My whole life, I have been surrounded by musical influences beyond my own control. I grew up in a small town called Ashland nestled between two mountain ranges in southern Oregon, USA. Music in my household was controlled by two major forces: my father and two older brothers.
My father, out of a love for high fidelity, ensured that our home was equipped with enough quality components and speakers to test my mother’s patience whenever he or one of the boys turned the thing on. A founding member of the band The Four Teens, Dad enjoyed genres ranging from classical to jazz and fusion. It was largely music without lyrics, often straining my capacity to understand what the big deal was when it came to Pat Matheny and 16-minute songs.
Meanwhile, Brad (the middle brother) was a fan of KISS-style heavy metal and later country western. The oldest brother, Geoff, listened to slightly less metallic rock and roll, though I do recall Boston being a unifying force in the brotherhood.
Outside our humble abode, I encountered fewer musical alternatives. In southern Oregon, there were really only three kinds of music at the time: rock and roll, country western, and pop. If it wasn’t on the US Top 40, it didn’t get much airtime. Consequently, I was ear-deep in Michael Jackson, Duran Duran, Journey, Mötley Crü, the Police, Cindy Lauper and whatever else blared on the local FM station and MTV.
Still, I could not have anticipated the huge influence my father’s record collection would have on my musical tastes as I began to attend live performances after returning from abroad and relocating to Portland, Oregon. Somehow, I even became the first music director of my university’s inaugural radio station, KPSU.
Over the years, albums and tapes gave way to CDs and MP3s. This has eliminated the need to haul stereo components from place to place. Still, the influence of music continued to grow in my life until about seven years ago with the birth of my daughter in Shenzhen. Music and its influence – as with many other things – subsided when we brought that little child home.
Like any good parent at the time, we considered Baby Beethoven but settled on a child-friendly musical diet of real bands. Unfortunately Reina gravitated towards standard kid fare that was easy to sing along to, with a penchant for some seriously hardcore gangsta rap from time to time. Fortunately, she is also a fan of more kid-friendly albums by accomplished musicians like They Might Be Giants and the Barenaked Ladies.
Had we stopped at just one child, we might have done away with bands with names like the Philadelphia Chickens. However, our twin boys have ensured that we will be tuning in to them and their ilk for quite some time.
These days, when listening to iTunes Radio or just browsing our music collection, I am told to play songs from a category called “Kindergarten Sing-Alongs.” I could argue but there wouldn’t be much point. The boys will shake their little booties to nearly anything, but really tear up the dance floor to music with a catchy beat that sounds like it was engineered for them. So, I crank up Red Grammer and join in the fun. What choice do I have? They will no doubt outgrow it before I know.
Illustration by Sunzheng
This article originally appeared on p48 of the beijingkids February 2014 issue.
Check out the PDF version online at Issuu.com