Thoughts...

Understanding the power of music through the eyes of my son

Like millions of others, music is something I’ve always used for relaxation. There is something in the power of music to help smooth the edges of a day in a way that can’t be matched by anything else. I guess I never really thought about why. Until that is, my son was born and I read up on child development and the formative development of tiny brains.

The first language
The world that young babies are born into is a confusing one of unpredictable noise and behaviour. Music and in particular lullabies helps to provide structure and harmony in a strange new reality where nothing makes sense. It really is the first language babies are able to discover months before they are able to utter a first word.

The relatively new discipline of neuroscience has allowed new insights into how this works. Groundbreaking recent research from the University of Geneva found that music helps the brain development of babies born prematurely. Medical imaging revealed that the vital neural networks of premature infants who have listened to music are developing much better.

Finley learning about the power of music
My son Finley discovering the guitar

The limits of white noise
In other words music creates connections between neurons that literally develop the brain. It also aids the processing function of the brain – sleep. In those red-eyed early few weeks following the birth of my son Finley, my wife and I relied on white noise toys to help him sleep. They were good as far as they went, but really their role was replicating the cosmic comfort of the womb. A rhythmic stepping stone into the harsh bright world beyond.

The first three months is called ‘the fourth trimester’ because human babies aren’t really ready to have exited the womb. It’s only our size that thrusts us out unready, bloody, blinking and crying into a terrifying new reality. As the University of Geneva has proved, music can provide a unique navigational tool to guide these first experiences. That is why we started using Lully instead. Lully is a baby sleep aid that plays an hour of songs, recorded live with a full backing band. The familiar songs, the rhythms, the structure, the live instruments provided a far superior soundtrack compared to the relentless white noise. The difference between an orchestra and a bongo. A funktion 1 festival sound system compared to an iphone speaker.

Metronomic nighttime routine
Crucially for any sleep deprived new parent, as a sleep aid it really works. It’s something you almost feel guilty about sharing with NCT friends. He may have been a good sleeper anyway, but the nights when the batteries have run out have been more fraught which makes me more certain. Lully’s soothing sounds have become a part of a metronomic nighttime routine. Bedtime milk, a story, music, then sleep. A comforting musical sedative to another chaotic day to process.

Journey in music
I’ve now looked to develop his interest in music further. Of course one of the best things about having a child is getting them interested in the things you love. He is fascinated by my playing the guitar, rather than groaning as others occasionally do.. He enjoys plucking the strings, listening and reacting in wonder to the cause and effect. It is exciting to see his interest and wonder how it might develop in giving him the enjoyment it’s given me. This is compounded by now understanding more about its role in his cognitive development. We may even have bought him a mini-guitar for Christmas but shhh! don’t tell him. If music is life he is at the beginning of his journey. I can’t wait to see where it takes him.