The Musical Playground

Global Tradition and Change in Children's Songs and Games


The Musical Playground is a new and fascinating account of the musical play of school-aged children. Based on fifteen years of ethnomusicological field research in urban and rural school playgrounds around the globe, Kathryn Marsh provides unique insights into children's musical playground activities across a comprehensive scope of social, cultural, and national contexts.With a sophisticated synthesis of ethnomusicological and music education approaches, Marsh examines sung and chanted games, singing and dance routines associated with popular music and sports chants, and more improvised and spontaneous chants, taunts, and rhythmic movements. The book's index of more than 300 game genres is a valuable reference to readers in the field of children's folklore, providing a unique map of game distribution across an array of cultures and geographical locations. On the companion website, readers will be able to view on streamed video, field recordings of children's musical play throughout the wide range of locations and cultures that form the core of Marsh's study, allowing them to better understand the music, movement, and textual characteristics of musical games and interactions. Copious notated musical examples throughout the book and the website demonstrate characteristics of game genres, children's generative practices, and reflections of cultural influences on game practice, and valuable, practical recommendations are made for developing pedagogies which reflect more child-centred and less Eurocentric views of children's play, musical learning, and musical creativity.Marsh brings readers to playgrounds in Australia, Norway, the USA, the United Kingdom, and Korea, offering them an important and innovative study of how children transmit, maintain, and transform the games of the playground. The Musical Playground will appeal to practitioners and researchers in music education, ethnomusicology, and folklore.
  • Oxford University Press; January 2009
  • ISBN 9780199718924
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF format
  • Title: The Musical Playground
  • Author: Kathryn Marsh
  • Imprint: Oxford University Press

In The Press

"Kathy Marsh makes a passionate plea for us to take serious notice of children's musical play, which, far from being extinct as many would have us believe, is alive and very well indeed. I have no doubt that ethnomusicologists, music educators and those interested in children's creativity and childhood cultures will find this a fascinating and illuminating book."--Susan Young, University of Exeter
"The Musical Playground is a landmark volume on children's musical play. Cross cultural comparisons based on the author's fieldwork in four countries are a unique contribution to the field. Researchers will appreciate the detailed explanation of her methodology; teachers will find the game transcriptions and video examples an invaluable resource. This book will become the standard reference for children's musical playground life at the beginning of the 21st century."--Dr. Eve Harwood, Associate Professor, Music Education, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
"With the arrival of The Musical Playground, there is a sense that studies of musical children have come of age. The product of sophisticated methodology and a careful weave of theory from the cross-fields of music education, ethnomusicology, and folklore, Marsh's book brings readers into close-up study of the musical styles and cultural idiosyncracies of children's play." --Patricia Shehan Campbell, Donald E. Peterson Professor of Music, University of Washington
"The detailed account of the fieldwork for The Musical Playground makes fascinating reading...The fifth and final section, Conclusions and Pedagogical Implications, contains valuable ideas for teaching and learning by drawing lessons from the playground...Great scholarship." --Play and Folklore
"This clearly written, detailed, and sophisticated work is a major contribution to the field of ethnomusicology; however, Marsh's findings also have extremely important practical implications for music-education pedagogy, curriculum, standards, and assessment, as well as to the field of play research." --American Journal of Play
"Marsh has established a vital foundation in the investigation of children's musical playground activities, providing a rich pool of resources including an expansive repertoire...The Musical Playground is testament to the creative energies of children in their multifaceted musical ways and is an added gold mine to existing literature and resources concerning children's musical cultures, useful and applicable for both practitioners and researchers in the field of music education, ethnomusicology and folklore." --Music Education Research
"An important contribution to the study of child culture and children's musical play. It is well written, scholarly and the music transcripts are exciting illustrations of the musical events described...A significant book. Essential reading for primary music teachers, those interested in understanding more about the folklore of children and all researchers interested in children and music, children's culture and diversity." --Australian Journal of Music Education

About The Author

Kathryn Marsh is Chair of Music Education at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, University of Sydney. With a PhD in ethnomusicology and a professional background in music education, her teaching interests relate to elementary and world music education and educational research methods. She has presented internationally on children's musical play and cross-cultural teaching and learning.