“Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” Plato said this, and it seems fitting given the topic today. direction we intend this post to go. We are here to talk about music and wandering the sonic landscapes with our partners in crime, our kids. Let’s start by discussing our experiences as children and semi-professional parents.
As a child, bands like AC/DC, STYX, Kansas, and Van Halen (not Van Haggar) ruled the airwaves. Not to mention the countless number of big-hair balladeers… Diamond Dave was telling us to “Jump.” So my parents followed their lead, and we jumped right into music at an early age. This was nearly 30 years ago, and the memories are still very clear. Music gave us something to connect with as a family, and it was also a means of exploration for my father and I. We found a certain kinship in listening to old Sabbath records. There was an autonomy and freedom of choice when it came to listening. I valued that. I appreciated the fact that I could enter into a very adult universe and not be limited by content.
The same lessons apply in our household. We attempt, in every way, to approach music with enough thought and attention to detail to raise the “analytical listener”. Therefore, our choices have been somewhat “deep” when introducing our daughter, Nadia, to music. Her listening career started before she left the womb. I recall introducing her to “Windfall” by Son Volt when my wife was 30+ weeks pregnant. Once the opening lick of Jay Farrar’s acoustic guitar fired, her tiny legs rumbled. Feeling our unborn daughter react to music in this way was a mystical, magical moment for our family. Since then, we invite many storytellers into the house. Each album we place on the turntable carries a lesson. Whether we are trying to experiment with melody, melancholy, or just spinning a good yarn, we make every effort to use music as a teaching tool. Not much is off limits in our house. Flipping a record is also a ritualistic endeavor that hones fine motor skills and preaches routine to someone who is enamored by buttons, lights, and sounds.
As far as children’s music is concerned, we have not ventured far along that path. Our choice to introduce her to adult music was largely shaped by a personal set of beliefs that emphasizes individuality and ability to make deliberate choices. Our child must be aware of her surroundings and what the world has to offer. Her rhyming and literacy can come from books, but her exploratory phase and unchained thinking can only be unwound by the strum of a classic Martin guitar or the howl of a Tom Scholz solo. To be clear, adult music offers much more in terms of creativity and self-expression to the listener than Old McDonald ever could. My wife and I often joke, “Nadia will not know the words to “Wheels On The Bus,” but you can bet she will know all the lyrics to “Turtles All The Way Down.”
Of course, it’s impossible to know if we are “doing it right” as parents. What I do know is that the music I listened to as a child helped me expand my listening choices as an adult, and my wife and I can only hope to give the same experience to our daughter. By showing her the wide and varied world of music now, she will have the tools to make her own informed and unique choices in the future.
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