The goal of this contribution is to examine the role of body engagement during rhythm
learning activities in primary school classes of six to eight-year-olds.
Previous scientific findings show how the transition from corporality to rhythmicity
is carried out by motor function and imply that musical learning is facilitated by
embodying musical structures. Students make periodic movements spontaneously while
listening to music, and these movements influence their perceptions of musical structures
and rhythm. The use of figural descriptions is an efficient tool during rhythm learning.
However, students’ personal tempi in the absence of a loud beat of reference represent a
challenge to collective rhythmic (re)production.
The aims of this contribution are to better understand the role of the body during
rhythm learning activities and to identify how body engagement can contribute to
improved rhythmic understanding and performance.
The methodological approach involves video-recording nine lessons, then
transcribing and coding the exchanges. Self-confrontation interviews are conducted after
each lesson in order to discuss chosen extracts from the recordings.
The results first describe moments of teacher and student actions and interactions
when reading, speaking and playing rhythms. These results show teachers and students
favouring an embodied experience during the process of acquiring specific rhythmic
knowledge. The teachers use their bodies as models and regulators, communicating
bodily to avoid explicit articulation of rhythmic notions, thus replacing language
resources. This bodily basis for communication helps students to make rhythm through
movement and to experience the passage from corporality to rhythmicity via motor
function rather than via reasoning processes. These results also highlight that teachers
should choose their musical gestures because not all gestures are efficient in transmitting
specific information (ex. duration). Particular attention is given to the phenomenon of
personal tempo observed in students during rhythm activities, which results in very young
children being unlikely to adhere to a collective beat unless it is made very obvious by
their teacher. Moreover, these case studies call attention to figural descriptions that can
help convey musical concepts alongside embodiment.
To conclude, this study has further implications for music education as it shows
some connections between embodied teaching and learning, and improved rhythmic
understanding and performance as teachers and students exploit natural links between
body movement and rhythm in teaching.
Titre de l’ouvrage principal
Proceedings of The 34th ISME World Conference “Visions of Equity and Diversity”