Sunday, June 24, 2007

Those wonderful teenage (y)ears

I love reading the recent posts and comments at Dial M for Musicology about teenage listening experiences. We all had them, and they almost always involved "discovery." When our children were young I tried not to impose my musical preferences on them because I remembered the joy I had as a teenager when I found my "own" music. Sure, my discoveries were sometimes found in my parents' small collection of recordings they never listened to (the small number of recordings we had amazed me since my parents were both musicians), and they were sometimes pieces I heard played at my father's concerts, like the Brahms and Dvorak Piano Quartets, but nobody told me what to listen to. I am grateful that my parents let me develop my musical tastes on my own, and I wanted to pass that experience to my own kids.

From a very young age both of our kids practiced (violin and cello), took lessons, played in orchestras and chamber music groups, sang in chorus and in shows, and managed to become exposed to a lot of what I would consider worthwhile music through the stuff that they heard around the house.

I will never forget the day that my daughter Rachel (who is now 20) came into my bedroom and started singing some Simon and Garfunkel songs for me. She had just heard them on the radio (a few years ago "oldies" stations were all the local rage). She had a look of pure joy on her face while she sang them. She had found something of her own, and it was something really beautiful, and it was something she wanted to share with me. I loved Simon and Garfunkel as a teenager too. Imagine my inner kvell.

Our son Ben (who is now 18) and his sister share many of the same likes and dislikes in popular music, but Ben has been devoting a lot of energy into expanding his musical horizons backwards and sideways. The other day he took some recordings out of the library. They were recordings that were important in my husband Michael's teenage years, and if he had known Ben was interested in listening to them, he would have gladly let Ben borrow his copies. I was very happy that Michael was able to share that particular "discovery" moment with Ben.

As exciting as my own teenage musical awaking was, watching and listening to the musical awakenings of our kids is even more exciting. It seems that all discovery for a teenager is self-discovery, and that's one of the things that makes watching (and listening to) kids grow up so much fun.

Update! Ben just told me about his brand new myspace music page where you can listen to him singing (and playing guitar and cello on) some of his own songs.


Patty said...

My daughter "discovered" The Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel in high school. Our younger son discovered Cat Stevens ... and was pretty impressed that I had already bought all that I found on iTunes. (I just love it when I impress my children! ;-)

Our older son has such eclectic taste it's great fun. He's introduced me to some old bands (somehow I missed certain years ... perhaps I could blame it on the babies?), and he does his own music as well.

Not one wants oboe, though. SMART kids. ;-)

I just love what our three kiddos have "discovered" and what they love. We DID drag them to concerts on occasion, but mostly they came to rehearsals and they seem to have great memories of that.

Our youngest (nearly 18) will be going with us to Der Rosenkavalier on Wednesday night. When he was pre-kindergarten my husband took him to one of my open dress rehearsals of a Mozart opera, thinking he'd stay for one act. Jameson insisted they stay for the whole thing.

Kids & music is such a fun thing to watch! (And hear.)

Peter (the other) said...

There is so much thinking and discussion going on, as to what music even is and why we humans spend so much energy on it. But it is too bad but very possible there will little in terms of answers to these questions by the time we are gone, or even for centuries to come. We might not understand, but watching your young ones be human, must be a joy.

Elaine Fine said...

It really is. The other night Ben played an hour-long concert at a local coffee shop, and he and Rachel sang a few songs together. He even asked me and Michael (who plays guitar) to play a few songs with him. I even dusted off my flute for the occasion (the first time in a long time).

I like to think of music as being the ultimate use of our sense of hearing--really using it. I think that the experience of music is a very physical thing, just like tasting food is a very physical thing. The only way "in" to whatever is beyond the physical for all of us earthly beings is through the physical. We just don't know much at all beyond that, and as long as we have music we really don't need to know. I think it is best to think of it as magic and to think of ourselves as extremely fortunate or even just plain lucky to come into contact with it.