Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Mozart will not make my son smarter!

But I make him listen to the classical station anyway.

I want him, someday when he's older and hears some classical music, to think, "Hey, I kinda like that! I used to listen to it when I was little." Instead of, "What the heck is this? I can't relate to it."

I don't know very much about classical music myself; all I know is that the radio station goes on, the radio station goes off. Sometimes the DJ says something interesting. For instance, yesterday after one lovely but unmemorable piece, he mentioned that the composer was William Herschel, the astronomer who discovered Uranus, binary and multiple stars, and nebulae.

Maybe if my son starts earlier, he will do better. Maybe he'll not only be able to discern Bach from Beethoven, but Aubin from Orff.

With visual art, I can do a little better. Exposing a child to visual art is not as easy as switching on the classical station at random in the car, but my parents made sure I got some exposure, and I can do the same. Art museums can be fun. Anyone who takes a kid to an art museum without making it fun is missing out on something great. I also want to inure my child to the traditional staples of art - the nude, the abstract, and the high concept, for some examples. The first time I took a figure drawing course, some of the other students had a very hard time adjusting to the presence of the nude model - they may have been art students, but they'd never had a chance to accept that nudity can be artistic. It's part of our culture. Nudity as a taboo is also part of our culture. The two seem to contradict, but they don't have to create cognitive dissonance if you give a kid time to get used to it.

I want to expose the kid to theater. Theater is fun. It's like movies, but better because it's in person. Cinema is an industry, and that's fine, and he'll inevitably watch a lot of movies in his lifetime. But theater is people creating art right in front of you. I can't keep him away from that. He may even want to try it himself.

I don't expect the arts to make him smarter or better, or even to prepare him for the real world (although they might contribute to that). I don't want to steer him into an arts career - I went to art school and I wouldn't recommend it to people who are good at anything else.

I just want him to love the arts because art is great. Art is part of being human. Maybe there are studies showing that babies who listen to Mozart have better brain waves, and students who join band are better at math. Maybe there aren't. I don't care about that. (Well, I'd like him to be better at math, of course.) I just want him to know what arts are out there, and be familiar with them already, and not have to play catch-up when he's older. Or worse, find himself intimidated by the sheer volume of art and avoid or even scorn it. There are lots of things in life we cannot give him, and he'll be playing catch-up in some way or other. We're not great athletes. We're too poor to engage in many expensive hobbies. We travel a lot, but our travel habits are very specific and leave out a lot of options. It's a big, full, rich, diverse world out there, and if I can't give him all of it, I at least want to give him a well-rounded sampling of it.

I don't expect art to change him. I don't want to influence who he is. I just want to influence what he has.

1 comment:

  1. My Dad always played the classical music station in the car; we would talk about what I imagined when I listened to it. It's still one of my most pleasant childhood memories decades later.