Children and music-animal pairs

peter & the wolf

In a study of the development of children’s ability to relate musical forms to extramusical concepts, four- and six-year-old children matched appropriate animal pictures to excerpts from Sergej Prokof’ev’s Petya i volk (Peter and the wolf) significantly better than chance, but identified the wolf and bird more readily than the cat and duck excerpts.

Three-year-olds participating in a simplified version of the task experienced a comparable order of difficulty in matching the various music-animal pairs.

A third experiment replicated the first, but with the less familiar music of Camille Saint-Saëns’s Le carnaval des animaux. Again, performance was above chance, increasing the likelihood that children’s success in the first two experiments was not attributable to previous exposure to the music.

This according to “The development of referential meaning in music” by Sandra E. Trehub and Laurel J. Trainor (Music perception: An interdisciplinary journal  IX/4 [summer 1992] pp. 455–70).

Above, a still from Disney’s Peter and the wolf; below, the Saint-Saëns work.

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