In the mornings, I wake my children up to The Breakfast Song. Then, while they eat breakfast, it is Jazz Classics (Blue Note). If we are all in the house for lunch, it is Beethoven’s piano sonatas. And to tell them dinner is on the table, it is always John Coltrane’s Blue Train. At bedtime, it is Max Richter’s Sleep.
These five stages of the day accompanied by a predictable soundtrack. Do they tire of it, you ask? I honestly don’t think it phases them anymore (except for The Breakfast Song but that is only because they are not morning birds). We have been listening to these same songs for years now. I started doing it during my maternity leave in Nagoya, so that means eight years or so. It has been our constant habit through three moves, two of which were international. Nomads get their stability wherever they can and for my family, that stability is music.
The children don’t have devices of their own, or not really. The oldest two share an old iPhone and the youngest three have Nintendo DSes. But all of them have found ways of listening to music whenever they get a hold of the bulky over-the-ear headphones (that the oldest bought with money meant for new room shoes for school (since they were bought with family money, they became family headphones…)), they find a way of listening to music. Kid Number 1 is happy with chart-toppers while Kid Number 2 adores Queen and The Who. Kid Number 3 goes between Mozart and J-pop and Kid Number 4 can listen to the soundtrack for Jurassic World for eternity and never grow tired of it.
Not one of them, you might notice, is a big jazz fan, well, not yet at least. Jazz is something that you mature into, that opens up to you with more life experiences. I myself did not become enthralled with the genre until I was in my mid-teens and going through a really heavy Beat period. I also worked at a small upstairs cafe where Billie Holiday was on regular rotation. Even twenty years later, Sundays always start with Billie Holiday. When I was younger though, jazz had little merit in my life. How could it? Jazz fits in with your days if your days have the same rhythm and discord. What did I know of rhythm and discord when I was eleven?
Funnily enough, it was when I was eleven that I played the saxophone and played it well enough to compete regularly on a state level with other young musicians. And yet I never considered myself a saxophonist, mainly because it was a hand-me-down instrument, one of the many brass instruments my older sister played in the high school band. I wanted to play something light and pretty, like the flute, but I was saddled with the heavy, bulbous alto sax that did not fit into my locker and knocked into the brown vinyl seats as I got on and off the school bus. In middle school, the saxophone section never got the melody; we were responsible for keeping the baritone and trombones company. I competed just to have the chance to play something different. I was good enough to attract the attention of the high school band director who invited me to join his jazz band when I started high school. I declined, saying I knew nothing of jazz and had no interest in learning about jazz.
Jazz seemed old-fashioned, the music of grandfathers and fedoras. I was already labelled eccentric by my classmates, what with my reading and writing habits, my ballet lessons and bulky saxophone. I wanted to blend in with my peers, as is the wish of most budding adolescents, I believe. And jazz band was definitely not going to help me on that path.
I don’t regret it, as I think that regrets are pretty worthless. I do miss playing music and when I had that electric piano on the island, it gave me much pleasure to practice the book of sonatinas I found at the only music shop in town. Our current apartment is absolutely too small for a keyboard of any size, especially since I don’t really have the time to practice these days. Eventually, that will change and I will be able to run my fingers on something more than the kitchen table. In the meantime, I have Stan Getz in the morning, Beethoven at noon, Coltrane in the evening, and Billie Holiday on Sundays.