Live Music & Infants: Sacred Mirrors of Reflection

Hey there, I’d like to follow up with you about something.

A couple weeks ago, I posted a video about Chicago rock band The Sea and Cake. Well, sure enough, as I was a bit behind on my blog reading, over that same weekend I read Chicago Tribune music critic Greg Kot’s November 12th interview with the band. And I gained the insight I was looking for.

Turns out that singer-guitarist Sam Prekop was expecting twins as the band was recording their new album Car Alarm. Though Prekop doesn’t elaborate on how having twins specifically impacted the music, I still was able to understand how the impending twins influenced the freshness and youthfulness of “Weekend” and the rest of the album.

When I read that the twins were born four months ago, I connected a thought about youngsters and live music from a few weeks back. I wondered how Prekop would introduce his twins to music. Would he play his songs for them first, or would he let them discover music on their own? Would their first live concert experience be at a The Sea and Cake show as infants, or would Prekop let them find their way to the show of their choice when they’re older?

This brings up one last thought for the moment. I’ve seen infants and toddlers at concerts with protective headphones on and wondered about the effects of the loud music on their ears and body.

Here’s an excerpt about how children develop their ear from music from Robert Jordan’s book Music the Brain and Ecstasy:

“Even a newborn has a musical life of sorts. The infants initial response to musical sound is to turn toward it defensively. But by one month a baby can distinguish between tones of different frequency. (This and other facts of infant psychology are deduced by monitoring subtle changes of heartbeat as a child is aroused by changes in its surroundings). By six months, the infant responds to changes in melodic contour. But interestingly, there’s no reaction when a melody is transposed up or down in pitch. This fact makes it clear that, rather than just memorizing a particular sequence of tones, even a baby brain perceives a melody as a system of relations between notes.

“…As any parent can wearily testify, musical life is well under way by six months. Many of a baby’s gurgles and squeals are obvious experiments in tone production. Recent research has shown that, even at two months of age, some infants can replicate the pitch and melodic contour of their mother’s songs. When infants begin to babble during the middle of their first year, a kind of spontaneous singing arises. Of course, it’s hard to sort out which parts of babbling are music and which parts are nascent language. …..But between twelve and eighteen months, just as babbling turns to discrete words, infants start to elongate vowels in a way that is clearly musical. Gradually, something quite unlike language arises, something the infant is likely to belt out using random syllables instead of words. It is song. ”

That’s pretty amazing stuff.

Reading this really helps me to understand what is going on in the head of my nephew as we all stare at him as he stares at all of us trying to make sense of his surroundings.

That sense of wonderment of staring at a child as he develops, for me, is very similar to the wonderment of a highly euphoric moment during a concert when you seem to be lifted off the ground, and for a brief moment, all your troubles that you brought with you to the concert seem really insignificantly simple, just like they probably seem to a child.

It’s amazing how two seemingly unrelated topics like infant psychology and live music connect.

I never really saw the connection between trying to understand live music and trying to understand what’s going on inside the mind of infant. These past two weeks have really shown me that the two are very similar; in that they both possess the power to mirror or reflect an important part of ourselves back to us in ways other things in life can’t.

This has to be one of the reasons why we spend so much money and time going to concerts or seeking out moments to escape into those simplistic moments of watching babies crawl around or getting lost in a live music moment.

But, of course, there’s a fine line between healthy escape and hiding from what we must face. Either way live music plays a pivotal role.

I’m starting to think more and more that there’s a bit of myth about live music. And the myth goes something like this. Live music is only a juvenile experience and once you get to a certain age a live concert no longer becomes beneficial or meaningful for an adult.

But in these last few weeks as I’ve re-read Jourdain’s book and interacted with infants of friends and relatives I’m seeing that this type of thinking is just that: a myth.

Yes, it’s true, that for an adult to get past the infantile aspect of live music, he or she must take an active role and step out of the role of passively entertained consumer.

But if adults actually do choose to engage beyond consumerism, what happens is that an amazing(sometimes sacred) opportunity opens up to really see a live concert as a chance to see inside yourself and understand who you are.

Sure, I know that most people are not going to take that step for myriad reasons.

But for the brave few that do, the reward is discovering a new dimension to the live concert experience that wasn’t there before.

Having certain truths revealed to me about my life during a concert might be unwanted or unpleasant at times, but I haven’t ever been so disappointed when I see truth revealed via live music that I never want to do it again.

I’ve had some truly life-changing moments at live concerts because over time I became open to having them. That’s why I believe with the right frame of mind, live concerts can be scared moments unlike any other life experience.

Both babies and live music are mirrors that reflect who we are as individuals.

And lately, going to live concerts and hanging with family and friends, I’ve started to see the sacred connection between the two, and how that the opportunity to have that sacred connention is always right around the corner–whether I’m headed to my .next show or watching innocence crawl around in front of me

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