Friday, March 26, 2010

The Sound of Music

Music is integral in our culture and has been for thousands of years.  There is no disputing that fact.  I am, in fact, a musician.  Well, I was anyways.  In the highest-level band in highschool, I took lessons to hone my skills as a classical flutist.  I was part of a band (At the time the BHS Symphonic Band conducted by Florida Bandmasters Association Hall of Fame inductee Paula Thornton, but Ms. Thornton has retired and the Symphonic Band has since re-named,) that accrued many prestigious awards including the Otto J. Kraushaar Award.  Needless to say, music is firmly ingrained in my soul.

Classical and band music aren't my only bread and butter, though.  A lot of genres appeal to me.  Staring me in the face as I type are albums from the artists and bands Regina Spektor, Sublime, Nine Inch Nails, Norah Jones, Poison, Green Day, Against Me!, Pink Floyd, Rob Thomas, Santana, Apocalyptica, and Simon and Garfunkel.

I have to tell you - my kids listen to all of them with me!  Now, I've gotten a lot of flack when people learn that my five year old knows some of these bands well enough to request them by name.  The look of shock, for example, when she asks me to put on Green Day instead of Nine Inch Nails.  The question of "Don't you think that letting her listen to music like that is BAD for her?"

My answer is very simple and very blunt.  No, I don't.

I believe that children should be exposed to as much cultural diversity as possible, and I think that holds true with music, film and art, as well.  Yes, even the music, film and art that includes naked bodies, the word fuck, homosexual relationships, political rebellion, religious disbelief and all of the emotions the humanimal is capable of producing.  Subjecting them (and me) to toned-down kids bop and other various thematic children's music is insulting to both me and them.

I don't think that children should grow up in a bubble, and that especially includes the music they're exposed to.  Between learning to discern the mechanics of the music itself and the deep cultural impact, I think that it's crucial to a child's early developing sense of self and community to allow them to experience as much as possible.  I agree that it must be done with discretion, though.  While I acknowledge that my daughter greatly enjoys looking at photos of tattoos and body murals, watching Shaun of the Dead  and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and singing happily along with Sublime's 40 oz. to Freedom, allowing her to look at photographs of murder scenes, watching most of the nightly news and playing NIN's Closer on repeat are probably pushing the limits even for me.

So, Parents... What are the Sounds of Music in your home?  


  1. I agree 100%; from when we first brought Miles home we stuck to the music and movie routine business as usual.

    It turned out that as a newborn, if we couldn't get him to sleep we would put him in his baby swing and turn on Dr. Horrible. It worked magic. (As a side effect, he'll watch anything with Felicia Day or Nathan Fillion for about five minutes in utter fascination, before moving on.)

  2. I wrote a post about this a couple of months ago (House of Cards), about how my kindergartner was belting out "I don't want to be your friend, I just want to be your lover" in the car one day and I decided as a result to make a playlist of kids songs. But I can only listen to Rainbow Connection so many times and forgo the temptation to steer my car into oncoming traffic to we came back around to Radiohead. We're all happier for it.

  3. @Ashley: Kinder Major used to get songs from the Buffy musical as lullabies, and Bug totally gets Dr. Horrible songs as lullabies. The Whedons are made of so much win it hurts.

    @K: You know, I think we're raising our children not incorrectly by exposing them to the music we prefer, but rather with character. At least that's what I tell Kinder Major's teacher when she asks why my child will occasionally belt out "HOW CAN YOU HAVE ANY PUDDING IF YOU DON'T EAT YOUR MEAT???" before snack.