Creative Music Activity for Children

The Institute of Creative Music Activity for Children 
Yukiko Tsubono

In 1970s, when I was a young university teacher in Kyoto, I formed a small group with several students to learn about contemporary music. We listened to John Cage, Steve Reich, Toru Takemitsu, etc., discussed them, performed their music, and held concerts every year. Gradually, our interests moved on to composing our own pieces, especially pieces for children, and to make lesson plans for children based on contemporary music, because most of the members were future music teachers. The first piece created by our group in 1973 was called “Composition no.1,” which captured the sound-scape of Kyoto (The sound of “Shishi-Odoshi at Shisen-do). It was a sort of “musique concrète” in which water sounds were changed electrically.
In addition, some of our members applied to the ISCM (International Society for Contemporary Music) competition, and one of our pieces was accepted and performed at the “World Music Days 1977” festival in Bonn. The name of the piece is “The Calling: for Children” by Chisako Takeuchi, which can be heard on the CD released by Nippon Columbia.
In the 1980s, I worked with many music teachers who wanted to explore new lesson plans based on contemporary, popular, world, and Japanese music. As well as taking these broader music genres into the classroom, they wanted to enjoy creative activities with children. I believe that their efforts have become part of the basis of the Creative Making Music in the National Curriculum Music Japan, which was revised in 2008.
In the 1990s, our group held several workshops, concerts, and festivals in which professional musicians not only in Japan, but also from abroad, were invited. These included the following: “Music for Children I,” at the 1991 “Tokyo Contemporary Music Festival” in Tokyo; “Music for Children II,” with the London Sinfonietta in 1994 in Tokyo; workshops and concerts with the London Sinfonietta in 1997/98 in Koshigaya City; “Children’s Future,” at the “World Music Days 2001” in Yokohama City, and so on.
In 1990, I named our group the “Institute of Creative Music Activity for Children.” Although the members changed from time to time, the Institute itself has continued for over 20 years and now belongs to the Graduate School of Human Science and Design at Japan Women’s University. The main members of the Institute at present are students and graduates of the Master’s Degree Course, as well as the Doctoral Course at JWU. We hold symposiums and workshops every summer, inviting musicians, teachers, and students from other universities.
Some of the workshops described in this book are from various events held by the “Institute of Creative Activity for Children,” and others are from the everyday activities of our members.
This is the first book published by our Institute, and I hope many readers will enjoy the workshop ideas created by young musicians and put them into practice themselves.

Short Comments

Musical Structures

In this chapter, we focused on some simple musical structures, namely “Repetition” and “Call and Response.” Even very young children can enjoy creative activities based on such basic structures, and we believe they can approach various kinds of music through these structures.

Musical Motifs

By finding interesting motifs in traditional Japanese as well as contemporary music, such as Takemitsu (a Japanese composer), we can create original music using the same motifs. We may even be able to enter their secret musical world led by these motifs.

Musical Scales

Musical scales are fun, and various musical scales introduce us to a richer musical world!

New Starting Points

New Starting points in creating music may lead us to the most creative activities!
Globalization and Localization in Music

In music, we can find some elements used both globally and locally, and we believe that we can experience and recognize them through creative music activities. This might be possible not only for very young children, but also for people from various cultures.