The Musical Generation Gap

The other day my husband had a bit of a wake-up call.  He was at work, trying to explain the music my stepson has been listening to endlessly.  He kind of remembered the name as the music was on my husband’s iPad, but not really, pulling out the, “You know, something like… Dead… Dead Cats?” (Deadmau5 is apparently the name) that made him sound like an 80-year-old trying to remember a name from times past.  This lead to hysterical laughter by his work colleagues as apparently Deadmau5 is huge in house music these days.  Go figure.

Him telling me this story brought me back to my own youth and my own eye-rolling frustration at my parents’ inability to appreciate my music.  (Though to give them credit, they embraced Pearl Jam wholeheartedly – so much so I would come downstairs in the morning to my mom singing along, though at the time I felt that was taking things a bit too far.  Appreciating my music is one thing – hearing your mom sing Jeremy is something altogether different.)  Most of time they would hear what I was bringing home and question the taste of “young people today”, asking me to keep my music to my walkman (yes, walkman, a device that played cassettes), portable CD player (I’m dating myself here aren’t I?) or my room on a stereo (I’m “old”, I know).

Thinking about this whole musical generation gap thing got me thinking.  Specifically, why do we end up here generation after generation?  After all, I still love some of the music my parents listened to, but they were rarely able to appreciate things the other way.  And now I’m in the same boat.

I’ve realized that as parents we start off being the musical influence for our kids.  My 3-year-old daughter declares her favourite music to be “Bruce” (as in Springsteen) and has recently taken a liking to “Kate” (Bush).  Her first concert was Pearl Jam just a few months ago.  Prior to Bruce, her favourite song was We’re Not Gonna Take It by Twisted Sister which she insisted on listening to over and over and over again until we simply couldn’t take it anymore (which says a lot as we all love that song in our house).  Her only exposure to music is what we listen to and so she has developed a love for the same kinds of music as we do.  At 3, there is no friend influence, no tv influence, no radio influence.  It’s us, and only us.  Just like many things in their life we are their sole influence, and as time goes on we blindly begin to believe that they are just like mini-mes with a few quirks and that they will always remain this way.

The naïve me assumes my daughter’s love of our music means she’ll always love the music we do.  She’ll grow up listening to Bruce and never stray.  But like I said, that’s the naïve me.  The real me realizes that soon she’ll be bringing home this strange music, just like her older brother.  Suddenly one day we’ll hear goodness-knows-what coming from a record player in her room (at least let me keep the thought that she’ll retain the love of vinyl that pervades our house) and it won’t be anything we’ve ever heard before or care to hear again.  (Although I hope that, like me, there’s still some of the music she loved as a kid mixed in there.)

The question becomes how do we as parents respond to this change?  Because it’s not just about musical differences – I’m sure we all have different tastes in music from others we know – it’s about our children growing up and defining themselves as distinct from us.  They are making it known that they are, for lack of a better word, themselves and not replicas of us.  They have their own interests and loves and will pursue them despite the previous years of following us and trusting our judgment and making us believe they are just like us.

Seeing our children grow up is hard.  Accepting their choices that distance them from us can be even harder.  As parents our job is to allow them the space and time to grow and hopefully work to understand and respect their opinions and choices.  Even in music.  We may not like what our kids are bringing home to listen to, but we can connect with them by at least giving it a shot and showing them we are open to hearing what interests them, even if we choose never to listen to it again.

With that said, I guess I’m off to listen to some dead cats…

By Tracy Cassels

February 24, 2014