A couple of years back a young boy in school came sauntering along the corridor towards me with those big trendy headphones on. I approached with my stern teacher face on and asked him to remove them, which he did.
‘What are you listening to anyway?’
‘(Some band I’ve never heard of),’ he replied.
I hammed up a comedy sneer.
“ I don’t care what you think of my music,’ he said, in not a nasty way at all, but incredibly matter-of-fact. ‘It’s mine.’
And he was right, of course. At that precise moment I realised I was turning into my dad. And it hurt.
Following on from my previous post about how words, and language in general, have made me into the person I have become, who could argue that our early experiences of music don’t do the same. I don’t mean the silly, childish music we might enjoy when we are nine or ten but the earth shattering discoveries we make in our teens. My obsession with lyrics on album covers; the constant repetition of the same L.P. (ask your parents, kids) for weeks on end; the almost tribal protection of any of my favourites. That boy brought it all home to me, just how much it meant back then.
Since the inspiration of that day I’ve taught a unit of work in class called ‘I Don’t Care What You Think of My Music.’ It’s a unit which prepares pupils to write discursively or persuasively so we look at loads of exemplars of those sorts of writing. We develop a checklist of techniques and critique each others work as we go – yes, I write too – but all with a back drop of the class playlist. Each pupil picks five songs which they think should be included and argue their case. I usually choose one from each and Spotify provides the soundtrack to our summer term.
That musical DNA is of course inexorably linked to our literary DNA. What you find is that the kids with the most passion for music are the ones who relate to the lyrics that cry out to them. And it is incredible to remember myself at that age- moody, isolated, indifferent. A teenager, indeed – and think about what these kids are going through. How much can we influence them or is it all just a matter of circumstance? Channelling that very personal attachment is incredibly powerful for their writing but also allows quieter kids who have lacked confidence, write in more personal ways than I’ve ever seen from them.
They always comedy sneer whenever I tell them who I listen to. But back when I was walking out to winter; when I was up on the pavement when they we’re all down in the cellar of their basement flat; when I was writing ‘Do I love you? Yes I love you’ on cards and giving them to girls I fancied; when I was in the darkened underpass thinking ‘oh God my chance has come at last’, I knew exactly how they feel now. And you may laugh. But I don’t care what you think about mu music. It’s mine.