Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Musical Baby

[This post has been written more as a personal record than anything else. Feel free to skip it!]

I believe that all babies are born with a fascination for music/tune/rhythm. Some react noticeably, or rather, are probably observed more closely. How the baby turns out as an adult depends on how musically s/he is brought up. Genes obviously play a part, but more important than that is the interest and exposure.

I have already spoken about the Little One's ear for music. Probably her exposure to music even before she was born adds to it, and the fact that we play quite a bit of music to her, and sing to her a lot.

It was such a thrill to see her actually "listening" to music for the first time. She even has a "listening face" - her eyes concentrate on a random spot, she stops moving, she pouts her lips, and she listens.

It is fascinating to observe her reaction to different kinds of music. The earliest observation we made was when mom, a Carnatic vocalist, sang compositons in Raaga Reetigoula, a very soothing raaga, to her as a lullaby. Only for this raaga did she fall asleep. She would immediately yawn, her eyes would close, and she would nod off. Now, she has grown and distractions are aplenty, so she doesn't fall asleep to it that easily. Yet, only when this raaga is sung, she yawns and settles down immediately. When mom sings this to her when she is awake and playful, she shoots mom a dazzling smile, as if to say, Hey, I know this!

When mom sings different Raagas to her when she is awake, we can make out distinct preferences - and that is so amazing. Anandabhairavi makes her turn her head away from mom disinterestedly, she smiles a lot for Abheri, Kalyani makes her eyebrows shoot up ... I can go on.

I sing to her everything from Hindustani music to Carnatic Music to Film songs to Naayi Mari to Old McDonald to Pink Floyd to just plain nonsense rap. She loves it all. She smiles her toothless smile and flails her limbs in response, and talks her nonsense baby-talk.

About a month ago, we noticed another exciting thing. When mom was singing to her, she started making noises, which could have been mistaken for a cry for attention, but, only, it wasn't. The noise goes "Ou-wa", "Ou" as in "Out" and "wa" as in "wag". The "Ou" is low-pitched, the "Wa" is a good number of notes higher, in a falsetto. And this noise she makes with her brows knitted in concentration, her little mouth all wide and crooked, and with tremendous force from her lungs. We wondered what it was, and left it at that - and noticed it again when mom sang to her the next time. Then she did the same thing when I sang to her. Was she under the impression she was singing too? [I have videos of this - if we know each other, I will show them to you when you come home]. We then saw that she did it when we played music to her too! She was actually distinguishing between speech and music, and participating in the music! This reaction is dedicated only to slow music. For fast music, she just smiles and gurgles and beats her arms and legs.

Yesterday, I had left her playing with her toys in her crib and was doing some chores around the room. I noticed that she was doing this Song Routine. Since no one was singing and there was no music playing, I concluded that it was just a cry for attention, and so I went to her and talked to her. She continued the Song Routine with that same concentrated expression. I talked and talked, but didn't get the usual responses. Then suddenly something struck me - I immediately sang something - and the response was her million - watt smile, followed by more excited Song-Routine noises. Was she.... was she... singing on her own? :D

If you have read this far, and are inclined to dismiss this entire post as the product of an indulgent mother's crazed imagination, I understand completely. Sometimes even I wonder if I am imagining it all. But all the conclusions (except the last incident, of course), have been reached not after 2-3 incidences, but at least a dozen of them, observed carefully under various conditions. [Reminds me of Chemistry lab. :O]


Shyam said...

It's a pity I dont know you... I'd love to see some pix, and videos, and the baby herself for real, and actually call her by her name instead of the generic "the baby"... *sigh*

Diya said...

Wow :) Even if it's the crazed imagination of a doting mother, (which I doubt 50%), I'd still say amazing to the Lil One.... Hugs to the Lil One from me for the achievement...And more so, just for being the Lil One :D

Anonymous said...

This post definitely isn't one to be skipped and I am sure enough that she is practising her first notes on singing.
- You-Know-Who

chitra said...

Aaaah...makes me even more eager to meet you guys :-)!

~nm said...

Your lil one seems so smart already!

And don't think you are imagining things. Remember an old saying "poot ke pair paalne mein dikh jaate hain!" I don't kjnow if it has a similar english saying.

Shruthi said...

Shyam, fixed that :D

Diya, thanks :)

You-know-who, noooo I don't know who you are!! Seriously :( and thanks for the belief ;)

Chitra, bega baa!

~nm, hmmmm!!!

chitra said...


it is v. true that the baby starts learning things from the day she /he was conceived . Isnt it the reason why we are told to listen to nice music, and the story of abhimanyu breaking the chakravyuh just after listening to it when he was in his mother's wombis true.

I am sure people knew about it then, for I dont find any reason for why Arjun should be teaching his wife. he was probably teaching his baby, abut alas, the mother fell asleep in between.

so, i am sure, your child will certainly have a musical ears and if provided with good voice, she will be a good singer too.

Poppins said...

It is NOT your imagination Shru, it is true. Babies are naturally musically inclined. I have a honest to goodness video of her "singing" when she was about 4 months old.

DH is talking to her and my mom is singing to her. It's amazing how she makes angry noises to DH as if to ask him to shut up while turning to my mother to join her in singing Sa Re Ga Ma.

Wish I knew you and could see your baby :)

Kadalabal said...

amazing observation great simply great

avani ni dhaneye
inthaha sageetha maya
kutumbakke seri ni dhynayalade
ninage sageetha rakthagathavagi
barali ninna shreddyinda innu hecchu
mannane sigali yendu haraisuvenu
nanu thumbu hrudyadinda

nimma mom's article in sudha was
fantastic and opened up the issues very rightly. convey my regards to her for a great analysis


Veena Shivanna said...

Shruthi, you should also write on what all music you heard when this little one was inside..or may be it has run down from genes ?
That was a nice post as usual

Chaitra said...

It is definitely not your imagination, I felt the same, when my son was around that age. He loved music (much to my relief), and still does. But after he was around 6 months old, he started getting too selective about songs. He hated some that I loved... Sigh. Let me know when your little one starts getting selective about the songs she wants to hear, and starts demanding for particular songs!

Shruthi said...

Chitra, yeah that's true - research says that baby is comforted by the sounds that she has heard in the womb - interesing!

Poppins, wow, that's so cute! :D And let's meet up once the Little One is a little older - after all we live in the same city - shouldn't be too difficult.

Pranesh, thanks :)

Veena, I listened to anything and everything!

chaitra, Oh :D will be prepared!

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