By its third week in the womb a fetus has begun to develop ears, by the seventeenth week those ears hear sounds. What exactly they hear I’m not sure, it probably sounds something like when you put your head under the bath water when listening to your phonograph. At some point someone saw this not only as just a developmental stage but as an opportunity to expose a yet unborn child to the parents favorite films, literature, and music. My wife and I are expecting our first baby this August and we have now passed that seventeenth week.
I consulted the pregnancy bible What to Expect when your Expecting, which informed me that there is no physical evidence proving any positive or negative effects of music in the womb. There is a belief that babies exposed to music in utero have an increased likelihood of appreciation and the possibility of being soothed by the same music outside the womb. Other books suggested that playing music can encourage the development of the fetal brain, but there is no physical evidence to prove so.
Currently my unborn baby’s brain has been developing mostly to NPR and Law and Order SVU. Because I don’t want my child falling asleep to the soothing sounds of All Things Considered or graphic descriptions of rape and molestation, I plan on assaulting the baby with nonstop indie rock like LAKE and The Head and the Heart.
Traditionally people have felt that the classics (Beethoven, Bach, Mozart) were best for these developing minds, despite having never listened to or cared about their music before. I don’t believe that Beethoven’s fifth symphony makes you any smarter, to a fetus who doesn’t even know what music is, Beethoven means just as much as Justin Bieber. I don’t have anything against the classics, I just don’t listen to them, and I want my baby to enjoy my music.
I was twelve years old when I bought my first album, Nirvana’s Bleach, prior to that I was a devoted fan of Raffi, Tim Noah, Tickle Toon Typhoon, and the MMC (Mickey Mouse Club). That may have been fine for a child, but now I’m an adult and a selfish adult who doesn’t want to be forced to listen to that old music again. I want to listen to my favorite music and I want my children to have the same seasoned hipster taste in indie music as I.
I’m not naive, children’s music is successful for a reason, the melodies are catchy, the lyrics are recognizable, and they usually come packaged with a playful shtick. I have no doubt that in the coming years I’ll hear my share of the Wiggles and I’ll finally figure out what the hell Yo Gabba Gabba is. But can you blame me for preferring to watch a stage full of dirty hipsters play beautiful music rather than a stage of full-grown adults dressed as fruits and vegetables.
While I would be the proudest dad in all the land if on the first day of school my child led the class in a rendition of LAKE’s Roger Miller, I’m not going to count on it. I’m sure there are plenty of parents who blasted nonstop Mozart, Beatles, and Joni Mitchell at the womb, only to shamefully hold their head in their hands as Limp Bizkit, Creed, or John Mayer, poured from the boom-box in their children’s room.
It was the authors of What to Expect when you’re Expecting who warned that worrying too much about what you play for your unborn baby could be early signs of extreme parental pushiness. I don’t disagree, I’ve already filled my babies bookshelf with my favorite childhood books, and there is currently a Star Wars shirt hanging in their closet. Yes, I’m going to be that dad.
Maybe I’ll get lucky and five months of LAKE, Karl Blau, Mirah, the Head and the Heart, and Deep Sea Diver will pay off. They’ll kick to it in the womb, sleep to it in their crib, dance to it as a toddler in the living room, drown their moody sorrows in it as a teenager, dance to it again in college, and maybe someday they’ll play it for my grandchildren in the womb.
While part of me feels that the pop-hiss of the stylus on vinyl is essential to developing minds, I’ve also come up with an in utero mixed tape for the next five months.
1. Angelo Spencer- Tanger, Tanger
2. Congratulations- Juice and Syrup
3. The Curious Mystery- Night Ride Reeling
4. Deep Sea Diver- NWO
5. Flight of the Conchords- The Most Beautiful Girl (in the room)
6. The Head and the Heart- Down in the Valley
7. Horse Feathers- Drain You
8. Iron & Wine- Innocent Bones
9. Karl Blau- Goodbye Little Song
10. LAKE- Roger Miller
11. LAKE- Giving and Receiving
12. Mirah- Gone are the Days
13. Pickwick- The Round
14. Shana Cleveland & the Sandcastles- Butter & Eggs
15. The Soft Hills- Days When We Were Young and Free
16. Thao w/ the Get Down Stay Down- Know Better Learn Faster
17. Yeah Yeah Yeah’s- Diamond Sea
*Nirvana’s album In Utero is an obvious choice, I just don’t find Rape Me or Tourette’s to be the kind of mind developing music I want my baby to have.