Once or twice a week, Declan and I sit down in front of an old video of Fantasia 2000, raise our arms and wildly conduct Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony together. He has a great memory for instrumental music, and can hum along with several popular classical melodies, thanks to nap-inducing car rides with WOSU FM on and Classical Baby.
A couple of weeks ago, we went out on a family day trip and stopped at one of those nondescript Max & Ruby’s Apple G. I. Friday’s places to eat on our way home. As we noshed on completely uninspired cuisine, Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” played and Declan danced in his high chair, flapping his arms and bouncing his head to one side in time with the music. Something about straightforward rock and roll really winds him up. I put on David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane for him a few nights ago and it took about 20 seconds of “Watch That Man” before he started dancing around the living room.
There are a lot of studies out there about music and the brain that look at the links between music and how we develop intellectually, cognitively and emotionally. Along those lines, there is also an interesting article published on Salon this week: Joseph LeDoux’s Heavy Mental. A neuroscientist, he has a lot of interesting things to say about our bonds to music, and the ways our brains become chemically accustomed to certain emotional reactions, based on experience and genetics.
What’s inspiring is that he is so optimistic about our capacity to change, no matter how ingrained bad habits might have become. This is a relief to me, I often wake up at night, wondering if even the things that seem so positive about the way I parent could be causing unrealistic expectations and future pain for Declan. A reminder that nothing has to be permanent – that I don’t have to be perfect – is comforting.
LeDoux has founded an “Emotional Brain Institute” at NYU to promote the study of emotion, from the scientific perspective, but also through the lens of the arts and humanities, law and business. Thank heavens for these kinds of scientists, who, in the midst of insane political times, still have the capacity to try and look at ways that we can all, as humans, be and do better.