Music and Children

My daughter and I have been having fun with a RadioShack MIDI music keyboard we bought at a rummage sale. Like most toddlers, she really belts out the notes of her favorite song "twinkle twinkle..." When I try to play along with her on the keyboard I noticed she was already in the key of C. The tin whistle she previously sang along with was in the key of D, and her record player music box isn't in any particular key so she must've remembered a CD or playgroup song. It surprised me that kids have a memory for pitch. The only pitches I've ever remembered are the 60Hz frequency American electronic devices hum loudly just before producing smoke1 and that 17500Hz squeal TVs emit even when you aren't watching "American Idol." Our daughter still hasn't expressed a clear preference for major or minor chords and she'll dance to almost any rhythm. I wonder how much music taste and talent is learned? When and where the pythagorean or pentatonic scales were more common, did the kids holler "twinkle" in those scales?

Does anyone else notice the poor sound quality and tuning in some electronic "music" toys? Wow! I wonder if that's the reason why we hear so many extremely confident but completely tone-deaf singers on "American Idol?" Yes I know there are limits to the sound quality of the speakers you can pack into a toy teddy bear, but that doesn't mean kids don't appreciate real music. Even the popular "Baby Mozart" videos remove too many notes from Mozart's compositions and play them on a synthesized music box. Fisher-Price Nature Baby and Music Baby videos have the right idea, find talented kids who know how to play music well and let other kids hear it. I'd also like to see a toy musical instrument which played pleasing but toddler controllable music, maybe a nice string or flute tone in a pentatonic scale. Imagine toddler music that you could record into new-age tapes, playable in elevators and in the parking lots of 7-11s to ward off loitering teenagers.

O.K. I'm not a audiophile or musicologist, I'll even admit to once having an A.M. stereo in my Chrysler, but I've never been impressed with the sound quality of midi files played through a PC. Are they any better than .MOD files were on a 7Mhz Amiga more than a decade ago? But when played through the ConcertMate-990 keyboard, Mozart's "Ah vous dirai-je maman" on this website isn't bad. Mozart adds some notes to a traditional French children's song. It is still recognizable to our little "twinkle" fan. It helps her go to sleep.

1The 'magic smoke' theory of electronics says that all electronic devices are full of magic smoke which makes the device work. If the magic smoke ever gets out, the device stops working.

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