Womb Music

I’m at the end of pregnancy, and in addition to now owning a car seat and burp cloths, the pressing question in the minds of the two composer parents is, “what will he listen to?”

There’s lots of research that studies what exactly babies hear in utero, besides just my voice and my heartbeat. The science suggests that repeated sounds, repeated music, becomes familiar even to the unborn baby. While parents everywhere are blasting Frère Jacques on a daily loop, there is really nothing more organic to my life than the repetition of music, specifically little phrases—otherwise known as, composing.

When, according to the book, the baby could first hear, we were working on a terrific documentary, collaborating with Nneka Egbuna, the Nigerian hip-hop singer who is really fabulous (check her out if you don’t already know her). So vibrations of West African music lilted their way, hour after hour, into the amniotic playlist. For a while we had decided that the only sounds that would soothe his baby cry would end up being Yoruba drumming, gourds and agogo bells.

womb music

The studio orbits around the click, our sonic sync sun. I imagine my relationship to the click to be much like the baby’s relationship to my heartbeat. So if I stay calm, the click stays steady, everybody remains in check, quantized to a healthy pulse. I wonder if he will enjoy living in a click-friendly environment once he’s out of my body. . .will the click oddly comfort him?

In preparation for his arrival, we bought him an iPod nano, teensy like him, which we decided to fill with music that would be good/important/necessary for him to hear in the first year of life. We have just begun the process of making a 1st-year-of-life-playlist.

Friends gave us some “baby music” recordings, which are totally foreign to me because I have never ever listened to The Eagles or Queen. There’s a lot of music out there targeted to baby ears. I equate a lot of it with the weirdness of playing, say “The Wind Beneath My Wings” on the top octave of the celeste. It’s like Quint, from Turn of the Screw, having lunch with Bette Midler. And even weirder is the more you examine lullabies, the most culturally uber of baby music, the more you see what emotional complexity and troubled words lie within.

Rockabye Baby

So in the spirit of welcoming this new baby into a sonically plural, open space, where I hope he will listen to all kinds of music, I am officially beginning the Music for Fresh Ears Playlist. What music should we play for baby Benjamin, as he first hears his way into the world?

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