Drumming in excess and chaos

music, literacy and sustainability in early years learning

Sarah Powell*, Margaret Somerville

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Citations (Scopus)


For children born in the 21st century, the enmeshing of natural and human forces in the survival of the planet requires conceptual and practical innovation. This paper comes from a project funded by the Australian Research Council investigating the integration of literacy and sustainability in early years learning. The methodology employed was ‘deep hanging out’, the purpose of which is to observe without bias or assumption. This paper focuses on a video from a preschool depicting children playing drums and percussion instruments outside, in the playground. We consider the nature of literacy differently, conceptualizing literacy+sustainability within the context of the more-than-human, intra-active world. In our example, the drumming ebbs and flows in intensity, children come and go, rhythms merge then diverge; a chaos of sound and
vibration, a refrain of rhythm, movement and bodies, driven by the excess of the earth’s energy and musical force. We see children communicate a sense of the world – with drums, each other, earth – sustained by the vitality of place, the materiality of drums and sound, the energy of earth and the movement of bodies. In this example, we extend the conversation around what literacy and sustainability might look like, offering possibilities for producing new knowledge about literacy and new understandings of sustainability.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Early Childhood Literacy
Early online date14 Aug 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Aug 2018



  • literacy
  • sustainability
  • music
  • sound
  • early childhood
  • intra-action
  • more-than-human

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