The Composer’s Daughter
Strangers say she has the slender fingers of a pianist. She grimaces at minor seconds and is lulled to sleep by the rhythm of the pounding drums. She cries as cluster chords play electronic strains and is fascinated by the simple strumming of the mandolin. She smiles as her mother sings a half-forgotten lullaby and shuts her eyes at the clash of cymbals. She is the composer’s daughter.
As I hold her tiny, pink, pillowy body closely to my gently beating heart, I wonder if the nearly ten months she spent in my womb has left any permanent musical impressions on her. I remember the kicks she gave me from within when I stubbornly insisted on playing drum set seven months into the pregnancy, my bulging belly only a centimeter’s distance from the piercing snare drum. I think of the hours I performed on the congas, each tap and slap creating a rhythmic lullaby for my sleeping unborn, unseen, child, and I think of her tiny ears hearing sorrowful ballades when hormones and stress and nausea brought me to tears.
I remember giving composition lessons in the music studio and her abrupt kicks when a student’s dissonant electroacoustic piece roused her from deep slumber. Experts say that Mozart increases a child’s intelligence, but the study is still out on Stockhausen, Reich, Oliveros, and Varese.
What symphony did she hear in the peaceful chamber within me? Synthesized external sound waves, the gentle beating of her mother’s heart, the churning and gurgling of the stomach, the quick rhythms of her own tiny heart, the subtle sucking of a microscopic thumb, and the gentle rush of amniotic fluid – not even Mozart could create music so divine.
Yesterday, at three months of age, my daughter had her first piano lesson. Holding her high above an electronic keyboard, I laughed as she pounded out her first improvisation with her chubby feet. Perhaps she would have enjoyed the exercise more if her big toe could reach the major third instead of just a second. For her first drum lesson, she seemed more interested in throwing the makeshift instrument than playing it. My hope for this child, born out of love and music – that she enjoys each musical moment of her existence, that she learns to love and be loved in perfect harmony, and that she experiences to the fullest this symphony we call life.
Sabrina Peña Young is an Intermedia Composer teaching at Murray State University and an experienced blogger. Her specialties are composition, technology, world music, percussion, and film & video.