Experiments on Children

So one of the interesting things about parenting is the ability to experiment on your children. Not in a big, serious, inappropriate way, I hasten to add. I’m not trying to raise the Red Eye here. In this case the experiment was musical in nature.

Our old Camry’s engine let go a few weeks ago, which was enormously inconvenient and, due to the age and value of the car, meant that buying a new(er) car was a better option than fixing it. After a little shopping we’re the owners of a shiny new Toyota Wish that, while only 7 years newer than the Camry, is light-years ahead of the appointments. Said appointments include a working stereo and a CD player (and a minidisc player, which was probably very futuristic in Tokyo in 2003 but now is sad little remnant of an extinct technological branch, the stereo equivalent of finding it appointed with Huia feathers). Devoid of line inputs, never mind fripperies such as Bluetooth I’ve been reliving my teens by making mix CDs1.

And hence the experiment. After making up a CD of the finest in cock rock (your ACDCs, your Cults, your Velvet Revolvers) I decided to line up something that wouldn’t be quite so much of a sausage fest. Hence, I crammed in a mix of female-fronted rock2. Les Vielles Salopes3, L74, Joan Jett, Transivision Vamp, and so on. Without reviewing the breadth of my collection I was aware that the girls hear a lot more blokes singing than women, and I wanted to, just quietly, even things out a bit and see what happened.

I was pretty surprised.

Ada’s first interest in recorded music, around the age of two, was Parry City, and her second, a little later, was Iggy Pop’s The Passenger. Since then she hasn’t really expressed much interest in music she’s not singing or playing herself (and the soundtrack of Frozen, but who doesn’t love that?5). And today, driving into town for some shopping (for luggage) and some pre-trip-overseas Daddy-daughter time I heard… questions. “Is this singer the same as the last one?” (No, Joan Jett and Wendy James are a bit different). “Who sings this?”. And singing. Singing along. A slightly timid chanting along to the chorus of “Pretend That We’re Dead” and “Over The Hills and Far Away”6. This was, essentially, the first time this has happened.

So yeah. Perhaps predictable in an intellectual sense7, but I was startled by the vivid illustration provided: years of mostly guys singing? Limited interest. This isn’t for me. A quarter hour of women hammering our much the same style of music? Total, rapt attention.

  1. OK, so I didn’t make actual mix CDs in my teens, since CD recorders and indeed CD players themselves were beyond my means, so I was making mix tapes and since it’s not like I had friends I wasn’t sharing with anyone but that’s not the point.
  2. Which turned out to be embarrasingly more difficult than I realised.
  3. Ada’s French isn’t that good yet.
  4. There may have been some careful song selection where some artists are concerned.
  5. You? Then we can’t be friends because you are basically Hitler.
  6. The Nightwish cover.
  7. And retrospect. Always good like that, hindsight.