CHAT: Music Matters

Music is an integral part of this household. Our tastes are eclectic, it can shape our mood and the kids have definitely developed a shared passion for groovin to a beloved beat.

This week I’m treating you to the musings of my fantastic friend Sarah who shares our love for music and who has some interesting thoughts for how it affects her and her family.

Sarah is a fellow American. She and I met as students in London in autumn 2002. It was our first night out in our new city in the illustrious Bar Rumba when she me the dashing philosopher academic Rik- fast forward 12 years, a international move, a few cities, a Phd, law degree, and two beautiful children later (3 years and under 1), they are a transatlantic love story that can give you goose bumps and just a really cool crew (US based) that we love to have as friends….

How would you summarise your musical tastes and who are your favourite artists/bands?
To say it’s eclectic sounds like a cop out, but it’s true. We listen to a lot of jazz in this house – Dexter Gordon, Chet Baker, Red Garland, Errol Garner, Vince Guaraldi. I grew up with a lot of classical music (and I was trained in violin and piano which exposed me to a lot as well) so I have a real love and appreciation for classical – especially for piano, i.e. Chopin, Liszt, the Beethoven Piano Sonatas. And so I don’t sound TOO old, I love and listen to a wide range of pop, rock, indie rock, and funk as well. I am by no means cutting edge, I’m probably 5 years behind what’s cool or hip these days (read: I have small children). I will always always love Radiohead, but lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Real Estate, Hotel Lights, Grizzly Bear, the National. I also am digging Mayer Hawthorne mixed in with the greats – Curtis Mayfield, James Brown, Stevie Wonder… I worry that I’m leaving out too much -Fela Kuti! 60’s French pop!-, but I’ll keep it at that as I don’t think you intended for this to be a compendium of all of the music, ever.

What influence does music have on your family life?
I think music really sets the mood in your house, and life, really. I make an effort to have music on the majority of the time when we’re home (although it is nice to have quiet sometimes too). What I choose will depend on what we’re doing – during the day it’s mostly jazz or classical in the background while the kids are playing or we’re in the kitchen baking or working on an art project.

I know for myself that if I’m in a mood, turning on some music is the best and quickest way to turn it around and I think the same goes for kids. When it gets to be about 4 o’clock and the kids are in that late afternoon/pre-dinner prickly phase I like to get a dance party going to keep the energy up and the tantrums to a minimum. This is when the playlist gets embarrassing and the dance moves are even worse, but it’s so much fun and I love watching Sadie work it out with zero inhibitions. It keeps us all sane as I find this to be the hardest part of the day with young children. It also means that when dad walks in the door after work, he’s coming home to a house where we’re having fun and are happy to see him, not one tantrum away from losing our minds!

In the evenings after little ones are down to sleep we often have music on, but usually it’s quiet and subdued – and with a glass of wine!

Has your typical play list grown / changed since having kids?
I’d say that my play list has shrunk since having kids, if anything. I tend to rely on old favorites or the same Pandora playlists rather than exploring new music. This is mostly out of convenience – with little ones now we rarely make it out to gigs, nor do I really make much of an effort to follow and listen to new artists. Well, that question did a good job of shaming me into making more of an effort!

Do you prefer to play the kids chirpy kiddie children’s songs or grown up music? Or both? Why?
Ugh, no chirpy kiddie music in this house. I can’t do it… I find it all too bright and over the top. I think the exposure to music is the most important part, not what you are listening to. Little sing-song melodies find a way into our lives through songs I sing from my childhood or silly songs we make up. When Sadie was an infant we attended a Music Together class (a music and movement class for moms and babies/kids) and while we enjoyed the social interaction side of it I would never pop in its CD of children’s songs outside of the classroom. Mostly that has to do with my taste, but I do recognise the value of repetition for young kids and so we often sing the same tunes throughout our day (we love the songs from the Sound of Music) and it’s been a real joy to hear Sadie learning the lyrics and singing songs on her own. The holiday season has brought lots of Christmas songs with kid-friendly lyrics into our lives. We also love to make up our own lyrics or “scat” to instrumental melodies – both of our little ones will be in peels of laughter when we incorporate silly words or sounds into songs they know.

I do limit the television/videos Sadie watches, but one show she’s enjoyed is Little Einsteins, which introduces a classical melody in each episode and repeats it throughout. I’ve been impressed that when we’re listening to classical music in the car or at home and she hears the same melody, she recognises it and will sing or hum along.

Ask Sadie what her favourite song is. What did she say?
***Unedited*** “I like cat songs!” followed by a series of “doodle-bop, beedle-bah, doo-dah” and a some twirls and jumps.

Thanks Sarah! I knew it would be a treat- we also loooove our dance parties. I don’t know what happened to Little Einsteins on TV in the UK but I also rated that show. I’d like to see Sadie and C scat it out together!

So how does music affect your family life, and what are you listening to?

CHAT is a weekly interview series and throwback to my journalism days, where I loved the art of writing questions that evoke interesting, insightful stories. CHAT will run most Mondays on the blog and topics will vary. Drop me a line at bump2basics@gmail.com if you are interested in contributing.

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