Tin Ear

Music has always been an important part of our lives. K is an impresario with several instruments, I dabbled with strings and sang. So, it was important to us to make sure the boys had a good grounding in music. It started early with C, when he started eating solids, we would play music while he ate. It soon became a requirement with dinner, specifically he wanted Audioslave when he ate. Soundgarden was a close second, but nothing else kept him happy.

When M came along and we moved into our new house, our neighbors had a piano. C would go over to hang out with their son and would tinker on their piano. We were rather excited when the neighbor told us that C seemed to have an ear for chords. He would push own some keys and if he came close to a chord, he smiled, if not, he would frown. It wasn’t much, nobody likes off notes, but we took it as a good sign. Good enough for us to buy a piano. I t was used by K to write music and practice Beethoven, by our nanny’s then-boyfriend to do amazing things on and for C’s friend Joseph to practice his piano lessons. Neither C nor M showed any inclination to do more than bang on the keys.

As they got older and started school, they were introduced to more music, some of it made me a bit skeptical. Girls with older sisters introduced us to boy bands. Boys introduced us to other “music.” They became obsessed with a song called “Dynamite,” by Taio Cruz. it wasn’t quite music, but they could identify with it. C thought the girls in his class were silly for liking “Justin Beaver,” so I could tolerate some musical shenanigans. We introduced them to some old school Beastie Boys, which (sadly) led to the Blackeyed Peas (not my choice). They heard the Dropkick Murphys on the radio and a new love was formed, one I could tolerate more easily.

This past Christmas they wanted iPods. Well, they wanted iPhones, but who do they need to call? So, iPods it was. We loaded some music for them, Murphys, some Beasties and some of the songs they liked that I refused to allow my iTunes account to be associated with. This helped me greatly as they could now listen to Beyonce and I didn’t have to be tortured. Except by the singing, oh gods, the singing.

Our first existential crisis came one day while the boys and I were out driving. I had the radio on, and for once the local stations were playing music instead of talking about sex or drugs. Zeppelin came on, and I turned it up, because that’s the law. About halfway through ‘Communication Breakdown,’ a little voice from the back seat asked, “Daddy, do you like this music?” Several things went through my head, the first being to wonder if they could find their way home if I pulled over and dropped them off. A lot was riding on the next few seconds. “Yes, I do,” I replied. “Oh good,” came the reply, “so do I.” I took them home.

I knew we were doing something right a few days later when C was complaining about a song being stuck in his head over breakfast. I inquired as to what song he had woken up thinking about. “It’s ‘TNT,’ you know, by AC/DC?” Excellent.

Their song lists have now been expanded on their iPods. Adele, the White Stripes, Mumford & Sons and KT Tunstall have joined their ranks. Garth Brooks, Josh Groban and some more of K’s music have also wiggled their way on to their songlist. Van Morrison and Don McLean have joined ABBA and Neil Diamond in their playlists.

We need, apparently, to listen to the words a little better. M recently came home with a paper from school in which he had used “My, My, Miss American pie,” as a sentence. His teacher was not impressed. I explained that he might have gotten full credit if he has correctly used “Bye, bye,” instead. The boys then regaled me with a rendition of the song in which the chorus was “Got my machete at the ready, now let’s have some pie.” Hmmm, lost something in translation, I think.

So, prodigies we are not, but our tin ears are improving. We all agreed that the new Stone Temple Pilots is terrible and the boys have sworn never to listen to Linkin Park because of it. I can be proud of that. I still don’t know if there’s hope for them as musicians, but we’ll keep building the foundations and see what comes about.

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