Raising Children on Classical Music
I wasn't the type of parent who purchased all the Baby Mozart Videos for my children. I'm not even sure they were available 25 years ago when my kids were growing up, nor would I have purchased them even if they were. Yes, I am aware of the potential studies that show children listen to Mozart become smarter children and yes, I (like most parents) think my kids (now adults of their own) are smarter than average. However, I don't buy into the "Mozart Effect" ... Yet, think playing music to children is vitally important.
In an article by Timothy Mangan of the Orange County Register, he talks about the effects of classical music listening and the Baby Mozart videos on his own child. While his son doesn't think of some these great pieces by their original name (instead referring them as "The Robot Song" or "The Dolphin Song", still he was exposed to this music. So what? How many of us refer to Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor as "Scarey Movie music" because of it's use in the film "Phantom of the Opera?" Good music is memorable and we tend to associate how we were first exposed to the music by the images we saw when we were exposed to it, utilizing memory triggers to more firlmly root both music and images into our memory.
Previously I've spoken about Oliver Sacks' book Musicophilia and the chapter dealing with how music affects brain development. The very concept that music education causes areas in the brain to grow seems to be enough to warrant its worth. The added information that children can identify rhythms at a very early age and progress rapidly in this development based on cultural exposure only adds to the thought encouraging children to listen to music is a good thing.
However, Mr Mangan suggests music with a strong rhythm. I would suggest rather than a strong rhythm, diverse rhythms. Rather than listening to Beethoven's "Fifth Symphony," Bach's "Brandenburg Concertos" or Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons," expose your child to jazz, rock, classical, Indian, Celtic, Native American or African. There are similarities between ethinic musics of the Celts and the Mongolian Throat Singers (as per my review on 6 July) as there are similarities between the modes of jazz and the ragas of Indians music. Yes, play classical music, but don't stop there. Expose your child to a large variety of rhythms and styles. Is it any wonder that children who grow up in a gospel singing church have a better sense of rhythm than those less exposed to the subtle nuances of this style of music?
I do agree with Mr Mangan with the idea of eventually getting the child to learn an instrument. This will only extend the understanding of music and thereby the mind - and really what Mr Sacks was talking about in terms of brain development. But, perhaps the most important element of it all, do ALL of these things with your child. The time you spend with them listening to music, helping them learn to play (or supporting them while they practice, or perform at recitals and concerts), is invaluable. This time is far MORE important than the music you hear while you're together. Yes, have music playing in the background, or use the music as a topic of discussion. Maybe the child will be a musician, maybe they won't. But, if you spend time with your child(ren) with music, both of your lives will be richer.