The Gift of Music:
ALL PHOTOS (unless credited otherwise): Unsplash
Dropping the Needle and Raising the Bar
THIS is the day where many of us…
are digging into gifts and sharing our memories online. Today, we will see (and have) happiness and good wishes pouring through social media. Whilst some have accused Christmas of being too commercial – there are only two days of the year when one gets presents so I embrace this element of Christmas – whereas others prefer the family time and togetherness. There is no wrong answer – the day means something different to everyone - but, as we check out our gifts and dive into the spirit of the day; I wonder whether lessons and education, in addition to presents, is what we should be passing to children. My point does not only apply to the young: music is for everyone and is a timeless, ageless gift. I do not necessarily mean a physical possession: passing down tastes and artists offspring is as precious and meaningful as a physical thing. We think about family this time of year and, as the tree is crammed with presents; there is excitement and happiness around the house. No matter what your age; there is that thrill of receiving and giving presents to loved ones. Whether you think it is a commercial day that lacks religious spirit or preserves Christian traditions – music is an integral part of Christmas. We have all been flooded with Christmas music, old and new, and had those tunes bouncing around the head. It is a day to be in the present (no pun intended!) but, also, reflect on the past. I have been casting my mind back to childhood and the best days.
IMAGE CREDIT: Freepix
One of the reasons I got into music at a young age was because of the exposure and opportunities I had in the 1980s and 1990s. I was fed the finest music ever in the childhood household and afforded access to vinyl, cassettes and C.D.s. I was given music-related gifts and, blended with that, a constant stream of eclectic sounds. I am not sure which is most instrumental to me (again; not trying to pun!) but I feel both of them played a part. I am not casting myself in the guise of a personal shopper but I feel few of us, young or older, are being provided the literal gift of music. One of the best ways to instil a passion for music in a child is to play it around the house. Many parents do that but I wonder whether the selections are broad and how committed they are. I was lucky enough to spend my early life in a household that was constantly humming with great sounds. It is because of that, and the music I was buying, that led me to pursue music as a career – and spend my time fostering the best new artists around. Soon enough; myriad music stuck in the brain and that began a life-long pursuit; an endless passion for the art. I wonder whether children/those interested in music are being given a good start.
I confess, for children, toys and the latest must-have gifts are great: that is what Christmas is all about, surely?! This day will fade and we will be back into the normal, day-to-day routine. Not only is music a great way of fostering interesting and forging musicians of the future; it has huge substance and meaning. I remember the first items of music I was given as a child. A red boom-box (or tape-recorder, as we’d call) had a dual-cassette feature (that was very advanced in the early-1990s) and I would use that to soundtrack races around the block – on the back of a go-kart my grandfather built as a present. The likes of T.Rex and Glen Miller (I had a broad taste!) would blast out of the speakers and create limitless joy. Not only did that humble gift provide an outlet for the music I loved: the memories have remained in mind and, in a way, carried on a love for music. It can be that easy and low-key. You do not need to make lavish gestures but music, in so many ways, can do more than create a hobby: it can enrich lives and give someone a purpose. This Christmas is nearly over – in terms of buying gifts – but, going forward, do not underestimate the importance of music in someone’s life. So much of today’s sounds are on streaming sites and digital means. That is all well and good but there is something special and pure about music’s beginnings.
Record players might sound like an expensive gift but they can last for years. As an accompaniment; a record bag with a few vinyl would open eyes and minds; a great start for a child and, for those already committed to music; a treasured and valuable possession. I have asked for vinyl this year – in addition to a book on The Beatles – and asked for them so I can enjoy these items years down the lines. They not only provide entertainment and get memories flooding back; there is that nourishing, fulfilling side. I listen to an L.P. and can lose myself for that time. It is there when I need lifting and provides inspiration and guidance. Even a retro/old-fashioned music gift – a cassette player and tapes – is a charming and original choice. Listen to all the greatest musicians around and they all say the same thing: music, physical and audio, came into their lives from a young age. Not only did they experience a decades-spanning soundtrack but were given record players, vinyl/tapes. From there, they continued that love and chose to follow music as a career. It sounds like I am trying to force people into a music career but there is that integral link between early exposure/nurturing and continued commitment. One need not spend a lot of money buying vinyl and a record player to make a musical impact. As I say; it can be something more basic or music being played around the house.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
In my thirties; I am still searching for new music and, if a chance for gifts comes along; I am scouring the electronic aisles for vinyl or a rare find. The pursuit and hunger for music does not end when you get older. It is important we provide music upbringing to children because, as studies have shown; there it helps develop memory, motor skills and personality:
“Research undertaken by a team of researchers in the 1990s showed that the exposure to music from early childhood onwards helps children to speak more clearly, develop a larger vocabulary, and strengthen social and emotional skills. The psychologist Howard Gardner already argued in 1983 that music intelligence is as important as logical and emotional intelligence. This is because music has the ability to strengthen the connection between the body and brain to work together as a team. For instance, when dancing and moving to music, children develop better motor skills whereas singing along to a song helps them to practise their singing voice. In general, the exposure to music supports children in their development process to learn the sound of tones and words…Many studies have investigated the importance of music in early childhood development since the 1950s.
Two facts that are widely accept are that children do not express music in the same way as adults and that the years from birth to the age of six is the most important period for a child’s musical development. This is because even the youngest toddlers receive the tones of music and unintentionally differentiate in frequency, melody and stimuli. According to researchers, the early years of childhood are critical to learn to unscramble the tones of music and to build up a mental organisation system to memorise the music. This means that, like language development, toddlers develop their musical skills through imitating and memorising rhythms and tones of songs such as clapping to a beat and singing in tune. Without this ability children would not be able to develop their musical skills”.
A lot of these facts are already known but many are depriving children of a basic music upbringing – let alone any developed and sustained exposure. There are other reasons why the gift of music can enrich a mother/father-child bond:
“Further research also indicates that parents develop a stronger bond to their children when they enjoy music together. This way music is not only a tool that contributes to the growth and development of a child but it also helps the family to spend quality time and have fun”.
One can apply the same arguments and science to adults. Emotions and life is more complex as you get older: the mind develops and, psychologically, there are more challenges put in the way. Music’s place and importance become more focused and essential. Most adults have a love of music and listen to it on a semi-regular basis. Music has the power to help anxiety and depression; to make one feel less alone; to provide someone the drive to do more in life and take on new challenges. A single record/music gift can make a gigantic impact on someone’s life. I can chart my pursuit of music from my childhood and the upbringing I had – the music I heard and the gifts I was given. Even this far down the line; I have been inspired to rekindle a (long-forgotten) push to record music. I initially quit because of nerves and a lack of finance but I have stoked the fire back up – maybe not something sung; perhaps a samples-album or electronic-based recording. As we open our presents with fever and expectation, we will hang on to some of the gifts whilst some might last only a short time. Music is a gift that keeps on giving and does a lot more than provide aural stimulation. For adults and children, it can inspire a career and develop the mind; it can improve mental-health and provide direction; it can unlock memories and do so much more. It might be too late for this Christmas but, going forward, if you are looking for a gift idea or a surprise for someone special…
NEVER underestimate the power of music.