As a child, it is not surprising how much of the learning process focuses on a particular sense. My youngest daughter takes part in a weekly science online class, (the brilliant Little Steamers STEM class with Laura), and she always begins by warming up her senses; ‘feeling fingers’, etc. As an adult, it becomes instinctive that we use our senses to fulfil our lives, (tastes of delicious foods, smells of flowers and incense candles, the touch of soft clothing or cosy blankets, sights of beautiful artwork and, of course hearing- whether the sound of relaxing running water or the delicate twinling of harp music. Our sense are integral to the choices we make and the memories we create.
It was whilst performing well known Christmas carols and music to the Reception year of my oldest daughter’s school; Town Close Pre Prep, it occurred to me that each piece I played was linked to a personal memory of a sense. ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’ brought back the feeling of pretend foam snow, when I sang with my school choir on a Christmas boat when I was about seven years old. ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ conjures up the taste of mince pies, dancing around my parent’s kitchen in my teens. ‘Walking in the Air’ immediately encourages the visual memory of snowy lanes at my grandparents cottage, where my sisters and me played over a Christmas time in the eighties. Then finally, ‘Little Donkey’ actually brings back the smell of horse stables, hunting for presents from Father Christmas in our horse’s stable.
However, it occurred to me that it is the sound of music which can be argued, brings all the feelings, emotions and memories together. This is why being exact with the choice of music for a Christmas advert, for example, is crucial. With a single chord, melody or lyrical voice, your heart can swell whilst your visual, smell, touch and taste memory flood the brain, causing emotions to flow throughout. The young children of the Reception year haven’t, as yet gained all the memories I have of Christmas but, their human intuition and emotional maturity that is gradually being shaped and developed, is able to hone in on these senses and feelings through the music they hear.
When you read about the science behind this, it is amazing how music can actually drive neurons to fire at a specific rate and a chemical called Dopamine is released, which can help us feel pleasure as well as focus our mind, and help us to find things interesting. I like to think of music as being the telephone operator, wiring all our senses and emotions together to find specific memories.
In a modern sense, it is perhaps the final chip added to a circuit board or a satellite to switch on our human bodies to reach their full capacity of feeling. What a privilege to have a tiny chip to add to the circuit boards of little four and five year olds, as they begin to develop memories and emotions of Christmas time.
It was no coincidence that Shakespeare said ‘If music be the food of love, play on!’