Music has been a part of my core since before I was born. In fact, it’s in my DNA.
The garage in the house I grew up in, back home in Carlsbad, has a recording studio in it that my dad built for his band. They’d formed back in college (it’s how my parents met– my mom went to one of their shows), and continued playing gigs through my high school years. The cops came to my dad’s 40th birthday, because his band played in my backyard and shook up the entire surrounding neighborhood. The cops arrived, saw middle-aged men wearing DEVO costumes (complete with the hats), laughed, and went on their way to bust some underage kid’s party elsewhere.
My bedroom was directly above the garage, which means I could hear and feel the songs coming through the floor whenever the band practiced, and falling asleep to the vibrations of the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and Nirvana is the best way I can imagine growing up. Once the band stopped practicing, I kept up the habit by putting in my earbuds and falling asleep to the same tunes (this is why I know every single Queen lyric ever).
So it’s not a surprise that music helps me think. Whenever I write, I play music. Whenever I design something on Photoshop, I play music. In a graphic design class in high school, I created this image to represent how music makes me feel alive in comparison with when I’m not listening to it:
Even for non-creative things, I play music: cleaning my room, cooking dinner, showering (actually, I do some of my best creative thinking in the shower, so that doesn’t really count). I have playlists called “Britney Spears Workout,” “History of Rap,” “EDM Study,” and “Decent Country” (a very recent addition. I learned to tolerate and even appreciate country music once I started living in Missouri).
But never have I applied music to problem-solving, and I learned how to do just that in creativity class last Tuesday.
After listening to what songs my teammates brought in, I realized that music doesn’t just inspire us. It gives us different ways of thinking. It opens our minds to new perspectives, whether it’s a popular, upbeat Michael Jackson song or an indie folk tune. I personally picked “The Logical Song” by Supertramp, because it’s about how children are taught from a young age to abandon divergent thinking and adapt to society’s construction of what is acceptable. When I played the song for my group members, we all had an insight into our problem: we each had a similar experience to that of the narrator of the song. We all were told to go inside, to learn how to be productive members of society.
When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful,
A miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical.
And all the birds in the trees, well they’d be singing so happily,
Joyfully, playfully watching me.
But then they sent me away to teach me how to be sensible,
Logical, responsible, practical.
And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable,
Clinical, intellectual, cynical.
My group members picked songs with similar subject matter, most poignantly “Cat’s In The Cradle” by Harry Chapin. I never really looked at the lyrics, but the song is really sad– the father won’t play outside with his son because he’s too busy, and then the son grows up to be the same as his father. The lyrics are well-hidden by a casual, swingy tune that sounds almost positive and upbeat. I would never have been the wiser to its message.
I’ve long since retired, and my son’s moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said, “I’d like to see you if you don’t mind.”
He said, “I’d love to, dad, if I could find the time
You see, my new job’s a hassle, and the kid’s got the flu
But it’s sure nice talking to you, dad
It’s been sure nice talking to you.”
And as I hung up the phone, it occurred to me
He’d grown up just like me
My boy was just like me
By examining songs and how they speak to us, my group saw a new side of the solution to our problem: encouraging adults to model the behavior we want to see in coming generations. And that includes us. We’re 20-somethings who have been brought up in a world of technology, arguably the first generation to do so, and it’s up to us to start changing our own behavior if we want to see children begin to value outdoor activity as much as the iPad games they’ve learned to love more.