30 May 2016
Recently, I decided to try to get E. listening to more music, in an effort to help her improve her speech. So I pulled up some children's music on YouTube and tried listening to it with her. After a few songs, I went back to the computer and switched to a channel of Broadway songs. Much better. But it got me thinking.
I was a 90's kid, but I know next to nothing about the music of 80's and 90's. My family listened to NPR and to a collection of records, tapes, and CDs that, while diverse, skewed heavily towards classical, folk, and Broadway music. I could blame my lack of knowledge about pop music on my parents (Mom always said she needed to give me something to talk to my therapist about), but that's not really fair. They love music and listen to a lot of different things, but they also have well-formed opinions about what they want to listen to, and well, a lot of pop stuff isn't really on that list. We did listen to a number of Christian artists, but all of them were more musically interesting than a lot of the popular worship songs today seem to be (at least as far as I remember; I've been in the Anglican world of hymns for the last couple years and completely out of touch with what's in with the rest of the North American church right now).
I was content to listen to what we had available at home for a long time and didn't start seeking other genres out until I was nearly out of high school, and even then I limited myself mostly to Christian pop music because that's what a lot of my friends listened to and I wanted to know what they were talking about. And it seemed safer; like I was exploring something that was off-limits but wouldn't actually get me in trouble. My teenage rebellion was very reserved in that way (my really big rebellion was going to a play audition without permission and then I felt horrible about it and cried for hours).
These days I'm thinking about how I knew most of the words to all the songs in The Secret Garden and Les Miserables but had only the faintest idea of who Madonna was. Angsty teenage me wasn't listening to Ani diFranco but to Simon and Garfunkel. I was busy memorizing lyrics to traditional British folk songs while some kids I went to school with were starting a metal band. Picking up a few CDs of Christian rock music when I was about sixteen seemed edgy in a weird way. It wasn't what my family listened to, and Avalon and the Newsboys were out of place in my collection that included the cast recordings of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown and Wicked and the second CD by Nickel Creek. I was still the geeky teenager blasting PDQ Bach's "1712 Overture" out the windows as I drove to community college. But I listened to my new music religiously (hah) and sang along when I was alone in the car and then when I went off to university, I got another music education from my peers.
My roommate introduced me to a few other Christian bands whose music I still actually enjoy sometimes and my boyfriend made me listen to The Arrogant Worms. I listened to more Celtic music and cemented my love of it and then borrowed my brother's Celtic CDs whenever I was home from school. I got more daring in the music I listened to - I learned that I really did enjoy rock music and sometimes found it excellent for studying. Another friend was playing Regina Spektor once and I found myself hunting through the CD section at the store for one of her albums.
Later my knowledge of music broadened as I listened to podcasts and then more as I watched the first seasons of Glee and got my first real exposure to pop music. I swear, I don't think I'd ever really heard any of Brittany Spear's music until the episode featuring her songs. I admittedly don't like all pop music but I do enjoy some of what's out there. I sometimes pick up other songs that I like from music used on television shows that I enjoy. I found a couple of artists I really enjoyed from watching Castle, for example.
These days, our go-to car music is CBC Radio 2. E. is growing up listening to the variety of music they have on offer there, paired with whatever my current obsession is. Last winter it was most of the songs in Rent. Right now it's a mix of folk and indie music, and occasionally Broadway songs and a lot of Great Big Sea. I'm sprinkling in some children's music, too, just so she has stuff with vocabulary that she can follow more easily. There was a mix of children's music I picked up at the library recently that's performed by a variety of different artists and I liked most of that.
The appreciation of music I gained from my parents' choices in music has made me want to impart that to my own child. My parents didn't censor our music - I learned about prostitution and suicide from Les Mis and adultery from Into the Woods, and realized after a while that one of the really lovely songs from Once on This Island was basically about the main characters having sex with each other (also learned quite a bit about racism from that musical). Our family typically didn't listen to things with profanity in them (other than Paul Simon's The Capeman but my mom usually skipped the songs with swear words or very explicit lyrics in them when we kids were in the room), but otherwise didn't fuss so much about the content of the songs. I don't object to the occasional swear word, so there are a few songs that I will listen to around my child that other parents would probably skip over (though there are some that I still object to, like Book of Mormon's "Hasa Diga Eebawai" because holy profanity, Batman! That one goes way too far for me - there's judicious, thoughtful use of profanity and then there's that).
I'm still searching out more children's music that we can all enjoy. I can listen to Raffi and Fred Penner without the songs driving me nuts, but there's a lot of really mediocre children's music out there. To be fair, there's just a lot of mediocre music out there in general. If that means we're listening to Candide instead of whatever's in for E.'s generation, well, she can always catch up later, like I did. And then she can complain about how we deprived her of the music her peers liked to her therapist when she grows up.