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We can all agree that learning about and playing music from a young age will enrich a child’s life and have a positive impact on their future. The two videos below made me question whether a child’s specific musical experiences have their own unique way of shaping that child’s outlook and potential for creativity. Check out Austin, a 16-week old baby playing Moog’s new iPad synthesizer app, “Animoog:”

Obviously adorable, and really interesting when you focus on Austin’s fine motor movements. Now take a look at 2-year old Khaliyl Iloyi spitting a gibberish freestyle flow while Alim Kamara plays the role of hype man and, in my opinion, a teacher:

I was blown away by Khaliyl. He is already accessing extremely intricate rhythmic structures as platforms for his pre-lingustic raps. And he looks like he is having a lot of fun while he’s at it.

A comparison of these two videos suggest some important differences in the way music is being learned and performed. While Austin is using a personalized machine to produce and modulate tones, Khaliyl is using his voice. Of course one realizes that Austin cannot yet talk but it is important to note this difference because it leads to the related point that while Austin is tinkering away in a self-created universe, Khaliyl is interacting in real time with actual human beings. I imagine that interaction with others may shape a developing mind quite differently than solo experimentation.

On another note, I think it may be important for children to experience music in the context of established traditions. Perhaps, solo electronic experimentation could be called a musical tradition in 2011, but I would guess that the cognitive benefits of music may be more distinct when music is learned in a systematic, guided manner, as with the freestyle rhythms demonstrated by Khaliyl.

Finally, while watching Austin play his iPad, it occurred to me that this image is a good example of the phenomenon I call digital device isolation. I see very young children completely absorbed in their phones, tablets and other devices all the time. I often wonder what the long-term effects of this kind of sensory experience will be on children who are given their first cell phones at age 4.

I believe that interactive, group-based learning of musical traditions will be critical for the balanced development of children in the technology-driven future.

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About The Author

Max is a professional beatboxer and teaching artist. He enjoys teaching and performing for audiences of all ages.

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