Friday, June 09, 2006

Wishin' I Was Livin' Like a Hitman

This morning, like every other morning, I rolled out of bed half asleep, got some coffee, slurped up some cereal, hooked up my headphones, hooked up Barky, and headed out for a walk.

With my player set on random, we headed down the hill to the musings of Thelonious Monk and the harmonies of the Little Willies, nothing out of the ordinary. Barky snuffled his way along the ivy and I trailed behind, staring up at the sky, wondering again where the cover on the "W" went on the "BOWL" sign, and looking down every so often to ensure that Barky wasn't hoovering anything.

I spend much of our walks this way, in a blissfully self-ignorant state, leaving the driving to my unconscious mind. I do have to keep one foot in the present so that I can stop Barky when he invitably weaves toward the street, bound to follow his snout, even if it leads him into the path of a bus roaring past. Every once in awhile in this state, I abruptly become aware of myself, not from the inside, but as though I was observing my own behavior for the first time.

This happened when Beck came on this morning. I realized that my somewhat normal walk had changed to a slouching saunter. Thinking back, I realized that with each song that had come on, my walk had changed slightly--faster and little more lively during Monk, slower and a little more contemplative during the Little Willies, and now, picturing myself "sittin' in the kitchen, wishin' I was livin' like a hitman," this sort of slouching toward ennui shuffle along the sidewalk.

Later, on the drive to work, shuffle brought up 4th25's "Reality Check," which I almost skipped past because it makes me uncomfortable. It's five minutes of a pretty damning indictment of the attitudes of those of us who sit comfortably here in the U.S., while we send our brothers and sisters over to struggle, suffer, and, in some cases, die in Iraq. I didn't skip it, though, because my discomfort is the exact reason that I bought the album--it's too easy to forget about just how hellish war is, and nobody is reminding us on a constant basis. This album is my cilice, that I can wrap my mind in as a reminder of the agony of the war that my nation is engaged in.

Just as had happened earlier, when Beck came on, my bearing changed. At first, I squirmed in my seat, unable to get comfortable. As the song went on, my discomfort led to irritation, then to frustration and anger, and now I was sitting up straight, glaring at the cars in front of me, revving up the hill, weaving around the slower ones.

Unfortunately for anyone around me, shuffle then brought up the sublime and spectacular ferocity of the first movement of Beethoven's 5th Symphony, a perfect coda to my drive. I cranked it up, and even found myself waving my hands to it, drumming the steering wheel, and bobbing my head forward and back in time with the heavy strides of the theme.

Is it really possible to bang your head to Beethoven? Apparently so.

All of this music-driven shape shifting got me to thinking about Rude Cactus' post "Raffi? No, I'm Thinking Radiohead." I'm of the same mind--that there's no need to play simple tunes for the kid just because he's little. For example, I got into a long conversation in Chicago with a coupla' dads who recommended the Beatles' white album as a good source of lullabies; so that goes on 3B's playlist. But do I really want the kid to be subjected to the onslaught of 4th25 before he even knows what war is? Is some restraint in developing a playlist for 3B perhaps in order?

I do think that I'll go crazy if I have to listen to and endless loop of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," but the last thing we need is 3B becoming colicky because we were assaulting him with "Iron Man" in the crib.

So this weekend, one of the projects that I'll start but never complete will be to compile 3B's playlist. I will steal liberally from Rude Cactus' list (hey, I told him I would). What are your thoughts on what should go on there? And what should we leave off?


  1. I noticed you guys walking last night when you first got home; I was sitting on my balcony drinking a glass of wine with some crackers and dip. I would've yelled hello but you were on your cell...

    I have the Little Willies CD, too! I feel cool now! (The rest of my stuff is SO Top 40, it's shameful.) I love Norah Jones, so I think her stuff would be nice for a baby. You guys are so right - you don't need baby music for babies 100% of the time. Not even 50% of the time. Thankfully you guys have the sense to leave the inappropriate stuff out. No swearing, etc. My ex-boyfriend? Not so smart. When I was 20, I actually dated a guy who had a 3 year old (he was 25) and I distinctly remember her singing along to "I want a hot boy...I want a hot girl..." Check out the lyrics. SO NOT COOL for your child to listen to. Why did I date that moron?? I'll never know.

  2. I forgot to mention my coworker, who recently reported that her eight-year old daughter's new song was "Miss New Booty." Her daughter said, "That's one of Daddy's songs."

    "Mm hmm," said my coworker. "I bet it is. But it's not one of your songs."

    Nothing she can do about it now, though. So she has to put up with her eight-year old introducing herself as "Miss New Booty."

  3. Anonymous2:42 PM

    You two crack me up!

  4. Well, the appropriate Waldorf parenting thing to say would be: Oh no! No pre-recorded music for a new baby! Nothing but lullabies sung by human beings gently holding baby! Sensitive ears, new to the world, aaaahhh!

    But, realistically, when I saw your link to Pandora, I jumped on it like a cat on a bug, because after 3 1/2 years I am craving music produced by someone other than me. I can sing twice as well as before the kids came, but at the cost of feeling totally out of it.

    We do have fun singing American folk songs together though. Usually they're repetitive enough but not too much, with a little history and culture thrown in. Duncan does a mean rendition of "Yankee Doodle."

  5. Anonymous3:12 AM

    My Itunes library is 2 songs away from having 12000 in it. What are the next 2 songs i should buy? Or album.

    TCB on LPs

  6. I suggest "Dead Skunk" by Loudon Wainwright III.

    Anybody else?

  7. Dead Skunk would be an excellent track 11,999. For track 12,000, I'd recommend a delicate heaping of Eugene Chadbourne, the first track from "Country Protest"--a medley, so it even could be a nice recapitulation of the collection up to now. (He was born ten years and a day before me, so of course I like him. Ten years before that, and he could have been Jimmy Page.)

    For kids to listen to, I think generally our culture doesn't focus hard enough on exposing young ears to a wide variety of music. One reason Mozart was able to use his natural musical gifts so well was that he had been surrounded by music since he was an infant. As he learned to speak, he learned what a cantata was, by hearing it, by hearing about it, by hearing variants on it. If you wait till the kid's eight years old, I imagine it's too late. I suspect the formative years for hearing (and participating in) music come much earlier.

    I'm sure there's some specialist out there who can say whether this makes any sense.

    As far as lyrical content, though, I'd agree that the words have to match where 3B's intellectual development is at the time. I've had to track this somewhat with books I've given nieces and nephews over the years. There's an age where the kid just doesn't make any connection with sarcasm, but silly sounds are hysterical. Then the kid turns a corner, and a parody of "Cinderella" brings peals of laughter. Likewise, I'd say, with lyrics.

  8. My kids will bust out with "White Coral Bells" any time, any day, so I agree with Mr. Jumbo about early exposure. Duncan and Rebecca also love to make "trumpets" from copper piping and fittings and then they play "Mozart" on them. We also sing grace at meals.

    I also agree about age-appropriate lyrical content. Lately Duncan has been all over singing things in a kind of pig latin, so we get serenaded with "Bight Boral Bells."