Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday Arts Y.A.P.--Music with the Kids

I could not survive The Wiggles. I would've gouged my eyes out.

Several years ago while visiting a friend, I found his children were addicted to the Wiggles. Wiggles on TV, Wiggles on DVD, Wiggles on CD, Wiggles on the radio. I admire the Wiggles' spirit of entrepreneurship; I also admire anyone who can make a living as a musician. Some may want to debate whether the Wiggles are musicians, but my definition is broad. They make music.

Based on my Wiggles ear worm experience, I decided in my parenting strategy that for shared survival with my children, we would engage my musical collection. We sometimes gravitate toward their requests. I continue to be fascinated by what they choose when they make a song request. I have some categorized observations about their musical enjoyment. They're not neat and tidy, but I think this sums it up.

+  Experience matters. If they attend a concert or see a movie with a memorable soundtrack, they want to hear the song again.

Lipps, Inc. "Funky Town" This song was passed on from my generation to the next via Shrek 2. It is known as the "Shrek Song" in my house. One day while driving in Seattle, I asked my daughters what city we were in. My eldest daughter responded, "Funky Town."

Hey Good Lookin' My family attended a concert by The Wilders this summer at the historic Raymond Theater, in Raymond, WA. My youngest daughter was especially enamored by the Hank Williams cover tune and can be found regularly singing it around the house. Both daughters also recognize the Wilders whenever they show up on my music shuffle. It was a good experience on the whole because we also spent two days playing at the ocean before we went to the concert.

+ A lyrical or musical hook matters. Sometimes one particular line from a song will register with my daughters. Genre doesn't seem to matter as much as the imagery.

Whiskeytown "16 Days" Everyday for about 2-3 months, my youngest requested this song, which she knows as "Running Ghost." Repetition with a good musical hook can burn a song into daily living. For all of the critique they receive in my church circles, praise song writers know what works. Apparently Ryan Adams is aware of this, too (though I think he uses the tool much more effectively).

Great Big Sea "General Taylor"  This song inspires some of the most robust singing I hear from both daughters, triggered by the lyrical (even liturgical) hook "walk him along, John, carry him along."

+ Imagery matters.

Blood, Sweat and Tears, "Spinning Wheel" Not only does a spinning wheel image resonate in this song, but I think the painted pony reference works for my daughters as well.

Captain Tractor "The Last Sasketchewan Pirate" Though pirates are serious business these days and a security awareness for US military, we have a romantic relationship with pirates on all levels of culture. Did you participate in Talk Like A Pirate Day? This song is also a favorite, so much so that we made a special pilgrimage to the North Branch of the Saskatchewan River in Edmonton to look for pirates, because the river was beginning to thaw, and they might be getting ready for their plundering.

+ Sometimes children's music finds its way into our rotation. It doesn't have to be Wiggles-esque, either. Elizabeth Mitchell has some great music for kids, and her CD's always have something for the adults (including a great cover of The Velvet Underground's "What Goes On").

What I've learned from music and parenting is something that has been discovered by several Christian education professionals (Rich Melheim at Faith Inkubators, for example) is that we too often segregate our experiences on many levels. What was originally a selfish motive in avoiding The Wiggles has become something I look forward to sharing. Yes, we need time with our peers, but the multiplication of learning through music across generations has enriched my relationship with my daughters.

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