making meaningful music – return of the authentic voice and songchild.org
Music, and culture, was something people created in their communities everyday. With the commodification of culture as consumer product, children are growing up learning that culture and music is something created by people for money and purchased by the rest of society. Songchild.org, a project emerging from the Faculty of Early Childhood Education at Ryerson University, has as one of it’s goals a working towards the reversal of this trend. By using the democratic mix/remix cultural tools of Web 2.0 (folk-production), the aim of Songchild.org is to help people, and in particular children, create their own music and culture again.
Nolan and Bakan’s (In Press) article Social technologies for young children: Cultural Play with Songchild.org outlines the reasons why Songchild is coming into existence, and it’s goals and aims as a cross-cultural multilingual tool for emancipatory democratic cultural folk-production. That last sentence is so dense – what I mean by it is that the article talks about how Songchild.org wants to be a virtual place where kids of all languages and backgrounds can make their own music and meaning, and play with the concepts of autonomy, production, culture and democracy.
The voice of children is notably lacking in our day to day society, both culturally speaking in a broad sense and in online Web 2.0 spaces. This has to do with the skill levels required to access extant cultural production interfaces and a real lack of online spaces that are unmediated by commercial intent, but mostly have to do with a prevalent societal attitude that discounts children’s voices as valid and important, that does not recognize children as people or citizens, and that relegates children’s voices to a limbo of immaturity and inexperience.
Another really important issue is addressed in the article as well – the fact that teachers are products of “the commercialization of experience and institutionalization of learning” (Nolan & Bakan, p.8), and have a hard time seeing outside of that paradigm to the importance beyond product, goal, achievement and purchase. Educators are given packaged curriculum and standardized testing, and the very cognitive shapes of the institutions of public education can make it extremely difficult for teachers to create change and emancipatory spaces in their classrooms. That is why the democratizing elements of the thoughtful use of technology are so important. And, likewise, the democratizing elements of making meaningful music.
The participatory nature of Songchild.org, the cultural production work it could foster, the leveling of the playing field of musical creation, and most especially the “haven for the authentic voice of childhood” (Nolan & Bakan, p.10) it could provide make it a wonderful example of the potential for virtual spaces to be excellent learning spaces for young children, where they can develop the skills to be engaged citizens reclaiming their voices.