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McDonald, M. (1970). Transitional Tunes and Musical Development. Psychoanal. St. Child, 25:503-520.

(1970). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 25:503-520

Transitional Tunes and Musical Development

Marjorie McDonald, M.D.


The Suzuki method of teaching young children to play the violin roused my interest in musical development and led me to the concept of a "transitional tune" as an important early experience in the development of some musicians. In his original article on transitional phenomena Winnicott included sounds and tunes among the wide range of normal transitional experiences.

Confirmation for the concept of a transitional tune comes from direct observation of young children, from biographical and autobiographical accounts of the early lives of musicians, and from music itself, in the form of lullabies and cradle songs. The word "lullaby" is an onomatopoeic word, composed of 'lull" and "bye," and thus a lullaby is a song offered to an infant as a lulling comfort at the time of a separation. By definition, the lullaby is a song intended for use as a transitional tune, and the words of many lullabies express this function of the music.

Finally, I have proposed a developmental line for music, in which the "transitional tune" stage occupies an early and probably an important position. The success of Suzuki's method of teaching the violin to young children seems to be based on its close adherence to and support of this natural developmental line for music.

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