• Xenia Horne

Subtle Sounds and Serendipitous Connections




Reflections on visiting a nursery setting as part of Germination project.


I love the serendipitous connections that Germination is facilitating and the reconnecting too. It seems particularly important and relevant now after the two years of Covid changes. We have been talking about how we can work together in the space with the babies and also in the Yurt, thinking about the significance of each of these spaces in relation to how they are perceived by the little ones. My recollection of the baby room is that there seemed to be very little vocal sound - I had no memory of babies babbling when we visited. Rather than change the environment overtly, Lauren and I have discussed how the subtle sounds of the silver fabric and the little harp, together with the egg shakers, might create an envelope of sound. This is a concept which I have come across in clinical improvisation on my Music Therapy course. The therapist uses gentle tones and sounds which create a sensation of containment. This is very similar to Sophie’s use of ambient sound as babies come into the SoundGarden. The idea of the envelope is to create a holding space which resonates with Melanie Klein’s concept of a client feeling safe and contained. It also chimes with the idea of feeling ‘felt’ or as Dave Camlin says, sensing the emotional connection through music. Our plan is to set up this sonic environment and to respond to the babies as they experience the different sounds and interactions. We will work work together in a similar way in the Yurt, with the two to three year olds. It is also interesting to think about what happens when you set up an intervention in the larger outside spaces. I have been thinking about Folk East and the hay bale area which we set up for the younger children. Again, we defined a space where something might happen..this reminds me of the study of ritual and celebration which was part of my theatre degree. There is such a powerful sense of connection when we are together in person - it’s very different from any dynamic you can create online. Second Visit to Nursery The temperature had suddenly dropped so the air was crisp and cold with bright sun shine. We met outside the gate and waited until most of the parents had finished dropping off their little ones before going The Babies We went across to the Babies room and I was again struck by the lack of sound from the babies. One baby was sitting next to a basket about two metres away from two adults, each holding a baby in their arms. This little one was just gazing into space - seemingly disengaged - sitting alone. I set up the little harp so that I watch all the babies. Lauren moved closer to the main group and brought out the silver fabric, eggs and other small sound makers. There was an immediate sense of connection and interaction however the single baby remained unfocused. After about 15 minutes there was finally a connection and eye contact. The baby crawled across the space, pulled itself up and looked at what Lauren and the other babies were doing. I moved in closer with the harp and began to sing. I was remembering how, in clinical improvisation, we had discovered the immediate sense of connection that can be created through using voice .. Charlotte and Lauren picked up the sounds and we improvised around a phrase, with the harp providing a holding motif. There was a slightly older baby who was incredibly alert to the changes in sound - and who moved each time the harp or voices changed. I was reminded of the video Nicola Burke had shared in an Early Years session with the RCM Sparks workshop. A baby lay on a mat listening to a solo voice. Each time it heard a phrase - it’s face lit up and it echoes the tone, pitch and rhythm. Here we had an environment where there had been very little sound before Lauren and I had come in. We could see how the babies were responding and could see also, how the adults were reacting to what they were observing. It would be wonderful to have an opportunity to work with the nursery again. We could co-create songs around the different times of day and activity to help bring music into the space. After around 45 minutes I began to sing a goodbye song: Bye bye babies Time to go .. and we all improvised around the very simple phrase again as we packed away. The session left me calm and relaxed! The Yurt Session The Yurt was empty when Lauren and I first got to it. We set up to one side with the harp leaving plenty of space to get past and the silver paper and magic umbrella directly opposite the main entrance. Our thought has been to create a soundscape which could be mirrored in the way that Lauren played with the different objects she had gathered. There was already a sense of calm containment in the space which was enhanced with soft lighting and textures, providing a welcoming and comfortable nest. As we began to play, the children started to make their way in, quickly entering into an interactive dialogue using movement and objects. I changed the rhythms and style of the music to see how the children might respond and to encourage more musical play. Lauren was responding through movement and also using voice - singing instructions which the children instinctively followed. Some of them wanted to play the harp and ( inevitably ) were fascinated by the levers. At one point - a child was drawing a metal car across the strings which made a very satisfying sound but wasn’t very good for the harp ! I gently took his hand away and stroked the harp to show it might be hurt. The small harp offers children the opportunity to feel the making of music in a unique way. They can be fully in control of the sounds they make and quickly realise that they have the power to make loud noise or gentle whispery phrases. We played with making shapes to respond to each sound, reflecting the rhythms of the music in our bodies. I have so enjoyed being able to work in this way, with freedom and space. The children responded immediately to the sounds and textures of the intervention- and I loved the way that Lauren navigated through the activities using a sung voice. The time went past very quickly and we sang a goodbye song as we packed away, which was echoed by the children who danced and joined in.

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