Je rhythme, tu rhythmes, elle rhythme …

September 23, 2009

I don’t understand people who don’t like music. It doesn’t much matter what type of music. On the Venn diagram of musical taste, my circle overlaps but slightly with that of Piaf’s maman, and that’s fine. But we’d never have got together if there had been only an empty space where that circle should be. 

It is a given, therefore, that Piaf will grow up surrounded by music of all sorts. Of course, if I have my way, a lot of it will be in French; but a lot will be in English, too and some of it will have no words at all. 

A key difference between Piaf and me is that I learnt two languages while she is learning to live through two languages. She will gradually (I hope) become a person who can not only access two distinct musical canons but can think, speak about and feel either canon in either language. 

That’s ultimately down to us as parents, obviously – we need to foster that interest; we need to provide her with the vocabulary and structures that make self-expression possible; we need to expose her to the music we like and let her see we like it; we need to lead her into those discussions and let them develop into arguments where necessary; we need to foster passion in her. 

All well and good. But what does Piaf think? 

So. Early signs that my daughter is not averse to music.

There’s the sudden interest in the £10 blue electronic keyboard I optimistically got her in Argos last Xmas (blue ones cheaper than otherwise identical pink ones – go figure). Not only does she press the various buttons, she then appears to “groove” to the Xmas-themed demos. 

There’s the way she will pick up songs she hears and then demands to have them sung to her again and again (the long drive down to Dorset was much enlivened by singing the Alphabet Song in both languages when she prompted us by intoning “Ay Deee Deee Deee!”)

 There’s the way that encouraging her to clap along to early Motown distracts her from a tantrum in the car. On Sunday, it was Smokey Robinson’s Mickey’s Monkey. (It’s disloyal, I know, but I cannot think of a single French disc from the Sixties, by anyone, that comes close to the Miracles.) 

There’s the way that, even in my “distinctive” voice, a song sung low gets her cuddling in close at bedtime.

Is any of this unique or even unusual? Probably not. How would I know? I’m just glad it appears to be there. A child who didn’t enjoy music and dancing, even if it’s only in private? I’d sooner father a monolingual.  

Like this? Try these.

Je danse, tu danses, elle danse … 

Je grimace, tu grimaces, elle grimace …

Je me demande, tu te demandes, elle se demande …

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