Musical narratives: A study of a young child's identity work in and through music-making

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The investigation of infants' and young children's early musical engagement as singers, song-makers, and music-makers has provided some insight into children's early vocal and musical development. Recent research has highlighted the vital role of interactive vocalization or 'communicative musicality' in infants' general development, including their health and well-being, and early identity work. Little research has investigated how these early vocalizations and musical interactions are taken up and used by young children as they construct an emergent identity as a musical and sociocultured being. This article draws on a three-year longitudinal project that has investigated the role of invented song-making and music engagement in 18 young children's (aged approximately 18-48 months) identity work and self-making. Data sources employed within a narrative inquiry design included parent-maintained video and paper diaries of song-making and music engagement, interviews with parents and other care-givers, and researcher observations of children in musical activity. Processes of narrative analysis and analysis of narrative were employed to analyse these data and provide a narrative account of the ways in which one 2-year-old child fashions a self through her engagement with known and invented song and music-making over a 12-month period. Findings suggest that invented song and music-making build on young children's experiences of 'communicative musicality' and provide narrative structures in which young children perform and enact multiple ways of being through musical storying and story-telling.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)403-423
Number of pages21
JournalPsychology of Music
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • communicative musicality
  • enacted identity
  • invented song
  • narrative inquiry
  • performed identity

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