When I was 5-and-a-half months pregnant, my husband and I, both musicians, entertained ourselves by popping studio headphones on my bulging midsection and playing our favorite albums for the fetus-in-residence there. We interpreted each kick and flip as a commentary on the music. We surmised that she loved keyboard sounds, particularly in the midrange, and that her favorite bands were the B-52s and Kraftwerk, because that’s what we wanted her to like.
Of course, I wondered at the time what she would actually be interested in, not just musically. What would she want to wear? Read? Do? Watch?
Fast forward three years. The former fetus-in-residence is now a highly opinionated toddler. She loves robots, microscopes and Spiderman. She likes Star Trek (the one with Data and the one with Spock) and Miyazaki films like “My Neighbor Totoro” and “Spirited Away.” She’s deeply committed to showing as little skin as possible—a typical outfit consists of socks, leggings, a tutu, a dress, and sometimes a sweater, mittens, and a hat, with as many sparkly elements as possible. She almost never wears shirts or pants, although pajamas with space ships on them are preferred. She loves babies and baby dolls, and for lack of a sibling has several imaginary brothers and sisters, some creepily real in her telling. She puts eyebrows on everything she draws.
And she does, in fact, have very specific and pleasing musical tastes.
For instance, when she was little, she responded immediately to Bach (whether a traditional performance or the electronic “Switched On…” recordings by Wendy Carlos) by falling asleep. And here’s the thing: “Switched on Bach” was in regular rotation on the belly bump headphones. Score 1, mom and dad! Score 2: When she was eighteen months old, and drawing enthusiastically with a purple crayon, she told me she had drawn some “purple rain!” Of course I ran to put some Prince on for her, and she was hooked. Prince became our regular road trip and ferry ride companion, and she loved watching some of his more G-rated videos (like his Muppet Show appearance!) I even managed to find her a copy of “Purple Rain”on vinyl, complete with poster.
When she didn’t want to hear Prince, her most common requests were ABBA and Blondie. Something about the 1970s and ‘80s seems to speak to her musical soul—as it does to mine. I’ve put on other things for her, and while she doesn’t mind most classical music, she seems fairly uninterested in things like folk and Celtic (and will ask to listen to something else, not without sass.) Kraftwerk, which she regularly heard in the womb, is the latest obsession. She’s certain that the groundbreaking electronic band is actually comprised of robots, and we haven’t told her otherwise. She sings and dances to “We Are the Robots” in her carseat every morning on the way to school.
The bands she loves become even more important when we all play music together, my husband and I chunking out the chords to her favorite songs on the guitar and piano while she pounds away on her sparkly purple drum set. She sings her own versions of the lyrics, then grabs her ukulele to strum a C chord and make up a song of her own.
So it seems like we were right about our interpretations of her in utero kicks and hiccups. Or maybe it’s just what she was raised with. But it doesn’t matter. As she grows and her taste both conforms to and deviates from ours, I’m just excited to see the way music, one of life’s greatest pleasures, matters in her story the way it does in ours.