Mon
May 2 2011 10:33am
Spec Fic Parenting: The Power of Song

My kids play well together, including the occasional play fights. It usually isn’t anything too fancy, a bit of wrestling, or a few playful bats with a toy sword. But...give them an epic song when they are in the mood to fight and it is a whole other story.

In my estimation, music is one of the most underappreciated formative tools. When I was growing up, we listened to The Phantom of the Opera, My Fair Lady, Cats, The King and I, and many more Broadway musicals, but we also listened to good old ‘60’s and ‘70’s era rock and roll (the music of my parents) which was, in its own right, often fairly science fiction-esque. I mean, come on, Led Zepplin had “Ramble On,” a song that mentions Mordor and The One Ring.

Anyway, so I was exposed to a lot of amazing music. I’m a geek. Okay, whatever, lots of geekdoms overlap, and correlation isn’t causation. True. But: Name an amazing SFF (or any genre) movie or television show that has an amazing, epic score. You're probably going to name nearly all of them. Star Wars, Star Trek, The Last Unicorn, Labyrinth, Dark Crystal, Terminator, and The Lord of the Rings name a few. Even Harry Potter, which I think has the most forgettable score ever penned (no offense to John Williams, I just don’t think it does the action justice) has the wonderful “Hedwig’s Theme” that underscores all of the movies. These scores typically are so powerful that you can just listen to them and see the story all over again. Heck, while I was down at JordanCon, I got into a debate over dinner about the music of Star Wars, hummed a few bars, saying it was the “Twin Suns Setting” and was corrected that, no, I was going too fast, and was instead humming “The Trench.”

Now, I’m not saying a spec fic story cannot stand on its own without an epic and amazing score, but dang does it help in ways beyond “normal” movies. In fact, I’d say most “normal” movies would fail miserably trying to incorporate epic scores. They would over-shadow the drama or comedy or whatever. But in an epic movie, the music matches the story just fine.

Right, so how does this get into parenting? Simply put: expose the kids to epic music, and not just in the form of spec fic movie scores. As an example, I had, at one point, exposed my children to “O! Fortuna.” I don’t recall how long it had been since I had done this—but it had been some time—and I was sitting in the doctor’s office with my eldest, four years old at the time, and we were bored while waiting. I had given him a wooden puzzle of some sort and was diddling away on my smart phone, when all of the sudden I heard him starting to hum something while he worked on the puzzle.

It was familiar, and he kept switching between the high parts and the low percussion hits, and all of the sudden, I realized he was humming, with a good deal of accuracy to harmony and melody, Carl Orff. I was honestly beside myself. And, as I think about it, I think this is a reason my children are drawn to the spec fic movies of my childhood. The music is amazing, it draws them in more fully, tells them the story in ways that dialog might not be able to yet, for their ages. This is probably why my children actually raptly sat through all 11+ hours of the extended Lord of the Rings. Could they follow the plot exactly? I highly doubt it. But did they get the feeling of what was going on? Did they cheer when Theodin charged the fields before Minas Tirath? Yes, yes they did. Do I think they will continue to seek out spec fic AND good music? Oh yes, yes I do.


Richard Fife is a writer, blogger, and was rocking out to “Macavity” before it was cool. (Wait, did that ever actually become cool?) He is writing a free-to-read weekly updated illustrated serial steampunk novel, The Tijervyn Chronicles, and makes occasional quips on Facebook and Twitter.

4 comments
alreadymadwithmusic
1. alreadymadwithmusic
Huh... So you rick-rolled your own children?
Rammy Meyerowitz
2. m5rammy
As a youngster "O Fortuna" used to freak me out. I don't know exactly why, just creepy music with voices I couldn't understand. Maybe in my 20's I finally read the words (and translation) and started to realy like it!

To this day it gives me a good feeling.
(loosely translated: Oh "Fortune", so fickle, one day you're up, one day you're down)
Chuk Goodin
3. Chuk
My five year old is a big fan of the music from the Back to the Future movies. Huey Lewis and the News is no John Williams.
alreadymadwithmusic
4. PipHunn
My parents told me at an early age that 'O Fortuna' was the start of an opera about people arguing why they should drink and have sex with each other.

I still liked the shouty bits.

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