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Wednesday, September 04, 2013


(An Objective Approach to Music Appreciation)
by aLfie vera mella

My style with my son Evawwen concerning music introduction has been fun and effective.

Since he was a baby (now he's four and a half), he has been exposed already to different genres of music. After all, I myself listen to different genres of music on an everyday basis--with New Wave, Metal, and Progressive Rock remaining my favorites--which means, more of these at home.

There would be a day when I play only Classical music the whole day and then Metal on another, New Wave on another and so on and so forth. The first phase of this musical exposure is what I call genre familiarization.

Then when he was about 2 1/2, I started introducing him to basic instrument sounds--drums, violin, guitar, trumpet, flute, etc,, proceeding to other instruments.

Then after that phase, I started asking him, every time there's music playing, what instrument he could hear in the music--he could identify if the dominant sound is a piano, violin, or trumpet...if he was doubtful or wrong, I simply correct him and explain the quality of the sound. I even emulate this on my keyboard.

The next phase was telling him the genres--like when Classical music is playing, I'd describe him the music--lots of instruments and usually no singing. I told him that the music background in many of the cartoons we watched, also his favorite film Star Wars is Classical, so he has a reference point.

When it's Metal, I would tell him that the heavy guitar sound and pounding drums and the growling or usually high-pitched voice may be an indication that it's Metal.

When New Wave, I usually just tell him that the voice is low and the instruments are danceable or other qualities that I may think of.

When he hears Lady Gaga, Adele, Justin Bieber, Madonna (her mom's favorite), and Michael Jackson, with the help of his older siblings, we tell him it's Pop.

And then, the ultimate phase, I start playing particular bands and then tell him the song titles and the band names. Like, I will play only Depeche Mode albums for a day and then Metallica for another, and then David Bowie and so on.

And guess what: Now that he's four and a half, he could somehow recognize the music genre (only the basic ones, of course). Like, for instance, when there's something instrumental and symphonic, he would answer, "Dad, that's Classical."

When it's heavy guitar power chords are dominant, he would say "Metal." When it's New Wave, he would usually know too...and even say that "Dad, that's your favorite music."

He now could also recognize some songs just after a few seconds into the song. Like when I play "Everything Counts," he would say "Depeche Mode."

Other bands that he recognizes by now include The Cure (especially "Boys Don't Cry," "Inbetween Days," and "Just like Heaven"), even Men Without Hats (he would usually ask me to play "Head above Water"), and even David Bowie (when I play certain songs like "China Girl," "Heroes," "Uncle Arthur," and "Space Oddity," for example).

And, of course, when Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber or any of the current commercial radio favorites are playing, he would often spit out the artist name.

I think the idea in the way I thought him about music is grounded on these basic foundation: NATURAL (not too contrived)--after all, I play these music on a regular basis at home and in our vehicle when driving; NO DISCRIMINATION--we (I, mommy, and siblings) never diss any artist so that they/he view music as simply music (without getting affected by the commerciality or controversies the artists get involved in)--whether it's Pop or Classical or New Wave or Metal and there would be no feelings of embarrassment if he feels inclined to listen to Pop once in a while; and lastly, the most important, I think--to regard music as simply a form of art--whether it's a great kind or a bad kind--it's still art.

With the last, I think it helps our kids develop the ability to listen to music without a sense of ownership and without too much emotional association. I mean, I don't let them feel that just because they listen to New Wave that they are cooler or more special or privileged than other kids; not because they listen to Metal that they should be toughies; that Classical music is not only for old people (in fact, cartoons and movies almost always use Classical music in the form of film scores); and that they don't need to be exclusive listeners--meaning, they could listen to both New Wave or Pop (softer kind of music) and to Metal (hard kind of music) at the same time and anything in between.

Lastly, lest I forget--the lyrics...

When we watch movies and then there would be cursing (like" fuck you" and others), I don't ask my kids to cover their ears or to go out the room; instead, I tell them that some people use swear words or bad or ugly words like that but they don't need to copy it; that there are better words that they may use.

Applied to the lyrics of songs, I tell them that lyrics are simply anything at all that the singer or the songwriter wanted to sing about...they could sing along with it but they don't need to copy what the words are saying or telling what to do because it's just a song.

Like when I am playing "Am I Evil?" or "Anarchy in the U.K," I explain to them that I could actually sing along loudly to the words of those songs but it didn't mean that I was evil or that I was angry (because of the shouting and the angry voice); I tell them that I was merely playing a character just like in the movies.

I even tell them that when they hear the songs "I Hate Myself and I Want to Die" and "Kill the Poor," for example, these are just words that do not necessarily reflect real life...again, just like when we watch horror or thriller movies. There are comedy and fantasy movies and there are horror and suspense thriller ones. This is similar with music--there are love songs and happy songs and there are scary songs and angry songs. But they don't need to follow what the lyrics say; after all, those are just songs.

With all these, I think I have laid down a good foundation for my children, especially Evawwen, concerning music appreciation devoid of discrimination, sense of privilege, and censorship.

If he ends up liking certain kinds of music, then that's his choice. But at least, he has been exposed to different kinds and he knows it.


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