Educational CyberPlayGround ®

Rhythm Syllables

Date: Sat, 1 Nov 1997

Subject: - Re: Rhythm

Laurie Zentz wrote me a letter asking me why I read "Cuckoo, where are you?" as "quart quart eighth-eighth quart." I figured that while I'm at it, I may as well post the message to the whole group, just in case I didn't get my point across the first time.

It seems to me that it is twice as much work, for both the student and myself, to deal with two names for each note value. For reading rhythms, any one-syllable name for each note value would suffice, so why not use the first syllable of the correct name?

The Montessori system of teaching reading might be a good analogy. According to the Montessori teachers, in order to read the word "man," all you have to know is that the first letter has an /m/ sound, the second letter has an /a/ sound, and the third letter has an /n/ sound. You don't have to know that the first letter is an em, the second letter is an ay, and the third letter is an en. In fact, it might be better if you DIDN'Tknow that!

So instead of calling the letters em, ay, and en, Montessori teachers call those letters /m/, /a/, and /n/.

I'm curious about what my music theory professor would say about all this.

He wishes to limit his analytical symbols to Roman numerals followed by Arablic numerals, and he is very much in disfavor of the exotic terms which are brought in by veterans of other music theory classes.

("Neopolitan is an ice cream, you idiot!") In one session, he went on to express his opinion of the Cutesy anatomical names which parents teach their children, only to have to un-teach those names when it comes time.

He has a similar opinion of parents telling their children that there is a Santa Claus, only for their children to suffer trauma when the inevitable security leak happens.

I realize that the meaningful words advocated in the Colley (1987) study are easy for children to learn. It would be nice if triplets were commonly called Washingtons and quadruplets were commonly called Mississippis; that would resolve our dilemma.