The Pedagogy of emotion
Sharing my enthusiasm for music, enchanting with my violin by casting a magic spell on the listener, enables me to educate not so much "in" music as "with" music, to awaken sensitivities and emotional capacities.
Indeed, fostering musical experiences in others helps them to develop their emotional awareness.
Researchers are realizing more and more the degree to which the emotional development of children can influence their mental state and thence their physical state.
We dedicate a lot of time to teaching our children how to behave at table or how to dress, yet we expect them to be able to learn by themselves how to handle complex emotions such as anger, sadness and frustration.
Learning to identify and understand feelings is a valuable opportunity to get to know and understand oneself, to get to know and understand others, and to accept one's own affectivity and that of others.
From the "Gomantak Times" daily newspaper of April 7th 2009:
Sara's project in India entitled 'The Strains of Violin' in collaboration with the Indo-Italian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IICCI) and under the patronage of the La Fenice Theatre (Venice) sets out to share the experience of the violin sound through live performances of a wide range of music from Venice.
Her extensive background of music and theatre enables her to achieve a holistic approach to education. The main focus of her project is getting to find self expression and emotional awareness through music. How wonderful to get them experiencing and responding at a young age.
She has also worked with Indian women to pull down the strict walls of 'correctness' ingrained in them and helped them get in touch with their emotional selves.
While language creates barriers in communication, the non-verbal modes of dance, theatre and music remove those barriers.
The raw materials of any musician are feelings: the feelings contained in the sheet music, the feelings which define the musician him/herself and above all the feelings which the musician manages to convey to the listener.
The main aim of the musician is to be a go-between, to make the listener experience ecstasy, getting him/her out of their everyday persona and helping them live those totalizing experiences which we do not habitually live in depth: joy, sorrow, passion, fully letting oneself go.
It is natural to associate sounds with feelings.
The strains of a violin are ideal for conveying different feelings to different listeners: reminiscent of a human voice, easy to transport, eclectic, present in most cultures all over the world, the violin is the instrument of choice for approaching the most diverse sensitivities and traditions, in the Middle East or in the Americas, in Europe or in Asia.
Just as the study of one's chosen musical instrument continues, in a never-ending quest, for one's whole life, so the learning of emotions and feelings is a long, gradual and never-ending process.
If, as Barenboim observed, "Music is … a physical expression of the human soul", then it is the art best suited to approaching people's affective sphere.
Following the activities of the project The Strains of Violin in South East Asia the kids are thinking about their future and taking steps to work toward it.
Mei Tan, coordinator of the activities in Pondok Taruna Orphanage, 26.07.2011
The importance of a good understanding of one's own affectivity has been examined in research and studies carried out by psychologists, biologists and sociologists: they have proved that 'emotionally intelligent' children are generally more self-confident, achieve better grades at school, have fewer behavioural problems, contract fewer infectious illnesses, have better relationships with their friends and with others and are better able to deal with conflict between their parents.
Moreover, good emotional health means one is better prepared to handle any difficult events which crop up in later life.
As prof. Bruno Rossi (professor of General and Social Pedagogy at the University of Siena), who has been studying emotional competence for years, says, "developing affections means boosting processes of creativity; taking care of the affective dimension of personality means protecting and increasing the originality of that person; fostering their affections means nurturing and supporting their tension towards becoming an ever more autonomous and unique being.
We live in times where communication has a vital role, and yet we are incapable of communicating; in an age where an intrusive mass-medialization and the correlated phenomena of hyper-stimulation and emotional conformity, of redundancy and affective poverty, as well as of consumerism, hedonism and stereotyping, which distract and condition subjectivity; they prepare it for a sort of affective sub-development; they prevent it from getting to know itself and recognise itself, and from being able to make autonomous and authentic choices".
It is my belief that nowadays, learning to be aware of one's own emotions and those of others can help to cultivate one's own authenticity.
Recognising how we feel, and how others feel, fosters relationships of harmony and dialogue, of coming together and solidarity.
Becoming aware of one's emotional identity is an essential foundation for the harmonious development of every one of us.
1996-2003 Mozambique, coordinator and consultant for projects for long-distance adoption programmes for disadvantaged children on behalf of the NGOs Ce.Svi.Te.M. and Kulima.
2004 Palestine, I designed and implemented the project I entitled The Strains of Violin in Palestine as musical consultant for the Palestinian Ministry of Education, in collaboration with UNDP and UNESCO.
see: The Sounds of Violin in Palestine - UNESCO Final Report - 2004
see: The Sounds of Violin in Palestine - UNDP Final Report - 2004
2004 Brazil, musical consultant for the Rio de Janeiro Centro do Teatro di Oprimido (Theatre of the Oppressed).
2005-2006 Eritrea, I designed and implemented the project entitled Introduction to music and self expression, a project targeting women and children in Asmara, in collaboration with the Filippini Religious Sisters and other local institutions.
2008-2010 India, in favour of disadvantaged children and women living in urban and suburban slums of Madras, Delhi, Madurai and Amaravathi
see: The Strains of Violin in India - Final Report - 2010
2010-2013 Indonesia, I designed and implemented the project "The Strains of Violin in South East Asia", supporting disadvantaged children living in Jakarta and Jogyakarta.
see: Strains of Violin in South East Asia - Final Report - 2010-2011
Following my informal and variegated path, which has gone through many different experiences such as the research into musical and affective pedagogy, nonviolent theories and techniques, music therapy and the Theatre of the Oppressed, I have developed my own method for facilitating the understanding of affectivities.
Through artistic, creative, and cooperative activities and games, in which music is always present, the method develops knowledge of the emotions which permeate us, first of all giving them a name (verbalization), then stimulating an understanding of feelings which are similar but have different specifics (refining) and placing value on observation, interiorization and behavioural choices in given situations (management, empathy).
