Saturday, September 19, 2009

rhythm and work


Last week as the first graders were at work sanding it seemed that they began to work together in a rhythmic sense. When does work end and music begin? Is there a fine line separating the two? According to Drillis in his article Folk Norms and Biomechanics, the size and weight of the work load controls the rhythm with the speed of the action adjusted to maximize the muscular efficiency of the worker. Change the size of the hammer and the rhythm of the operator changes for maximum muscular efficiency. When two or more workers are involved, a rhythmization of the work can take place. And so, we wonder if the rhythm component of music is the natural consequence of the body and real work?

I can see why many educators would prefer an object free classroom. Objects present the irresistible opportunity to manipulate and make noise. My students walk into the wood shop and things start clinking. The handles on our vises are irresistible. the kids walk in, and the fiddling and clinking begins. But then as most teachers know, even a ball point pen becomes the source of rhythm in the classroom and where there is rhythm, there is also suspicion of disruption. The teacher thinks "You're not listening."

By restriction of rhythm we make an effort to control children and subject them to the needs of the institution. But what if we were to utilize their innate needs for participation in rhythmic processes? Would we better engage the willing participation of the whole child?

I recently learned that at the Eureka Springs public elementary school, vocal music is no longer available. No time, no money. I am not sure if this is a national trend, but perhaps wood shops would be a great way to bring participatory music (and rhythm) back into the lives of our children. Perhaps we need vises in every classroom and at every desk. We could thus humanize the educational experience.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Shop radios and chain gang chants somehow come to mind. Good to hear your young students make those sounds that link them rhythmically to their projects.

Mario