I’ll be at ACDA Eastern Division in Baltimore tomorrow, obviously, but I was also in Baltimore last weekend for the Music, Mind, Meaning conference. It was very interesting, and I was compelled to share one of the studies with my choir last night, and they made a connection that I thought was wonderful, and I wanted to share it.
Laurel Trainor from McMaster University presented a study in which a researcher bounced babies–14 month old toddlers, really–in a room with another researcher. The second researcher either bounced syncronously or asyncronously with the first researcher. And then later, the toddler was presented with an opportunity to help the second researcher by picking up a pencil she dropped.
There were videos of babies bouncing and helping, and it was very cute.
Turns out babies were much, much more likely to help researchers who bounced syncronously than asyncronously (or not at all).
So I turned on the metronome in rehearsal last night, like I do pretty regularly. They choir were annoyed; they find the noise irritating, but I have yet to find an electronic, amplify-able metronome sound that is sonorous and lovely. (Get on it, app designers!) I play the metronome on purpose to entrain them, and I figured they would hate it less if they understand the reason. So I explained about entrainment, pendulums, etc. They immediately thought of the scene from Dead Poet’s Society with the marching in step, and how it was Robin Williams’ illustrations of the temptation to conformity, but I said that actually such a natural inclination towards cooperation is one of the reasons the human race survived. I told them about the toddler bouncing/helping study.
And one alto said, “is that why a choir feels like a family?”
Holy mazoly, do I love my choir.
Yes, intelligent alto: that is one of the reasons a choir feels like a family.
I’m going back to Baltimore tomorrow to participate in in the larger scale family that is choral musicians from all over the northeast. I’m pretty excited.