Children of two with taste for Vivaldi

Infants playing with a toy keyboard have shown researchers they have a well-defined appreciation of music. The children, aged two and three, did not mind whether the music they listened to was classical or pop, but liked it to be loud and fast.

Infants playing with a toy keyboard have shown researchers they have a well-defined appreciation of music. The children, aged two and three, did not mind whether the music they listened to was classical or pop, but liked it to be loud and fast.

They also showed a preference for well-known music. For instance, Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" was more popular than a lesser-known piece by the composer. Dr Alexandra Lamont, a psychology lecturer from Keele University, Staffordshire, is exploring children's early responses to music in a pilot study.

She had found they seemed to be more stimulated by fast, loud music that held their attention. In a study last year as part of the BBC's Child of Our Time series, presented by Lord Winston, she showed babies appeared to distinguish between familiar pieces of music.

The new study used a customised toy keyboard with four large coloured keys. Each key, when pressed, produced a different extract of music. When the children preferred a particular extract, they held the appropriate key down more often and for longer.

Sixty-one per cent of those studied preferred fast and loud music to slow and quiet music, Dr Lamont told the British Association Festival of Science at Leicester University. She said: "This is not affected by musical genres; fast and loud classical music is as popular as fast and loud pop music. the study shows us a sense of what we like and dislike about music is developed very early in life."

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