Monday, August 23, 2010

Parental Musical Influences

I'm sitting here in my kitchen with my book Pronunciation Guide for the Lieder Anthology open in front of me as I wait for the CD practice mp3 files to load import into my iTunes for my personal practice use.  (I find it easier to find and control the practice from itunes than from a CD player.)

Anyway, with the book open on my lap, I've been sitting here sounding out the German for "Auf dem Wasser zu singen" syllable by syllable.  It is slow, laborious work. It is being done without the benefit and advice of a knowledgeable coach or teacher at this point, but there is great value in what I am doing, even though it is quite a struggle.  But we all know that this is the kind of struggle has big payoffs sometimes, so I am patient with it.

In walks my daughter to heat herself up a little snack. I hear her repeating the "ich laut" sound -- [ç] -- as she's pressing the buttons on the microwave. She's picking up the new sound very spontaneously and easily (like a child without decades of muscle memory programmed in). In fact, she barely realizes she's doing it, like when you find yourself humming a little tune that's got into your head and you're scarcely aware that you are  humming. I stop and we talk for a minute, and I tell her that is a sound that's in the German language which we don't use in English. She is interested for a second, but I am gaging how much I can tell her before she tunes out.

"German's a weird language," she says, as she takes her snack out of the microwave.

I resist the urge, as a parent, to capitalize on this "teaching moment," by embarking on a lecture about languages. I've ruined too many moments of true and natural interest in my children by trying to get too much in on these little opportunities. So, I restrain myself and content myself with that little exchange and release her to go have her snack in the other room.

But in my heart I am happy. Because I know that these little moments add up. I know what it feels like to look back on childhood and remember the little moments that stand out and stayed with me when I became a grown-up (Am I a grown up yet? I'm still waiting for that to happen.)

How many times have we read a book about some accomplished masterful singer, and the first chapter almost always tells us all about the musical household they grew up in?

I have engaged in some reflecting in recent years on how my musical interests came about from the influence of my musical mother. I have vivid memories of her practicing the piano or organ in the living room, rehearsing with our local community theater group or having wedding singers over the house to practice songs for weddings. It was her involvement in these things that brought me into the world of music. At the time I had not realized what was happening exactly, but it was as natural as learning to walk or to talk, and I find it fascinating that it can happen like this.  It is a beautiful example of how the life of an avocational musician makes waves in time and space, and makes the world a more musical place.

So, I don't know what little memories will impress myself on my daughter when she is all grown up. Maybe this moment in the kitchen when she picked up the [ç] sound and learned what it was will be one of those memories.

I don't want to ruin what is natural by coming in and trying to force or manipulate the situation. In fact, I'd prefer to not even be conscious of any effect my pursuit might be having.  I will just continue to pursue my passion and leave those other effects up to the greater scheme of things.

1 comment:

  1. The latest episode of Diction Police features ich-laut! Episode 15...