Music and Childhood: The Listening Experience Database of Open University and the Child Pilot

Helen Barlow explains the relevance children’s experience of music in the past and how to find the historical evidence for it

David Leeuw with his Family, 1671. Rijksmuseum |PD
23 July 2021

Music and Childhood is one of ten pilots in the Polifonia research project into European musical heritage, and it emerges out of a previous research project, the Listening Experience Database (LED), which gathered historical accounts of ordinary people’s experiences of music. You can also find more information about the #child pilot on Polifonia website’s dedicated section

The experience and function of music in childhood – especially in children’s play – is a topic of great interest to ethnographers and educationalists. But researchers haven’t really applied an historical perspective to the place of music in children’s lives in the past – and, picking up the legacy of LED – that is what our case study on Music and Childhood aims to enable.

What was the function of music in education, play, and family and community practices and customs? Can we form a picture of how it might have changed over time? And how might it have been different for girls and boys and across social classes? What differences are there between children’s experiences of music and adults’ beliefs about its purpose for children? 

The main challenge of the case study is to identify evidence that will allow us to explore such questions. We will be searching historical texts (such as diaries, letters and autobiographies) for adult reflections on childhood experience and observations of children’s engagement with music. Most challenging of all, is it possible to find first-hand accounts by children of their experiences of music? Finding even a few such accounts would be a fantastic result.

Image: David Leeuw with his Family, 1671. Rijksmuseum |PD

Recent News

Valentina Presutti, Michel Buffa, Luc Steels, Jean-François Trubert and Enrico Daga are preparing a workshop on musical heritage and knowledge graphs for the International Semantic Web Conference (ISWC).

Valentina Presutti, Michel Buffa, Luc Steels, Jean-François Trubert and Enrico Daga are preparing a…

23 May 2022

We all live in information bubbles – there is complete agreement on that. But is it good or bad? These and other questions will be answered by the guest speakers of “Copernicus Festival 2022: Information”, starting on 17 May in Krakow.

We all live in information bubbles - there is complete agreement on that. But is it good or bad? These…

12 May 2022

We are happy to announce the third episode of the Polifonia series of seminars with experts in AI, musicology, and related fields. The Polifonia seminar #3 will take place on May 3 at 6 pm CET and will include a presentation by Mila Bertolo from McGill University (Montreal). In this third Polifonia seminar we will explore the way infants perceive lullabies and we will take a closer look at the cross-culturally consistent features in childhood melodies.

We are happy to announce the third episode of the Polifonia series of seminars with experts in AI, musicology,…

28 April 2022

With great interest Polifonia watches and takes notes on the Dutch initiative by Podiumkunst.net to unite collections of performing arts in a knowledge graph.

Podiumkunst.net is working towards a digital platform in which the Dutch performing arts heritage comes…

14 April 2022

Mari Wigham and Philo van Kemenade from Sound & Vision investigate how graph representations can help users of the CLARIAH Media Suite in their search within music collections.

Mari Wigham and Philo van Kemenade from Sound & Vision investigate how graph representations can…

8 April 2022

What can AI do for music heritage and the music industry? Polifonia experts share their perspectives

The Polifonia video interview #3 is out: Leveraging the power of AI for music heritage. Polifonia is…

28 March 2022

Check out the special itinerary dedicated to historical bells in Italy

On the Italian website of the catalogue of cultural heritage there is an itinerary dedicated to the…

25 March 2022

Frans Elsen Septet’s legacy finds new life through exciting collaboration of music historians, musicians and Podiumkunst.net

In 1970 pianist and arranger Frans Elsen went on a trip to Norway. In a cabin, in the middle of nowhere,…

10 March 2022

The second Polifonia seminar explores the WASABI dataset, and music language models

We are happy to announce the second episode of the Polifonia series of seminars with experts in AI,…

4 March 2022

Nine experts of the Polifonia consortium give their insights on the Polifonia knowledge graph and how it will unfold poorly known elements in European music history

The Polifonia video interview #2 is out: Uncovering hidden connections in music heritage. In the second…

22 February 2022

This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement N. 101004746