Exploration and curiosity at Where We Are

2 September 2021

This project’s title captures its exploratory and curious nature. Being a part of this growing community has been as much a privilege as an ever-expanding learning experience. As we emerge from the grips of national lockdowns and a global pandemic, our sense of where we are is an unmapped territory. Over the last 13 weeks, we have come together, an hour at a time, to share, create and play. In our parks, under the shiny (sometimes very colourful) gazebo when it rains and under the trees in the sun. This summer has brought with it: cornflour drumming, chia painting, berries buttons, bubbles, wild-flowers, umbrellas and water-fights, mess, dinosaurs, ice eggs, seaweed, chalk, spaghetti nests, lots of laughter and of course, baby disco! Each week has been an opportunity to learn. Getting to know each other and develop our group-connection has been a silver lining to the shadow of the past year.  

Observing how each young participant engages, plays and enjoys the creative play and music week has re-enforced the importance of early years art / music making. Whether an individual has a favourite instrument, or if the cabasa becomes a part of a trajectory schema (most notable when a wee one is dropping, throwing or exploring linear movements) Whether drumsticks are better for teething or if they can be lined up forming a rotation schema in its pattern, we’ve seen such a range in play styles, bringing together each individual of the group.  

One afternoon, in our park, under the swaying beech trees. Three participants converged on one drum. It is a battered old bodhran, its skin is coloured from weeks of natural dyes, chalks and paints, its rim chipped from wild drumstick strokes. But this week, in this session, at this moment, this drum became a meeting place of three young drummers. Our trio have, for around 12 weeks, explored with drumstick in hand, typically taking turns at the big drum, the lowest note of the session, its heartbeat.  However, this afternoon, the three have been reunited around the drum. I noticed that there was only one drumstick left for the others in the session, one of the three was playing with both hands at the same time. This complex series of neural actions and muscle movement showing the deep need for rhythmic play with early years participants is even more impressive when one stood back to analyse the scene further, where, typically the participants have been led by the team in rhythmic play or a given pulse / beat or groove. The pulse, play and beat in the session was being created and maintained by the three drummers. Actively leading the session on with their group-drumming.  

 I have been lucky to have played drums since I was little, and if I had not, I would have missed this scene of development in our young participants. The transitory nature of music, leaves a creative form filled with such fleeting moments, that one could simply have missed the creation and sharing of pulse between our trio of musicians on their big drum.  

“For an infant to enter into the sharing of meaning he{she/they} has to be in communication, which may be another way of saying sharing rhythm…. The problem is how two or more organisms can share innate biological rhythms in such a way as to achieve communication which can permit transmission of information they do not already share.” (Bullowa, 1979) 

Information about who, how, what, why and where we are playing is transmitted unconsciously through shared music making. It is now known that, ‘Infants activate the many parts of their body with an exquisite sense of time, and that they can use the rhythms of expression skilfully to imitate in inter-synchrony with attentive responses from an adult.’ (Trevarthen 2018) Seeing this synchronisation of the trio’s beat, their shared sense of pulse and ability to produce these sounds speaks volumes on the importance of coming together in a safe space to play and explore creatively. As Colwyn Trevarthen writes: 

“It is the compassionate use of music to engage another emotionally, interpersonally, cognitively, and culturally. Music is therapeutic because it attunes to the essential efforts that the mind makes to regulate the body, both in its inner neurochemical, hormonal and metabolic processes, and in its purposeful engagements with the objects of the world, and with other people” (Trevarthen and Malloch, 2000).  

What a special privilege it is to observe such engagements, to see play as a medium of communication through our rhythmically bound – preverbal participants. As we enter the autumn, I look forward with anticipation to the developments of our community, how our mess, our art and our music will reflect our growth into the colder days and golden evenings.  





Bullowa, M., ed. (1979). Before Speech: The Beginning of Human Communication. London: Cambridge University Press. 

Trevarthen, C., and Malloch, S. (2000). The dance of wellbeing: defining the musical therapeutic effect. Norwegian J. Music Ther. 9, 3–17.