Friday, October 13, 2006 | Thank goodness I have an appreciation for avant garde jazz. Otherwise, I never would be able to truly appreciate my latest bonding experience with my 3-year-old daughter, Alex.
I recently visited Seattle, Washington, for my cousin’s wedding – and, yes, Alex was the flower girl. During one of the down days, I decided to take her to the Experience Music Project, a museum set up as sort of a museum of rock and roll.
One of the sections allows kids of all ages to bang on keyboards, basses, drums and guitars. There’s even a record player in case you want to scratch a la the hip hoppers.
Alex and her cousin, Connor (also 3) were a little too small to play the guitars and the basses so they focused on keyboards and drums. Owen, my 6-month-old son, didn’t come along but I’m sure if he was there he would have tried to emulate Jimi Hendrix and play the guitar with his tongue. He’s been using it a lot lately.
Anyway, one of the little music booths at the EMP allows folks to jam in a room for 10 minutes with the results recorded for posterity. I couldn’t pass up this chance to get what I referred to my wife as “future blackmail material.”
Before going in, Connor asked if he could play drums. Since he said please, I told him he could. Alex didn’t say anything. Until we walked in.
As soon as Connor climbed up on to the drum set and sat down, Alex started crying about how she wanted to play drums. I told her she could play keyboards and then we would switch. She didn’t buy it. Because Connor was on the drums, she wanted to be on the drums.
She ran out crying and my cousin, Heather, took her to another booth.
I picked up a guitar, Connor picked up the sticks and we started playing something messy and cacophonous. I tried to keep up some semblance to music going but since my musician friends call me “David No-Rhythm,” that wasn’t easy.
Finally, Connor decided to play keyboards and sing at the mic so I had Alex come back and play drums. She was just as accomplished as Connor, who was banging on the synthesizers like Mark Foley banging out a midnight text message.
Connor started singing something that sounded like, “I know somebody loves me,” which my cousin, Heather, tells me is a special song he started singing out of nowhere last year. Based on what I could tell about the melody, I don’t think it will be running up the charts anytime soon.
But he’s only 3 and John Lennon didn’t hit the charts until he was in his 20s.
Finally, Connor got bored and ran out of the room so Alex and I continued to bang on the drums and guitar.
Then she decided to sing.
But she didn’t tell me she was getting up and in the cramped room; she ran smack dab into my guitar and started to cry.
I thought about my role as a producer and as a father and weighed both duties in my head before I decided to do what Joe Simpson – Jessica and Ashlee’s father – might do. I hugged her and put her behind the microphone so she could pour out her pain into song.
It sounded very beatnik.
“This is a microphone,” she said, before going on to say something about “going from head to toe.” That’s a phrase she recently picked up and has been using a lot.
The synth pattern Alex picked had a drum beat and I tried to play jazzy chords in the background. It sounded like a train wreck. The cutest little train wreck you ever heard.
Connor came back in and played more drums and it sounded even more like a glorious mess.
And then it ended.
My ears are still ringing. But I was very happy. Noisy events like these can make for great memories later on and this may be a valuable artifact Alex will cherish when she’s older.
Or it could be a coaster.
The best part came later when we played the masterpiece at dinner. We snuck the CD on when the kids weren’t looking – actually they were hiding in a closet – and then acted all excited.
“Oh my gosh! Alex! Connor! They’re playing you guys on the radio!”
The kids came out and looked at the stereo and had the pride of artistic ownership that only occurs to the true amateur. Alex had a look on her face that was probably identical to when Brian Wilson first heard the Beach Boys first hit, “Surfin,’” played on the radio.
Alex’s grandma didn’t have the same look of joy. Although she appreciated the cuteness aspect, and the future heirloom potential, I’m not sure she was able to hear the unintentional references to avant garde pioneers like Ornette Coleman, Frank Zappa or the Shaggs.
Still, I am thrilled that I got to jam with my daughter and I look forward to future musical collaborations, especially, if they’re on other peoples’ musical equipment.