Music is everywhere, yet listening is often overlooked. It forms wallpaper to our everyday lives; an unnoticed covering for silence as we work, eat, shop, cook, drive, exercise and play. It fills the background for movies, TV shows and video games yet, although we would surely notice its absence, we rarely consider its presence. Everyone loves and identifies with their music, but how often do we really listen, undistracted and attentive? If you’re like me, the answer is ‘not often enough’.
Try a little musical appreciation by taking a ‘sound bath’ together with your child, immersing yourselves in the music. At a convenient time, ask if your youngster wants to hear something ‘new’ or ‘cool’ or ‘special’. Keep the question vague and only elaborate if interest is shown; you can always try again later. So, what is this mysterious music? Anything you like! Or better still: anything you love. Whether it’s jazz, rock, pop, opera, hip-hop or Javanese gamelan, pass on your passion using your own CD collection or playlists. Before pressing play, say a little about the music: why you like it, how it makes you feel, what it means to you, or what memories it evokes. Maybe the music was played at your wedding, or it reminds you of your schooldays. Maybe the song always makes you feel excited and energetic. Whatever you choose, by adding broader meaning you’ll make this music stand out and help foster closer listening. I would suggest avoiding musical extremes; anything too long, complex, dense, distorted, unstructured, atonal, or harmonically unpredictable will be difficult for inexperienced ears to process. For most parents, this won’t be an issue, but fans of Schoenberg, Sepultura and John Coltrane might need to ease their children in at first. Close the doors, dim the lights, remove distractions (phones as well as toys) and make the music loud enough to dominate the room. Try to create a listening event. It’s unimportant whether the music inspires quiet contemplation, dancing, singing, laughing or whatever (what a wonderfully versatile art form it is!), so long as the music itself is center stage. Play the entire track, even if interest wanes, then attempt discussing what you heard before moving on to other music or activities. Don’t be disappointed if your favorite piece is ignored or disliked; developing a personal sense of taste is part of the goal. Try something different next time. As in life, frequent bathing is recommended so enjoy the opportunity to reconnect with your favorite tunes and even try discovering something new together.