“Letting go of bad feelings.” J.T.

“A fundamental characteristic of music is its ability to arouse emotions” (Andrew H. Gregory, 1996).

A few weeks ago, we had a discussion about feelings and using the Buddha boards to express what we feel, while learning to let them go afterwards. Some of the children were amazed by how their drawings would disappear and one particular child did not want to draw because he did not want it to go away afterwards. This said something to me about how he was interpreting the expression of letting go. One of the other children made a connection to a song called “Let it Go” from the movie Frozen. I was not familiar with what he meant so we looked it up and watched the music video. A few children knew the song well and before I knew it, they wanted to listen to it everyday. They had an inherent connection to the music and lyrics and you could see in their faces that they weren’t just hearing it; they were feeling it. What was this emotional connection to the song? I myself feel emotional about certain songs and I have always wondered why it is that we feel the way we do.

As I observed the children, I could see different expressions in their faces. Was this song evoking happiness or sadness? I wondered why they felt the way they did and how it made them feel

When I read further into the inquiry, I began to find out more about how people respond to different musical structures. Various resources discussed cognitive musical responses linking it to psychology and neuroscience. From a scientific perspective, emotional responses to music happen in the frontal region of the brain. The brain responds differently to tonality, rhythm and major and minor modes (Andrew H. Gregory, 1996).

Major modes are capable of evoking positive emotions such as happiness and excitement and minor modes are associated with negative emotions such as sadness and fear. These findings were attributed to the tempo, pitch, speed and frequency range of the notes of particular pieces of music (Andrew H. Gregory, 1996). Part of these findings also has to do with the developmental stages of children and their increasing awareness of particular emotions. Children as early as 28 months old are able to perceive and label their feelings, as well as the feelings of others around them. Many children respond to music and utilize it as a non-verbal means of self-expression. In these early stages of speech and language development, music becomes instrumental in encouraging communication and emotional development.

In researching the breakdown for the song “Let it go” from the movie Frozen, I found that the song begins with an instrumental piano piece in F minor at a slow tempo that begins to rise and progress as the song goes on. The female vocalist, (originally of Broadway musical theatre) begins with a deep and emotional story, which speaks about an internal struggle between right and wrong. Her vocal range rises, as does the tempo in the song as she begins to come to a realization of the decision she needs to make. She speaks about deeply rooted emotions such as isolation, power, concealing feelings, letting go of inhibitions regardless of consequences, comparing it to a “cold” and “swirling storm inside”. The movie from which the song comes from addresses all of these issues of inner struggle, a metaphor for emotions that many can relate to old or young. The song “Let it go” told this story all on its own and the children felt the emotional connection even before they saw the movie.

Some might see it as another Disney movie soundtrack song, but I decided to take a closer look at the emotional connections and the way it had resonated with the children in my class. It showed me that a class predominantly filled with boys aged 3-4 had a connection to a song about inner struggle, truth, right, wrong and self-realization- feelings that many adults often struggle with. It proved to me that feelings are real no matter what age we feel them. The issue of inner struggle, was a weighted one this year in my class. Struggles with competition, turn-taking and overall insecurity were big for these children. This is all part of the emotional development of this age group. Developing from a toddler who is emotionally egotistical in their own right to a preschool/kindergarten age child who must learn to be cooperative, patient and empathetic- this tremendous shift in who they are is their inner struggle in the world. And after all of their inner struggles, they were trying to come to terms with it all and just “Let it go”.

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress” –Frederick Douglass

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By Cathy Amaral, Kindergarten/Senior Preschool Teacher

Work Cited

The Development of Emotional Responses to Music in Young Children. Motivation and Emotion. December 1996, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 341-348.