Music Theory

We didn’t have any sound upstairs so my husband made the splurge and bought us a Mini Jambox.  It’s niiice.

DSC00395The nicest part being the “Sexy Voice” option.  My favorite is when she says, “I am completely satisfied.  My battery is about full,” with husky blonde overtones.  If only wives could be more like wireless speakers….

A while ago I had to ditch ear buds.  They are a nuisance.  The real issue being that they required too much commitment, even after I untangled them.  When I put them on whatever I was listening to was ALL I could hear.  Which is nice when you’re not responsible for five kids, but I would have to turn them off every few minutes and yell, “What did you say!?”  Mostly I used them when the kids were out, but it still felt like too much of a hassle.  They made me feel like I wasn’t tuned in enough to what was actually going on around me.  On top of that, I had to constantly keep the iPod fed and happy.  And like my sister says, “I can’t stand iTunes.  It’s like they made it for smart people.”  The balance worked for a while, but it all seemed to hit the fan with Judith.  (Along with everything else, now that you mention it.)  In any case, I am back on the wagon now.  Feel free to keep an eye on my sidebar as I will try to link up everything I think lays the smack down.  I like to listen to sermons/seminars after lunch, while the kids are outside and I am doing my big kitchen overhaul for the day.  I am hoping to be able to stream right from my Chromebook, so I don’t have to worry about downloading to a secondary player.  Although, so far, Marc has been unsuccessful in getting the aforementioned blonde to pair with my device.  I guess it’s nice that she has her standards.  The Jambox also has a big fat pause button on top of it, in case I need to leave the room or talk to someone.  What’s even handier is that if I finish in the kitchen and whatever I am listening to isn’t finished, I can just grab the Jambox and take it with me.  All in all, she makes my world a better place.

But, it’s also a different place.  Before, there was really no contemporary music in our house.  Boy would occasionally listen to music on the weekend with the dock downstairs.  The kids have a record player and all the vintage records they can wish for.  And I have a cold dark soul and don’t listen to music in the first place.  But all of the sudden, there is this purple portal to the underworld in my living room.  Which made Marc and I both address the question, “How exactly are we going to deal with popular music?”  Cuz it’s gonna happen.  I grew up with no music, because music was bad.  Or, at best, artificial.  And my parents were right.  My generation was raised on the radio, that played the same top ten songs in unvarying rotation.  Back then, popular music was indeed the scum scraped off the top of the pool.  I would like to think there is a little more hope to discover artfulness and originality in today’s music thanks to the internet.  You don’t have to listen to Rihanna, unless you really want to.  And I have more faith in your humanity than that.

Our strategy so far has two parts.  The first we already implemented a long time ago.  And that is that we want our children to experience the history of music and know how to play music, as kind of a prerequisite to enjoying popular music.  In other words, have a little taste and make it your own.  My children love listening to Burl Ives, Hank Williams, Jimmy Driftwood, Chopin, Bach, Lawrence Welk, Elvis, Flat and Scruggs, Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, Willie Nelson, and who knows what else.  In other words, it’s not a mono-culture.  Plus, I love being able to throw piles of records at them and let them pick out their favorites, discover favorite songs, and develop their own tastes, without me breathing down their necks.  Because like heck am I going to give them an iTunes card and tell them to have at it, just so they can have their “freedom.”  Or worse yet, start buying them alternative Christian rock albums, as if bad music was somehow legitimized in the name of Jesus.  At the same time, I have no intention of keeping my children sheltered and in the dark.  I want to raise them to be trusted in such a way that they can explore and enjoy whatever music they like.  I think part of that is simply knowing what has come before you, and not just what is currently playing in the Dutch Bros. drive-thru.  I think another important aspect is being able to appreciate music by understanding what it takes to create it.  My goal is for all of my children to be able to play piano at the “hymnal” level.  I want them to be musically literate, to know what music actually requires.  Because I think music is best experienced and valued by those who make it.  It’s one thing to know who all your favorite bands are and buy all their stuff, it’s another to listen to music and then step out and make your own.  While not everyone is gifted in that way, I want my children to have the opportunity to exercise that gift, if they have it.  And if they prove to their commitment to me by getting piano successfully under their belt, then maybe we can talk about the tuba.

To me, that is the elementary stage.  Education and training.  All of my children are still “under my wings” so to speak.  But as they start to poke out their heads, I was starting to wonder what comes next.  Children are all automatically drawn to a beat and are not necessarily the most discerning creatures.  Unlike most of the post-modern world, Marc and I believe that art, like everything else, still has standards.  We don’t really buy any of this, “Well, I like it so it’s good and everyone is entitled to their own opinion.”

“Yeah, whatever.  Your music sucks and here, let me tell you why….”

I want music in our home to be played in such a way that it invites discussion, standards, and requires a defense.  If you are going to play it, it had better be good.  Because fat chance of getting your father to listen to One Direction with you.  Music is a privilege, not a right.  So plan on having to work for it, and some things don’t even count as trying.  Marc and I have different tastes in music, but I don’t mind listening to his because it is good.  It may not be what I would pick, but I’m not going to pour hot wax in my ears and cry.  In the same way, I would like our children to be able to experience music with us.  I don’t want it to be something that is pumped indiscriminately into their ears individually, via headphones.  Or something that is in any way used as a wedge to separate them from us.  I want music to be something that is brought to the table and then enjoyed together, while giving preference to one another.

I also don’t want music to be something that becomes a default soundtrack to all of life.  Like everything else, music has a time and a place.  If music is something you listen to in the presence of everyone else, then it is going to have to be at the appropriate time.  Personally, I don’t think life should require a soundtrack.  Even when I was a teenager I clued into the fact that most people had to constantly listen to music because they needed to siphon someone else’s “cool” or relive someone else’s experiences.  Consequently, when the music stopped, they were left with the awkward impression that they were just a dumb kid alone in their room, not doing anything, without a thought in their head.  In which case, they should probably turn the music up.  Problem solved.  My suspicion is that if you cannot handle quiet, then you do not deserve music.  If your life isn’t good on mute, then it’s not any good when you turn it up to 10.  When Marc and I talked about it we figured that requiring music to be a public event was a good way to address both of these issues.  I am also relieved that my husband has actual taste in music.  I would not be the go to person on the subject.  As my husband has informed me, my music is smut.  But then again, I have a rather utilitarian approach to music.  I don’t care for this truth, goodness, beauty business.  I just want it to make my feet run three miles at 6:30 in the morning.

And I’m a sucker for Lana Del Ray.  Hence the just condemnation.  You can add to that Adele, Lissie, Ellie Goulding, and Lorde.  In other words, as I have recently discovered, I have the same taste in music as all the girls middle school.  However, in my favor, I only listen to it every two years, and that under highly redemptive circumstances.

Marc, on the other hand, listens to that artistic crap, like “Low” and “Explosions in the Sky.”  The kind of music that makes you want to crawl into a dark room and slit your wrists.  I was listening to the lyrics to one of his songs and I was like, “Wait, is this song about peeing in a plastic cup?  Is that what he said?  ‘It will probably be here long after you’re dead and gone.  They’ll probably dig it up a thousand years from now.”  …But you’ll still be dead and no one will care?  What kind of music do you listen to?”  Fortunately, I’m not a purist.  I don’t believe everything you listen to has to be morally and philosophically  sound.  But I do think you should know what your music is saying.  And frankly, you should be smarter than that.

Mostly, I’m just excited about what my children will be bringing me in the next few years.  Go ahead, broaden your mother’s horizons.  She doesn’t have the time.

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