The Songwriting Charity is really pleased to welcome our new friend and supporter Mel Elliot to our roster of guest bloggers. Mel Elliott is the owner of a web development and offline media design company, but has previously been the editor of a community music magazine, organized many live music events, sung in unsigned bands and is a single parent with four children.
“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent” Victor Hugo (26 February 1802 – 22 May 1885)
Victor Marie Hugo was a French poet, playwright, novelist, essayist, visual artist, statesman, human rights activist and exponent of the Romantic movement in France and although his many talents did not include exceptional musical ability, he nevertheless had a great impact on the music world through the inspiration that his works provided for composers of the 19th and 20th century and he particularly appreciated and enjoyed the works of many composers. In today’s multi-cultural, multi-sub genre music world, he might have found a more directly established link between his writing and the music he influenced, who knows, perhaps even as a modern day rapper.
How to define music has long been the subject of debate. The definition has varied through history, in different regions, and within societies. Music, like art, is a subjectively perceived phenomenon. Music may be defined according to various criteria including organization, pleasantness, intent, social construction, perceptual processes and engagement, universal aspects or family resemblances, and through contrast or negative definition.
Perhaps it is precisely its indefinability that is the key to how it can provide such a fascinating tapestry of gifts rarely quite as comprehensively enveloped by any other activity, which enables almost everyone to feel its benefits in some way.
I grew up surrounded by, and involved with, music and the music industry. When bringing up my four children, largely on my own, in circumstances that were far from ideal, I noticed that their distinctly different personalities each turned to music for solace in some way. However, my oldest son seemed to struggle more overtly with every transition we had to deal with, and there were many times when his behaviour became so disruptive that I honestly wondered if he would make it through to adulthood in one piece. In his troubles, he isolated himself from his peers and this made me even more concerned. There are many musicians in our family, so I find it odd that it took a point of near despair for me to pursue music as a form of tangible assistance for him. Nevertheless, I provided him with music lessons, bought him a guitar, had the piano tuned and…hoped.
It wasn’t a sudden success, he didn’t have two music lessons and everything was fine. But I noticed that unlike everything else he had ever tried he was actually putting effort into it…and after a while, even choosing music over other activities. Something had changed in him, and for him, and he was more at ease with life. A few years later, he was rarely without a guitar strapped to his back or composing a tune on the piano. As he grew older it was normal to find his many friends gathered round the piano at home, listening to him play. I walked in once to find a few of his mates moved to tears by his latest composition and I think I knew then that he had finally won the battle.
With all of the twists and turns and childhood, music is a readily accessible dependable rock. Whatever it might ulitmately transpire to be for any one person, music gives everyone a constructive outlet for self-expression, a challenge, a source of achievement, a sense of belonging and self-worth. Undoubtedly, for my children, music contributed in some way to the rounded, grounded, happy people they are now. My youngest daughter yearns to be a singer, my older daughter takes photographs of bands as a break from studying physics and I have a son who is a sound engineer. For them music is not the only important part of their lives, but it figures very highly in their list of priorities. For my oldest son, music is quite possibly the most important part of his life. He has left the traumatic years in the past and is now a composer, a mastering engineer and studying music at university.
The work of the Nathan Timothy Foundation actively recognsies that whether or not a child initially displays any musical inclination, and irrespective of their personality, ability or background, the participation in projects that flourish from a musical core will offer an enhancing experience for all concerned.
As Hugo suggests, I have probably not put into words what music can, but my concluding thought would warn against ever underestimating or ignoring the impact that music might have in your child’s life, whoever they are and however or whatever the means by which it reaches them, always embrace that opportunity.