Thursday, January 10, 2008

Kid Grooves

Wow, that last post was a bit heavy. Here's another.

I recently heard Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air. He was discussing being a parent and how his 17-month-old daughter seemed to inherently know good music from bad on the radio. I thought about this and agreed, with the caveat that you are generally exposing your kids to a broad range of quality music. No Raffi, please. And just to get it out in the open right away, I do have an agenda here. I have no notion of objectivity. I want to avoid whatever music happens to fit the BritneyDuffMontanaWiggles model being played in my house when my kids are older.

But, back to the topic of kids understanding quality music. I have two examples of kids grooving to good music, from a very unscientific study based on my two kids. My son is four and a half and my daughter is seven months old. One day this past summer I was driving our son around in our decidedly unhip (but much loved) Toyota minivan. My iPod was shuffling through songs and Sufjan Steven’s song "Chicago" came on. This is a great song that can be found on his album Illinois and on the soundtrack to Little Miss Sunshine. I looked in the rearview mirror and there was my son full on banging his head to the song—fine blond hair waving everywhere. After that, he referred to this as his favorite song; and still does.

OK, a four and a half year old you can agree with, but a seven month old? I swear one day that my daughter was crying and I put on "1,2,3,4" from Feist’s album The Remainder with the hopes that a little dancing might help. Did it ever! She started smiling and growling (which at the time was her highest form of complement). Her brother came into the room and started to dance with us. We listened and danced to that song on repeat for a half an hour, until my wife came home and could nurse her. Anytime I put that on she wiggles and wants to groove out baby style.

If more evidence is required—and also a case for taking your kids to see live music—I offer up lasts years concert at the State Theatre in Ithaca, New York by Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra. My family attended this amazing concert and my son was blown away. When I asked him the next morning what he thought of the concert, he said, “It was great. I want a piano.” SCORE! So last Christmas Santa brought a very nice little used upright piano to our house, which took two roles of wrapping paper to wrap, I might add. My family also attended a Solomon Burke concert with my son, and he loved that, too. Our general concert guideline has been based on volume, as my son isn't too hip to wearing earplugs. If isn't too loud, we'll take him.

There are certainly many other musical possibilities and styles that appeal to kids. There is even some great kids music out there. If you haven’t gotten a hold of any Dan Zanes cds, they are fantastic. Zanes was a founding member of the super ‘80s band, the Del Fuegos. His albums usually include guests such as Aimee Mann, Lou Reed, John Doe, and Suzanne Vega. Another great choice is They Might Be Giants who have released both kids and adult albums.

In the end, though, I think that any music made with passion and integrity is kids’ music. I must say, though, that now that my son is 4 and a half, I do try to avoid music where the F-Bomb is dropped loudly. Call me a prude, but I don’t really relish the thought of my son yelling F*** in the middle of his pre-k class.


twitchy said...

Dude, step back from the blogger console. Great post, though. Baby girl also digs the Gotan Project.

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