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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Music Appreciation

Music is the universal language of mankind.- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I enjoy driving my kids to school in the mornings, it is an opportune time to chat and catch up on their lives and then wish them well on their upcoming day. Usually I have the three high-schoolers with me in the Jeep, and while we share some of the same musical tastes, for the most part they listen to more modern music than I do. Here I am using the term “music” very loosely, at least when compared to my usual definition of the word.
This brings me to my central thought for the week. For most of us, music is a window to remember thoughts and feelings we were experiencing the first time we heard a particular song or piece of music. For example, the reason I still listen to Elvis on occasion is his music reminds me of good times with my mother, as she and I would watch Elvis movies; I love the Beach Boys because of the feeling of sun, beach fun and youthful exuberance their tunes represented. Oliver Wendell Holmes suggested, “Take a music bath once or twice a week for a few seasons. You will find it is to the soul what a water bath is to the body.”
I read a survey recently that showed when people have a celebration or tragedy; they want to hear traditional church hymns at a funeral for example, even if they normally attend a more contemporary service or do not attend church regularly. During the Christmas season we sing carols and at New Year’s Eve celebrations we still sing “Auld Lang Syne” even though few of us even know what a “Lang” is anymore. The afore-mentioned study, proposed the reason people are comforted by those songs is largely the memories they have of family and closeness in times of celebration or tragedy.
This brings me back around to our morning rides to school when I’m tortured by my kids’ musical tastes. I have come to realize they, like me, listen to what they do because of the memories they created and friends they were with when they heard these songs in the same way I did years ago. I also recognize that music has a generational identity to it, my personal guess is societal, and political pressures, influence these choices. If I hear something in the music I find objectionable such as lyric content, we can and usually do, have a conversation about what affect and effect the music has on them.
The bottom line is each of us as parents can choose to listen to the music our kids listen to with an open mind, or to discount their musical choices as “not really music.” When we do that, we run the risk of discounting the feelings and memories that make the music “music” in the first place. While I still have to steel myself on occasion when they insist on listening to a band that evidently received their instruments via mail order a few weeks ago, I still listen intently and try to ask intelligent questions about what message the band is trying to say and use that for fodder to spur conversation about their lives.
I must admit that while “Foo” is always something to fight against, I do hope those poor five guys who have been marooned for several years now are rescued soon.

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