The magnificent blues guitarist Robert Lockwood, Jr., performed regularly not far from my childhood home. But the divides of race and radio kept me from hearing him play until I was an adult. Even when I started spending my babysitting money on music I was limited to what was available in stores within walking distance. Just like everyone else born before the net, my musical ear was limited to narrow channels of exposure.
As I got older and discovered what to me was new music, I felt my smaller world crack open. Music pours in past filters. Music, perhaps more than any other form of art, evokes a personal response. Unique as it may be to each musician, it’s also an expression of our shared humanity.
Turns out we’re born to be more receptive to music than to speech. According to a recent study babies respond to music, even regular drumbeats, with increased smiling. Even more surprising, this research shows that babies correlate their movements with the tempo and rhythm. They dance! And music gets a much greater response than spoken words. No wonder adults all over the world naturally engage babies in a sort of singsong-like call and response. We’re translating our language into one that is more evocative.
That’s what music does. It makes us known to one another.
Music is used to lull small ones to sleep, rouse teams to competition, woo lovers, worship, commemorate solemn occasions and celebrate. In some parts of the world music is a medium to intentionally and peacefully resolve conflicts. Through music we more fully grasp that all of us feel grief, love, fear, injustice, joy and moments of transcendence.
My children enjoy wider access to music of all kinds. They’ve seen Chinese opera, Tibetan throat singing, Lakota flute playing, Balinese gamelan and much more. They know more than I ever will as they seek out and share music across a huge range of styles. Entranced I wander upstairs to my daughter’s room, lured by the sounds of Le Mystere des voix Bulgares. I pay attention as my son enthuses about Inon Zur, composer of the orchestral music for inCrysis.
Theirs is the first generation to have the full advantage of the net and other music sharing technology. Across all divides, music can be a peacemaker. It can let us slide past cultural differences and language barriers to a place of mutual understanding. It can let our children keep on dancing and smiling as they were born to do.
Little Girl Dancing courtesy of James Lee
6 thoughts on “Dancing Babies & World Peace”
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Music is such a huge part of our lives. I make sure my daughter listens to all different types. I love your blog. Come visit me at Mama’s Little Chick.
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Some of the best times I have with my boys involve music and a lot of jumping around the room – art, connection and exercise, all in one fun bundle!
Peryl (from MLRU)
Thank you for this view. My husband is a wonderful drummer/composer, and has for most of his life believed, as do I, that we are all tied together with the rhythms of music. From the womb, babies are embued with the sounds of the mother’s body and the beat of her heart. The oldest form of transregional communication was the drum.
Drumming exercises are giving life to those children with autism; violins are bringing children in Chile into the light worldwide and out of the violent streets of the city; jazz in a senior high orchestra brings new hope to gang members – all stories published that show the incredible spirit of the music of life.
Thanks for writing Kris. We are a species of song and story aren’t we? The more we can connect that way, the better. Programs like the ones you mention—- autistic children drumming, Chilean city kids playing violins, gang members playing jazz—-can’t help but lead us in the direction of hope. You’ve made my day.