The Language of Music: Helping Develop Communication Skills With Musical Theory
According to Victor Hugo “Music expresses that which can not be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” While music is an expression of emotional and artistic value, it also helps form the building blocks of our ability to communicate. Singing to young children seems to come naturally to parents but even our one-sided conversations with young children take on unique tonal variations, i.e. ‘baby talk’. For many on the autism spectrum and other non-verbal learners, developing an understanding of musical theory may also help foster core communication skills.
The A, B, C’s
Western musical theory makes use of the A, B, C pattern to label the tonalities that make up an octave. The act of working with these symbols, pairing them with other indicators, i.e. musical notes and arranging them in stylized patterns mirrors typical skills associated with early grammar.
Musical notation is conveniently divided into measures or bars. While these all contain a certain number beats, developing the skill of reading music involves combining these variables (or notes in each measure) and executing the response. Students of music will understand that when you encounter the notes C, E and G, you execute a C Major chord without consciously identifying each note. In other words, we all had to be taught to identify certain combinations of letters and then read them without breaking down each letter or syllable. Reading and playing music follow these same principles.
Not surprisingly, if each measure is comparable to a word, then reading multiple measures can be viewed as a reading a sentence. Reading musical notation also follows the ‘top left – to bottom right’ sequence used in western grammar. Students and connoisseurs of Bach will note that later, advanced music often has multiple “voices” which can each be seen as simultaneous sentences being enacted or played by the musician(s).
Conjugate the Verb
Music, as with grammar, has its own series of rules and standards. Codas, sharps, flats, repeats, rests and other concepts can be taught but eventually become second nature. I would be hard-pressed to recall each and every grammatical rule concerning verb conjugation, yet the knowledge is expressed in the execution.