The creation story as a listening space for children. Audiopaedia in main lesson

By Nadine Mescher, February 2021

From the very beginning of school, the children practise many important skills using the qualities of sound and silence – not only in music lessons, but also daily in the rhythmical part of the main lesson. Listening is at the centre of the exercises and games. Listening, attuning the listening, listening to each other. How can a child learn this?

Photo: © Charlotte Fischer

“You can only learn to hear by listening,” says audio teacher Reinhild Brass. Some people are probably wondering – you don’t really have to learn to hear, do you? After all, the ear is the first sensory organ that begins its activity in the womb. Besides, ears cannot simply be closed like eyes. You have to actively cover them with both hands to simply not hear anything. But in today’s world, full of noise, sounds and sensory stimuli, a new and conscious approach to our own hearing has become important in educational work. For the question arises what the many external, often artificial auditory impressions do to the children: traffic noise, computer sounds, muzak and many other unconsciously perceived noises sources surround us. When is there any silence? Because silence can also be a profound field of experience.

Fortunately, within the framework of an education of the hearing we can find many ways to perceive and reach children. In doing so, many skills can be fostered. Moments of silence become recuperative. The different sounds and the silence meet the child’s soul and spiritual being and lead to a profound inner experience. If a child over time experiences and learns to listen as part of audio education, it can also surrender to the flow of sounds and music to a special extent. It is then literally nourished by them.

The core of audio education is listening

Initial sound experiences through movement, with bronze rods, woods and sound balls can become “sound stations” in the course of the school years which pave the way to a listening space. Reinhild Brass developed her concept of the “listening space” from the experience that the natural sound alone of certain instruments, played one after the other in alternation with phases of silence, leads to relaxation in exhausted people after only a short time. Everyday school life also shows: by the time children arrive in class in the morning, they have already heard and seen a lot. A certain sensory overload leads to them switching off even before school starts. If the children are now allowed to arrive with relaxing sounds, they quickly recover and become more open to everything new.

Allowing deep listening to natural sounds and letting them act within us is the core of audio education. My class 3 has had many special listening experiences since they started school. In the creation story main lesson, they themselves actively created a listening space for the first time – and this after not being together as a whole class for five long months due to the coronavirus crisis and having to deal with some constraints.

Creation out of sounds

On the first day of the main lesson, we talked together about all the things that have been introduced into this world because of human beings. The children then imagined a world without the things that were created by human hands. A lively discussion ensued in class about what that would look like on earth today. It was not difficult for the children to imagine nature without buildings, machines and other things. They immediately saw untouched nature clearly in front of them. Almost by itself, the question arose as to who could have actually made this untouched world. In a story, the children listened to how the world was still desolate and empty, filled with darkness. But God already carried the Word and the angels in his heart and his spirit.

With this inner image, we started the artistic work on the second day of class. The sound experiences we had gathered in the first years of school helped us. The darkness was to be created by the sound of a gong. No, the class did not think iron was suitable. It was quickly agreed that it should be the copper gong and many children volunteered to play it. It was already noticeable that the gong was played well at the first attempt. Although there were no particular instructions how it should be used, not a single child played it inappropriately loud or long.

In addition, God’s angels beginning their work was accompanied by the playing of Koshi chimes, which immediately caused great satisfaction in the class. Koshi chimes with their spherical sound from tuned bronze rods which are touched by swinging glass balls in a bamboo frame are extremely popular in the class anyway and guarantee a relaxed mood. Thus a good foundation for further joint work was laid on this day. Afterwards, the story of the first day of creation was told, when God said “Let there be light” for the first time.

The following day, the children repeated the start of creation with the different sounds. They used the heart-shaped sounding bowl, the four different Koshi chimes and again the copper gong. It was quiet and they attuned their listening together. First the heart-shaped sounding bowl sounded, after a short moment of silence four children played the Koshi chimes, and finally the gong sounded. Already at this early stage of jointly working like this, they listened to each other, real teamwork was achieved. This developed completely intuitively and very harmoniously.

Sometimes some of the children wanted to whisper to the class or give a sign what should be played and when. So there was then the “rule” that everyone who plays an instrument is allowed to listen and decide for themselves when it is their turn – even if one might feel differently oneself. The instruments were changed twice more on this day and the first experience of attuning one’s listening, the alternation between silence and sound, noticeably created a calm and balanced mood in the class. The foundation stone for a small listening space was laid.

Just as creation became richer and richer in the daily telling of it, the diversity of sounds also developed. The creation story sounded a little different every day – and yet it was always possible to hear how the powers of creation increasingly brought the initially dark world to life. After only a few days of lessons, it was noticeable that the children developed a subtle feeling for which instrument could sound particularly appropriate and when. In the further course of the main lesson, a small prime tone lyre (light), the pentatonic carillon (rainbow), a bowl with small stones (land), a shell chime (air), a large basin full of water (water), a chime made of nuts (animals) and many other special sounds were used, selected by the children.

Whereas in the beginning most of the children were still open to all sounds and wanted to play and try out the different instruments themselves, in the second week they increasingly found “their” sound, which they themselves particularly liked and which they then wanted to play.

All in all, we had more instruments than children in the class. But on some days, some children did not put themselves forward to play a sound. They preferred to just listen. Sometimes there were listeners and sometimes not – days without sounds, on the other hand, did not happen. Everything was allowed. So not every instrument had to be played every day. Just as the children wanted the sounds to be, so the creation of the world presented itself tonally on the respective day. And it was always harmonious. After we had made the six days of creation sound together, we repeated this on the following days. In terms of content, we learned that with the animals God was already very close to the creation of human beings and that everything he had created up to that point was found again in the human being. The sun in the heart, water in the blood, air in the breathing.

Now the time had come to let the “human being” sound in their diversity. Their “creation” was already a first own listening space in miniature, which was no longer guided. While in the beginning there was only the very timid sound of individual instruments, increasingly there was also an interplay between them, which was, however, pleasant to hear throughout. The fact that the children were able to combine sounds appropriately was both surprising and fascinating. The fish in the water were an interplay of a small sounding bowl and the water bowl. The birds in the air, on the other hand, were an interplay of a likewise quite small sounding bowl and an “airy” shell chime. So it wasn’t surprising that the children also portrayed the human being tonally as woven together from everything.

Not just the children learnt a lot

In dealing with the creation story in an audio educational way, it was noticeable that the class coalesced more as a community and was able to strengthen its communicative skills. In changing sounds and weaving them together, the children showed themselves not only increasingly flexible and ready to make changes, but also enthusiastic and creative. The lofty goal of surrendering to and drawing from the flow of the sounds and the silence was achieved many times over.

From an educational point of view, there was a lot to observe and learn: how does a child reveal themselves in playing with others? Can they attune their listening? Do they get into the flow of the sounds? Do they get involved and stay involved? How do they handle the different instruments? What sounds are elicited from them? All this led to a deeper understanding of the nature of the individual child and their individual way of learning.

About the author: Nadine Mescher is a class teacher and audio teacher at the Free Waldorf School in Hamm. She has an MA in Social Sciences, is a health educator and blogger (Montagskindblog – Waldorflehrerin.Art.Blog).


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