Young Ears

The weather around here is changing.  The days are becoming longer, the winter chill seems to have taken its official seasonal leave, and the past few days have been filled with the light of a tentative but decidedly warm Spring sun.  Chicagoland winters are a deep, grey challenge as a stay at home Dad, and the first sign of an emerging and consistent relationship with the warmth of the sun is one of the most energizing and reinvigorating moments of my year.  The windows get thrown open, the air inside the house shifts and lightens . . . and I crank the music.

We listen to a lot of music around here.  Mostly, our family could care less about television.  But music is on all the time.  And the warming of the seasons means that the music gets brighter.  And louder.

I admit to being a bit of a music snob.  I also admit to not having a very strong belief in the idea of “children’s music.”  I don’t think that children need (or crave) music that is that intentionally simplistic or sweet or protective.  In my experience as a father, my kids have responded to music that is wild, mysterious, melodic, goofy, gives them a means of imaginative travel, and (more than anything) allows them the freedom to move their little bodies in wild and uncontrollable ways, and they don’t care if it is “made” for them or not.  Now, that is not to say that there aren’t some extremely creative, sophisticated, fun and uncondescending music for young ears out there.  Great examples are to be found in the likes of Recess Monkey, The Jellydots, Elizabeth Mitchell, Dan Zanes and Justin Roberts, and these do get a lot of airtime in my house but they are, in my experience, the exception to the rule.

Basically, I have always viewed it as my responsibility as father to be the family music curator; to hand pick good and diverse music for my kids to listen to, and to not rely on a label or a prepackaged “kids” artist to pre-determine what is acceptable music for my kids.  I am careful with lyrics, and choose music with great stories, great sing along hooks and interesting sounds.  Kids are more sophisticated and adventurous than than many non-parental folks like to give them credit for, and I try to keep that in mind as I expose my kids to the rich language of musical expression.

Awhile back, we were driving and listening to AC Newman’s song “There May Be Ten Or Twelve,” and my son kept asking me to play it over and over again.  His little sister exclaimed a happy “Yay!” after every spin of the track.  After abut the third or fourth time straight, my son grins and says to me:

Dad?  It sounds as if the Wild Things are playing this song!”

SO.  In the celebration of the warming days and the coming Spring, here is a playlist full of songs by Wild Things. Songs both myself and my children have continuously loved and responded to.  Songs that make us dance, laugh, sing and think about our places in the wider world.

Children wake up,
hold your stick up,
before they turn the summer into dust . . .

–Arcade Fire

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