Monday, April 10, 2006

Everything I Haven't Already Said

Tomorrow, I'll get back to the music, but a few more things I wanted to mention.

First, thanks for all the e-mails you've sent and blog comments you've left. I really appreciate all the artist suggestions (some I've heard of, some I haven't), CD submission requests, and compliments on the interview. (I was even somebody's driveway moment!) Please keep them all coming -- even if you don't agree with me, as long as you do it respectfully, I'm not going to delete the comments.

Second, thanks to Melissa Block and NPR for asking me to do the interview. It was really lots of fun, and, yes, I realize how lucky I am to have the opportunity.

Finally, well, let me start this way...
Nobody understands me,
though memmily blitt each day.
Nobody understands me,
but I guess zooglobble that way.

-- from "Nobody Understands Me," by Sandra Boynton and Michael Ford, from Philadelphia Chickens
In my original "Welcome" post from last week, someone left the following comment:
This all confuses me a bit. For me, as a parent, I take pleasure in seeing my child move to and sing with and enjoy music. The idea that I would want to pull my hair out because my child is taking pleasure in music by listening to the same track over and over (music that I perhaps don't enjoy well because, gee-I have 20 years of musical intake on my child) is ridiculous. I have a fear that the current kids music revolution (aka, "you will like it too!") is going to lead to a musically narrow-minded generation. Music programs are being cut across the country, and we have kids listening to hip hop and rock because their parents can't stand music that is really suitable for their ears AND for their development, World instruments, classical instruments, music that allows space to move and express oneself in a way that children should, is all being overshadowed by the notion that parents should like the same music as children who are generations younger than them. Its a silly thought if you ask me. When your child is 20 and listening to music you think is utterly horrible then you can say what you think about their taste. To say you hope to have a kid with better taste in music baffles me. They are kids! Do you also hope they have better taste in fashion? Hairstyle? Coffee? Wine? Let kids be kids and get the basics then develop their tastes. At 4 years old, take pleasure in their pleasure. To do otherwise would be selfish.
Now, when somebody tells you something you agree with (or 90% with) in a tone that suggests that you completely disagree, one wonders if, like Boynton and Ford's narrator, it's the speaker that's the problem.

So at the risk of further not being clear, let me state a few things that I might not have previously made clear here (or in the very tightly-edited 5 minutes on NPR).

1) Kids should listen to a broad range of music, including "world instruments, classical instruments, music that allows space to move and express oneself in a way that children should" -- could not agree more. Just because there aren't many reviews of world music or classical music albums on the website should not be construed as a lack of endorsement on my part for those types of music. We play those CDs for our kids, too, and I play violin and piano for my kids. (That's not even getting into singing, which we do constantly, in varying degrees of tunefulness.) I just don't have the critical vocabulary to talk about many of those CDs constructively. So that's why you're more likely to reviews of children's rock, folk, and pop music here.
2) Parents should take pleasure in seeing their children move to and sing with and enjoy music -- could not agree more. It's hard sometimes for me to turn off the CD player in the car or at home and just sing with my kids. But it's just as important to me that they sing and hear me or my wife sing as it is to hear musicians who are really good at it. And watching my daughter master a song (she's almost got "Do-Re-Mi" from The Sound of Music) or dance goofily gives me a wonderful feeling.
3) "To say you hope to have a kid with better taste in music baffles me." -- Nowhere have I ever said that I wanted a kid to have better taste in music. In fact, I agree with you 100%, and said so just last week. Trying to cultivate in your child a particular taste in music is a fool's errand, in my opinion (to say nothing of its appropriateness).
4) The one place I would disagree with the author is the implication that the parental enjoyment of the music is irrelevant. I firmly believe that it is possible to find age- and developmentally-appropriate music that both parents and children can enjoy (or, at least, that the children can enjoy and the parents will tolerate for long periods of time). I think I've reviewed a number of those CDs here. And I also believe that it is important that kids see their own parents enjoying their own music. If that means slipping in a Wilco or Matthew Sweet CD into the CD changer, so be it.

I mentioned this before, but I do encourage new readers to explore the links on the sidebar to find some different perspectives on children and family music. Devon has similar musical tastes, but has a more pedagogical perspective at Head, Shoulders, Knees, and all that.... Bill also has similar musical tastes, but a much larger CD collection, and plays them on his radio show at Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child. For a slightly more rockist approach, try The Lovely Mrs. Davis Tells You What To Think; for a definitely more rockist approach, try (Sm)All Ages. Plenty of good reading and musical suggestions.


OK, enough about me. Tomorrow: Dan Zanes.


hereandnow1234 said...


I apoligize. I wasn't being clear about who my comments were directed at. The comment about someone wishing their children had better taste in music was directed at someone who had left that comment on the same post. I am still new to the blog world and maybe I was treating it as a bulliten board thread more than a blog comment.
I have learned!

As far as your opinions go, there are few I disagree with. I don't think there is anything wrong with music that the whole family can enjoy either. In fact, its probably the best kind of music there is. What I do have a problem with, is kids music that is really adult music, nicely packaged, well marketed, and sold as "music that adults can love too" That shouldn't be the deciding factor in a parent's decision to purchase music for their children. But, it certainly has its place in deciding on the CD that will play on repeat in the car on the next roadtrip.

Eric Herman said...

>>What I do have a problem with, is kids music that is really adult music, nicely packaged, well marketed, and sold as "music that adults can love too" That shouldn't be the deciding factor in a parent's decision to purchase music for their children.

An interesting comment... I've been wondering lately if with all of the "kids' music that adults will like", that it's becoming less of "kids' music". Yes, the adults have to hear it over and over and will be the ones buying it, but ultimately it's supposed to be for the kids, right? Kids, the younger ones, at least, still seem to most resonate with music that's like Barney or of the "If You're Happy and You Know It", "B-I-N-G-O" or "Old MacDonald" variety.

I guess we're offering an alternative to that, which is great, but I don't think anything should really be a *substitute* for that kind of stuff, just for the sake of us parents having trendier music styles to hear when our kids listen to music. It's like we're hogging the CD player, then, if we only ever want to hear "our kind of music". I think kids could probably care less if there's a Death Cab for Cutie vibe in a particular song about pancakes. You know what I mean? I think they just want fun and memorable songs that speak to them on some level. (If there's someone who has actually produced a song about pancakes with a Death Cab vibe, I was just making up that reference and didn't mean it as a dig.)

But inasmuch as there is music that can sort of be a hybrid to work for both kids and adults, then that's cool, and I appreciate people like Stefan shining a light on some of that. But I think there will always be a need for the classic songs like "Old MacDonald" and "B-I-N-G-O", (even with their original basic arrangements), in a child's CD changer. I don't expect Ralph's or Justin's or anyone's new contemporary sounding kids' music, as cool as some of it is, to replace that kind of stuff.