Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Kids Stuff

I have often considered that the resolution to the conflict in the digital music environment was nothing short of kids stuff. The introduction of a collective licensing scheme is such an obvious move that it bewilders me no end that the major labels will not turn to it. More recently I came to view this necessity from a different point of view.

As a mother of a young child I am very aware of the influence of the media and take steps to limit my child’s exposure to television, am very selective about the DVDs that I will allow her to borrow and have been quite concerned about the messages mainstream music offers. While I listen to an alternative radio station she nonetheless is exposed to this form of music through other avenues including her friends at school. In an attempt to overcome this I have been taking deliberate steps to ensure that she is at least aware of a range of music and that some of it can have valuable meaning.

For some time we have borrowed CDs from our local library, I have purchased some from eBay as well as buying what I consider to be age appropriate, positive, music. Having said that though, it was purely for personal gratification that I subscribed to eMusic. Whilst having purchased a couple of tracks from iTunes and explored the music licensed under creative commons on Limewire I was looking for a digital service with a range of alternative music titles, no DRM and which were offered at a reasonable price. For the first few days this was my central concern, I spent quite a bit of time searching and downloading the music I like but somewhere around the third day I made what I consider to be one of the best discoveries of my life – the children’s music! (Listed under Soundtracks/other for those wishing to browse the eMusic site.)

Needless to say I spent the next week looking through some 75 pages of CD titles and exclaiming about the brilliance of such a selection. Prior to subscribing we had been quite attached to some CDs from the library which I refer to as the ‘Classical Kids’ collection. These CDs take the music of a famous composer and combine it with a story line, sometimes related to the music itself but often purely fictional. I discovered the importance of the collection instantly when my daughter told me that a Tchaikovsky song was from a Barbie movie. Much to my delight the whole ‘Classical Kids’ collection is available on eMusic and since then I have used my monthly downloads to start to collect the whole set. I find these CDs particularly beneficial and have commented a number of times to people that it is a form of fun education. If you were to sit a child down and play them Beethoven for an hour they would most likely be fidgeting after five minutes, but these CDs provide an opportunity to expose children to this form of culture without forcing it on them.

Other albums that we will most certainly be downloading in the future include music relating to environmental issues, maths songs (times tables), music from other cultures and other high quality children’s recordings. The thing that strikes me most is how impoverished our lives had been without this. When we think of music and the file sharing war we typically consider teenagers and college students and how having access to such as range of music can empower and educate them but in truth this is a narrow selection of the public. We should not forget the importance of music to the lives of all people regardless of their age and focus on how we can all benefit from an open licensing model.

Perhaps living in a regional environment is one factor, with far less opportunity to explore diverse cultural programs for children. One such program is run by Arts Queensland with similar programs in all capital cities. In more isolated communities however these opportunities for children simply do not exist. This in one way reflects the isolation of children on the internet as they are similarly unable to access the culture that will enhance their lives.

In her book Songs in Their Heads: Music and Its Meaning in Children's Lives Patricia Shehan writes:

Children think aloud through music.... Music may be the treasure children prize for their own personal pleasure, and a tool for their use in understanding the world in which they live. Music may be their own expansive and expressive thinking at work, a means through which to develop thoughtful reflections of their experi­ences

Perhaps I notice it more than others as I live in a regional area with far less concerts and other cultural activities targeted directly at children. Aside from one or two shows a year and some limited concerts she attends through her school there is nothing along the lines of the orchestra programs offered in major cities. One such program is that of Arts Queensland.

I have often commented on the importance of music in my life as a child. Music is not only a form of self expression but when children learn to read music they learn to recognise sentences (phrases) and the ability to illustrate with certain expressions (motives). Music is also mathematical and in learning theory children learn to add and subtract, particularly fractions (intervals) as well as counting in terms of beats.

Maximising the access and exposure of children to music of all types is an education that should not be denied.

Further Reading

Patricia Shehan, Songs in Their Heads: Music and Its Meaning in Children's Lives (1998) http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=78831329

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