‘We’re all musical when we interact with babies’

5 July 2018

The musicality of infants and very young children is remarkable and this is why music, particularly live music, is such a strong feature in early years theatre. For composer Greg Sinclair, how babies and young children experience and respond to sound was the inspiration for MamaBabaMe’s beautiful soundtrack.

Sensitivity to music appears very early on, even in the womb and it was this that inspired some of the early development of MamaBabaMe’s soundtrack.

Award-winning musician Greg Sinclair explored what we’ve learnt about foetal development and how a baby experiences sound in the womb.

“Babies respond to voices and music early on in pregnancy, although the sounds will be muffled rather like being under water. We also know that infants are often comforted by low, continuous, droney sounds – like the swishing of a washing machine for example. I wanted to experiment with this and the open-sounding cello drone and cyclical melodies that play throughout MamaBabaMe’sopening sequence were inspired by this idea.

We’re all musical when we interact with babies

“Babies also respond to their caregivers’ voices. There’s often a beautiful musicality to adult dialogue with infants – a conversational singing, in a fairly high pitch, soft tone with lots of repetition. I wanted this to be reflected in MamaBabaMe’s music too.”

Little ones are open to hearing something new

MamaBabaMe’starget age range of 0-3 means that Greg had to consider the huge developmental changes that children undergo during their first three years.

“As they grow and become physically stronger young children need to have the space to move with the music if that’s what they want to do, particularly once they’re able to crawl and walk. This was taken into account in the set design but also in the way the accompanying music evolves throughout the performance.

“I’ve created several musical scores for early years theatre and I love the freedom it gives you to be a bit more experimental. When I started out I thought early years music had to be gentle and safe, but in fact very young children, particularly toddlers, love playful beats.

“There’s also always an element of unpredictability when performing with a young audience and so by building in an element of improvisation the performers can be more responsive. No two MamaBabaMes are exactly the same.”

Live music is a multi-sensory experience

One constant, no matter what our age, is the power of music to touch something deep inside us.

“I always hear people commenting on how their child loves music. Most people listen to less music in a communal way as they get older but with the under 5s, even if their parents don’t think they are musical, there’s often a lot of music going on. It’s natural for young children to have a musical life and that’s why it’s so important in early years theatre.

“Experiencing live music in particular can be really powerful for young children. Not only can they hear it, but they can see it and feel it too. A cello is such a large, resonant object. With the audience on the floor they can often feel the vibrations of its sound.”

MamaBabaMe is a beautiful dance, physical theatre and live music experience created especially for babies and children aged 0-3 and their grown-ups – a co-produced by Starcatchers and Curious Seed.

Greg Sinclair is an award-winning musician and performance artist. He composed the music that is performed by Robin Mason in MamaBabaMe.

Greg has worked with companies including Lung Ha, Dundee Rep, Fish & Game, Macrobert, Frozen Charlotte as well as Starcatchers in several roles over the years, from performing in shows such as Peep andYarla and The Winter Wood to leading music workshops as part of the Creative Skills programme.

Greg Sinclair delivers training for Starcatchers’ Creative Skills programme and Starcatchers’ Commissioned Training.

Download Starcatchers’ Commissioned Training Booklet