Pop music. Ouch. My son goes to sleep every night to Taylor Swift. My four girls sing and dance to music from the latest Disney stars or female pseudo-rappers.
I have tried to expose my kids to classic rock. They know how a vinyl LP looks, feels, and sounds. They know the names of a lot of the most important bands. But, alas, I think they are lost to the music of their own generation. One of my daughters calls the Rolling Stones “old-timey.”
As a parent, I would like to pass along some of myself to my children: genetics to my child who is not adopted, religion, ethics, appreciation of fitness, dietary choices, and so on. For me, the enjoyment of classic rock has been a big part of my life. I am not a musician or an audiophile, but I often have a song or two playing all night long in my dreams. When life-events happen, a topical song often starts playing in my head. For example when my college roommate died 26 years ago, Stevie Wonder’s “Love’s In Need Of Love Today” (from the mega-genius 1976 album Songs in the Key of Life) started involuntarily and played in my head for weeks. This is beyond appreciation of music. Instead, this background music represents, to me, the ability of good music to allow us to capture and explore important emotions.
I would love to pass along some of my love of music to my kids, but manufactured, generic music just does not have the depth or importance to support my kids’ needs as they go through life.
But my wife is pregnant. I have one more chance!
In the numerous pregnancy websites she has been visiting, she has read that fetuses can start to hear at the start of the second trimester. Is this true? Well, geek that I am, I did a search on PubMed and found that fetuses can, indeed, hear. Perhaps not at 14 weeks gestation, but certainly in the third trimester.
In fact, studies have shown that fetuses’ have some memory of sound. One example of this is from a study published in 2014 which showed that blood flow in the brain (the middle cerebral artery) statistically increased after a sound stimulation. However, when the sound stimulation was repeated, the blood flow did not change. This suggests some level of memory is taking place with that sound.
In another study, from 2013, babies who had been exposed to a specific song while in the womb demonstrated memory of this song. The researchers followed the infants’ brains’ event-related potentials (ERPs). In the control group, music was not played. In the music group, the song “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” was played five times a week. After birth and at age 4 months, the infants in both groups were played a modified version of this melody in which some of the notes were changed. ERPs to both unchanged and changed notes were recorded. It was found that the infants in the music group had stronger ERPs to the unchanged notes than the control group. Even more interesting, the ERP amplitudes to the unchanged and changed notes at birth were correlated with the amount of prenatal exposure to the music. This indicates that fetuses are capable of musical memory and, with increasing exposure to the same music, the strength of the memory increases.
Does this mean that it is possible to influence musical taste? Who knows? But I have to try. Bring on the classic rock! Vinyl only, please.
My wife, being a good sport, has allowed me to play our little fetus an album side a day for the past few days. Of course, we started with Led Zeppelin II (there really cannot be another choice – “Whole Lotta Love”).
(I have two copies in case of emergencies!).
Next was Cream, Disraeli Gears.
Last night, Genesis, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway.
I think Janis Joplin is tonight.
Jankovic-Raznatovic S, Dragojevic-Dikic S, Rakic S, et al. Fetus sound stimulation: Cilia memristor effect of signal transduction. Biomed Res Int. 2014. 2014 Feb; 273932
Partanen E, Kujala T, Terveniemi M, et al. Prenatal music exposure induces long-term neural effects. PLoS One. 2013 Oct; 8(10):e78946,