in a song,” b) “words to a song,” c) “music in a song,” d) “melodies,” e) “musical themes,” f) “key structures and scales,” g) “harmonious singing together,” h) “dissonant and a-rhythmic singing,” i) “lead singer and backup vocals,” j) “duets, trios, etc.,” k) “familiar old standard song,” and l) “improvise new melodies and words” (Gozzi).
In remembering the song of Beatles entitled “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” the lyrics in the beginning start with…
“Picture yourself on a boat on a river. With tangerine trees and marmalade skies. Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly. A girl with kaleidoscope eyes.” (Beatles).
It would be helpful for the analysis of music as a form of communication if this set of lyrics would be placed within the tenets of the two schools of thought associated with that of communication. First, it is determined whether there is a sender and a receiver. Indeed, there is a sender here in the person of the songwriter and the singers, as well. At the other end is the receiver, which in this case is the listener of the song. The success of the music as a form of communication in this context would have to be determined in the way through which there if efficiency and accuracy in terms of the messages that are enclosed in the song. On the other hand, there are also factors of culture that are held by the listeners of the song that could affect the way through which the song is interpreted. For this particular context, there are groups of people who argue that this particular song is associated with drugs and other antisocial behavior, which is consequently denied by the Beatles (Blecha 69).
Likewise, there are also melodies that, even without words or lyrics included within it, have the capability to produce meanings for those who appreciate it as they listen. For example, a soft and slow melody could mean a moment of solace for the person listening to it depending on the interpretation and bias that it has. On the other hand, a fast and deep melody could run as a mysterious tune for other persons. Whatever is the purpose, music has its way of being able to create the impact that it intends to have for the particular feeling, emotion, and message.
Music and Education
Music and education are two fields that are able to overlap with one another in aiming for the purpose of education, which is to enhance the capabilities of the students. Music literacy, in the recent years, has a significant impact among the people who wish to enter the field of music (Asmus). It is seen that a superficial means of teaching music, which involves the ability to produce sounds and achieve the intended beat, is inferior to the kind of knowledge in music that is achieved through the ability to read notes (Asmus). The two methods of learning and producing music has its respective advantages and disadvantages and the primary of which is a rapid way of learning, for the former, and a deeper and critical understanding, for the latter (Asmus).
With the ability to perform musically being affected by the learning of note-reading, it is also seen that music students, in order to learn academically is required to enhance the skill in research to become information-literate (Maple, Christensen, & Abromeit). There should be collaboration between the music department of schools and the library in order to achieve this goal (Maple, Christensen, & Abromeit). This can be seen in light of the special needs and requirements of studying music that does not solely rely on practical knowledge, as mentioned earlier, but also needs the theoretical foundations of learning.
While education has its respective impact in the field of music, the latter also has its impact on the former, especially in enhancing the literacy level of students, more specifically of the young adults. In the research done by Lems with the adult class characterized by English as a Second Language (ESL), it is seen that “music can be used in the adult ESL classroom to create a learning environment; to build listening comprehension, speaking, reading, and writing skills; to increase vocabulary; and to expand cultural knowledge” (1).
There are aspects of the study of music that contributes to the teaching of students who have special needs, according to the article done by Van Weelden. There is a program that is intended for the children with special needs and the specific points which have contributed to their learning include geography, world politics and current events, science/physics and acoustics, and math (Van Weelden). There are corresponding parts in the program that leads to the ability of the children to learn in these aspects through the help of the facilitators (Van Weelden). Likewise, there are also tests that are done to evaluate the progress of the children and the success of the program (Van Weelden). Indeed, it is seen that the framework and structure of teaching using music as a means serves as an effective tool and is similar to the curriculum that is uses to teach several other subjects.
The ability of music to teach a child, who may have special needs or are young, is tested through several studies done before (Bolduc). This is because of the holistic approach of music to teaching and learning and also has the capability to affect the listening and analysis components of the child (Bolduc). It is seen that those children who are given the chance to interact with music and learn it is better in terms of reading and writing than the group of children who are not given the same consideration (Bolduc).
An important aspect of language where music is seen to be useful is that of learning a foreign language (Singer). It is argued that the children are able to understand a foreign language better with the aid of music as individuals tend to memorize and become acquainted with the lyrics to a song with the music (Singer). After this has been achieved, it would be easier to place the learning of the said language in the level which is considered to be appropriate for the age of the learner (Singer).
With the association of music into the academic excellence of children, it could not be denied that this is to become an important part of the educational lives of children for their increased capabilities in the field of literacy.
In conclusion, it can be seen that three concepts―music, education, and literacy―serve as the focus of this paper. These are interrelated concepts that have affected the way young children learn in the schools. The quality of education has its corresponding impact with that of the way music is taught. Just the same, the inclination to music is seen to have a relation with that of the ability to enhance the literacy level of children. This is because of the cognitive capabilities associated with that of learning music and the ability it has to interact with the lives of people. While it is seen to be useful for students of a very young age, it is also applicable for students with special needs and those who require learning a foreign language. There are different ways and methods that are associated with the teaching that could lead to a successful achievement of goals.
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