On another note…

My oldest daughter began Suzuki violin lessons this year. My husband, a musician and music teacher, and I were a little hesitant to start the program as it is a bit of a time commitment. But you start very slowly. So far it’s been going pretty well.

Anyhow, last week one of the teachers gave the parents an piece written by a fellow violinist in which she discusses the physical relationship that one has with live music. She is sharing a story about bringing her violin into a first grade classroom and writes,

Somehow in explaining how the sound comes out of the violin, I had the idea of having one volunteer touch the scroll of my violin, to feel how the wood physically vibrates when I play an open ‘A.’ Then, of course, they all wanted to feel the scroll vibrate, so they formed a line. One-by-one they came forward to touch the violin scroll as I played a note. “Can you feel that?” I asked each one. “Yes!” each said, with some surprise.

“You don’t just hear music,” I said, “When it’s live, you can feel it. It’s different from an IPod with earphones.”

This past December I went to see Alvin Ailey at City Center for the first time since I don’t remember when. Part of the way through the first piece it struck me, There’s no orchestra. How could that be? And what a difference it made. At first, one might not notice, and in fact, many probably didn’t notice at all. But when you did realize it, you really realized it, because the music simply didn’t go through you in the same way as it does when it is live.

When the girls were smaller, we participated in a parent-child class at the Green Meadow Waldorf school in Spring Valley, NY. The Waldorf philosophy advocates strongly against television for children for myriad reasons. What I didn’t know is that, for the younger children anyway, they also oppose the use of recorded music, something that I found, initially, ridiculous. One of the parents in the class, overhearing me saying that Jon played the piano after dinner each evening said, “You are so fortunate to have live music in your house like that.”

Unless I read some serious research to convince me otherwise, I would not advocate against exposing children to recorded music. It is an enormous part of my kids’ lives, especially musical theater recordings. That said, I do believe that there is a big difference between listening to a cd and singing along with their dad on the piano or attending a live musical performance. Live music simply engages people more fully than recorded music.

Because musical instruments are like living beings and when you listen to them, you are participating in the experience in a physical way. There are vibrations that you feel when you listen to a live performance that are different from what you feel when you’re cleaning the house, or driving on a warm day with the windows down with some great cd turned up nice and loud. At a live performance, the audience responds to the music and, in turn, the musicians respond to the audience. In a theatrical production, as my husband was saying the other night, the musicians and the actors are completely in tune to one another–emotion, timing, improvisation–all of which would be lost using a recorded track.

In any case, the more live music you can get out to listen to, the more musicals your family can attend, the better. The organic experiences of these events are good for all of us. This is assuming we use good judgement with regard to appropriate content, of course.

In this vein, I will try to post age-appropriate local musical events whenever possible. It’s another part of the Kids Unplugged mission and making the time to go to some of them certainly couldn’t hurt. Just something to think about.

http://www.violinist.com/blog/laurie/20091/9603/ (this is the link to the full text of Laurie Niles’ blog post quoted above).

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