Discriminating Tastes

“We want to hear music!”  The youngest has somehow pried my Swiss-Army phone out of my pocket and immediately the whole crew is present.  They realize, as do I, that this little piece of equipment is not about making and receiving phone calls, but is important simply for the entertainment factor.  Many days, the  request is for photos, but today the oldest, since last week a mature five-year old, is asking to see and hear one of the videos contained within this amazing hand-held package of technology.

The correct selections made, buttons pushed, and the two by three inch screen positioned for optimal viewing by five people, we begin the video.  For today’s viewing and listening pleasure: the Christmas Brass, featuring a hodge-podge of aunts, uncles, and a grandfather playing (or attempting to play) various and sundry carols and popular titles.  The performance is not spectacular, the technical ability of the camera person (in this case, the Lovely Lady) a bit inexpert, with the occasional finger over the lens and a little shake now and then, but the children are oblivious.  They sing along with “Jingle Bells”, periodically calling out a person’s name as they recognize them on the screen and then they yell out, almost in unison, “Another one!” when the current selection reaches its termination.  All in all, a fairly nondiscriminatory crowd, and to my way of thinking, the epitome of music lovers.

You see, these youngsters haven’t yet learned to dislike disparate types of music.  They’re equally at ease with children’s songs and classical music, cowboy crooners and rock divas.  They will bounce around the room to Bing Crosby, just as easily as to Garth Brooks or the New York Philharmonic playing Rachmaninoff.  To start to object to diverse genres of music, they need an adult’s touch.  We teach them to dislike sounds that are foreign or objectionable to our ears, just as our parents and teachers indoctrinated us.  Oh, we don’t always do it with words.  Many times, all it takes is for us to consistently change the radio tuner when that type of music to which we object begins to play.  If we constantly reject operatic singers who make their way into our living room via the airwaves, they understand that opera is inferior music.  If we repeatedly choose pop vocal music over anything else, they begin to see that this is better than other options.

And, what of peer pressure?  Granted, they will have an inordinate amount of that as they grow, but those children have had their musical worlds narrowed by adults and peer pressure also. In the end, the types of music youngsters choose will greatly depend on what they hear and learn in their early years and how we deal with the entire problem of peer pressure. 

Am I suggesting that we not have input in the content, that we allow these young malleable minds to be shaped by whatever medium happens to grab their attention?  Obviously not!  What I am suggesting is that we guide the process, while allowing a diversity of styles, yes even aiding the process by being sure to be diverse in our own musical listening habits.  I know I haven’t entirely succeeded in doing this in the past, because like all other human beings, I’ve been taught, and prodded, and shoved into the mold preferred by those who influenced me.  I do attempt to back off from my strong objections to, say, Hip Hop, when discussing music with the younger generation.  (Of course, you know this is not music!)  The strong caveat I offer to this philosophy of musical styles is that in vocal music, content matters.  For some reason, the idea of censorship is anathema to many, but garbage is garbage and has no place in the rearing of children.  The context of my  subject is the music itself, but don’t believe for a moment that I propose that we allow our children’s minds to be filled with the trash that passes for art within most of the popular genres of music today.  When our kid’s minds are filled with evil and lewd words, can those same types of thoughts and actions be far behind?  The Bible warns us that “…bad company corrupts good morals”, and I’m fairly sure that those MP3 players could be described as pretty constant company.

I’ve listened this evening to several different styles of music, each song recommended by a different friend, each one in its own way a joy and a benefit to the listener.  From the classical, to the country, to the Christian rock songs I heard, each one evoked a spark of enjoyment and was well done by the artist.  How dull and drab would be our world if we lost this diversity of styles and only had a single, sterile genre of music to listen to and be influenced by.  Give me the wide-open world of the child any day, with unlimited options and untarnished hearing.

Of course, they could choose better musicians than those old broken down horn-blowers, but that will come with time…

“Music is perpetual and only the hearing is intermittent.”
(Henry David Thoureau)

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