Bringing Up Baby, As Music Lovers Might Music may or may not make babies smarter. But for new parents who are passionate about music, picking the first song their children will hear upon entering the world remains of great importance. A DJ, a critic and a musician talk about what they played for their newborns.

Bringing Up Baby, As Music Lovers Might

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From NPR News, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Melissa Block.

Parents preparing for the birth of a child have a lot to think about. There's picking the right name, of course, and the right child care arrangements, but what about the right first song? For people who are passionate about music, that's a huge and daunting question.

Brigid McCarthy has the story.

BRIGID McCARTHY: Doug Schulkind hosts a Friday morning music show on WFMU, a noncommercial radio station in New York City. A self-described music obsessive DJ, he plays every kind of music he can get his hands on. When his wife went into labor, he brought his boom box and a stack of CDs along to the hospital. And when the big moment arrived, he knew what song he had to play.

Mr. DOUG SCHULKIND (Host, "Give the Drummer Some"): I think the music found me. And the music that was playing when I first remember holding our new daughter wasn't any accident.

(Soundbite of song, "A Love Supreme")

McCARTHY: She was one day old. Her first music: John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme."

(Soundbite of song, "A Love Supreme")

Mr. SCHULKIND: There isn't any other piece of music I know that could come close to that sense of wide-open heart and grace. And it's so humble that it seems now that it was equal to that incredible moment of holding your child for the first time.

McCARTHY: For Doug Schulkind, that song frames the moment in his memory.

Jeremy Eichler had just brought his newborn son home from the hospital when he realized he had a momentous decision to make. Eichler is the classical music critic of the Boston Globe.

Mr. JEREMY EICHLER (Classical Music Critic, Boston Globe): It did actually feel like there was a lot of pressure as I was standing in front of my CD library. It was fairly paralyzing to try to think of what would be the appropriate piece of music to play for someone's very first ever taste of music. And I ended up choosing Bach's "Art of Fugue," in an arrangement for string quartet.

(Soundbite of song, "Art of Fugue")

Mr. EICHLER: I just thought something about that nature of the music would somehow be almost like honey for the infant mind.

(Soundbite of song, "Art of Fugue")

Mr. EICHLER: I also chose it because it's music that I love. And yet, the scientists are telling us these days that infant music perception actually is very sophisticated.

McCARTHY: Babies can recognize surprisingly complex rhythms, and are sensitive to the differences between melodic and dissonant music. So, how did Jeremy Eichler's son respond to Bach's majestic musical architecture?

Mr. EICHLER: He was absolutely intrigued for the first few bars, and then pretty quickly closed his eyes.

McCARTHY: Maybe he was listening, or maybe he just fell asleep.

Jazz singer Rene Marie started singing to her two sons long before they were born. But it wasn't any particular song.

Ms. RENE MARIE (Jazz Singer): Because I sing constantly. And so, they'd been hearing me sing the whole time they were in the womb. But after they were born, I started writing lullabies and singing them to them. And one of them was…

Ms. MARIE: (Singing) Two little boys I know are sleeping. Two little boys I know are sleeping. Two little boys lay down their head, close their eyes and went to bed. Two little boys I know are sleeping.

McCARTHY: When they got a bit older, Rene Marie would often wake her boys up with Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man," but she kept singing to them too. It was a way she conveyed her love to them.

Ms. MARIE: And I wanted them to know that music doesn't come from a record. It comes from somebody singing. And they will quiet down and just stare at you when they hear you singing. I love that feeling.

McCARTHY: Rene Marie's two sons are in their early 30s now. And she does most of her singing in concerts and on recordings. In fact, it was her older son who convinced her to pursue singing as a career, so others could hear her voice too.

For NPR News, I'm Brigid McCarthy.

(Soundbite of song, "How Can I Keep From Singing?")

Ms. MARIE: (Singing) How can I keep from singing.

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