The activities are carried out without any judgement, as what is "felt", the inside, is what it is and has no "right or wrong" values.
The same piece of music can be joyous for some and sad for others, yet both of these feelings are true.
In psychology, five basic principles are identified which can characterize and support emotional intelligence:
Being aware of one's own feelings and of those of others
Showing empathy and understanding the point of view of others
Controlling oneself and confronting emotional and behavioural impulses
Setting oneself objectives and making constructive plans to achieve them
Using socially positive qualities in relationships with others.
In my programme, I try to develop points 1 e 2.
I am not a psychologist and the activities that I propose derive above all from my experience as a musician: the refining of the love of beauty, the listening to a musical instrument being played live at the highest levels, the experiencing of different types of very profound music are the most original part of my offering.
I think that it is a great ambition to try to help people to use an affective language distinguished by delicacy and sensitivity, to "feel" in a congruous manner, to recognise their own affective states, to move from poor, generic, automatic and impulsive emotional behaviours to a rich, complex, conscious and controlled affectivity.
These are some of my training proposals:
2-session module for girls and boys
5-day module for children aged 6-12
5-session module for youths and adults
8-session modules for pre-school-age children
Year-long programme with daily sessions
I intend to offer these activities in particular to women and children who live in disadvantaged conditions, that is, with fewer chances to access art and holistic development experiences.
1. SINGLE SESSION
This type of session aims to introduce the beneficiaries to a new way of understanding learning, based as it is on self-expression and not on a judgement of the affectivity expressed. The encounter with the violin and the listening to pieces performed live become the pretext to get people to talk about themselves and their own emotivity and, for sessions with girls, to offer a model of female professionality.
Material: a room/open space which is free in the centre, quite a large area if possible, a soft ball, sheets of paper, pens and adhesive tape. Duration: from 20 minutes (for pre-school-age children) to an hour and three-quarters (for adolescents).
Delivered in 40 schools in Palestine and in many other schools and local associations and orphanages (in Mozambique, Brazil, Italy, India, etc.).
2. TWO-SESSION MODULE FOR GIRLS AND BOYS
Through this option, the beneficiaries are introduced to musical activities (with actions which underline listening, the rhythm and the tune) and to emotional awareness (recognition of basic emotions).
Material: a guitar, a large activity area, a soft ball Duration: each session lasts two hours, with a short ten-minute break.
Delivered in New Delhi (India) for the NGO APNE-AAP,in Jeevan Jothi Primary School and in Amaravathi School in Andhra Pradesh. (India)
3. FIVE-DAY MODULE FOR CHILDREN AGED 6-12
In five days one can help the children perceive that there are activities and expressions in their way of being which are not going to be judged, they can learn simple songs and dances, invent creative rhythms, and they can be given the chance to express themselves and perceive their own feelings more precisely.
Material: a room which is free in the centre, pictures of sculptures depicting local artists, a guitar, small percussion instruments. Duration: each lesson lasts 45 minutes.
Carried out in Madurai (India) for the HFS school; in Amaravathi college for girls, in Andhra Pradesh (India), at Muttukal Ngo Center for girls in Chennai (India) and in several other locations.
4. FIVE-SESSION MODULE FOR YOUTHS AND ADULTS
The module comprising 5 sessions of two hours each allows us to deepen the awareness of some basic emotions (happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise) through music, theatre and dance. It is a very intense manner of working and it is important that a good mediator be present.
Material: a large activity area, dressing-up clothes, sheets of paper and pens, a soft ball, a guitar, pictures and texts by local artists, adhesive tape. Duration: two hours each session. It is best to schedule the sessions several days apart from one another.
Carried out for the Life Education Centre (LEC) in AUROVILLE, (Tamil Nadu, India), for the "women's self-help group" in a Madurai (India) shanty-town and for a women's literacy group in Asmara (Eritrea).
5. EIGHT-SESSION MODULE FOR PRE-SCHOOL-AGE CHILDREN
Based on the Music Learning Theory developed by Edwin Gordon, the sessions for pre- school children aim to improve their listening and their "acculturation" through listening to live music, games, dances and short activities targeting emotional awareness.
Gordon said: "The early years of life are crucial for establishing a foundation for lifelong music development.
A child's musical experiences from birth to age five have a particularly profound impact on the extent to which she will be able to understand, appreciate, and achieve in music as an adult. Children must be exposed to a rich variety of music during these years in order to develop the necessary readiness for formal music learning when they are older.
Through music a child gains insights into herself, into others, and into life itself. Perhaps most important, she is better able to develop and sustain her imagination. "
Material: a guitar Duration: 20 minutes per session.
Delivered in the KANCHANA PAATI Pre-school in Chennai, India.
6. YEAR-LONG PROGRAMME WITH DAILY SESSIONS FOR CHILDREN AGED 6-14 AND TEACHER TRAINING
Through daily meetings over a sustained period, one can foster children's listening skills, their empathy, their musical ear and the creation of new artistic works (songs, dances, plays). In order to ensure that the task is fully understand and lasts over time, it is essential to hold regular training meetings with the children's teachers.
Material: a room which is free in the centre, large if possible. Music-making material (local musical instruments, or some made by the children themselves, a tape recorder/player, scores and lyrics of local songs). Duration: 50 minutes per lesson, 5 days a week, for about 6 months. The teacher training meetings last an hour and three-quarters and should be held at least once every two months.
Overall, teachers should have at least 4 meetings of two hours' duration. Delivered at the NGO Speed Trust, in Chennai (India), with 5 classes of 40 children each.