The Discussion Every Good Father Should Have With Their Daughters
“Tweet, tweet, tweet,” she says with an I know that one smile.
“Now what sound do bee’s make?”
“Ok,” I say inching the piano bench we’re sharing a little bit closer to the keys. “Play the sound of the birds on the piano.”
She reaches to where my younger son and her have put tape with the letter names on the keys. She holds her finger over them as if choosing the right one is important, finally settling on the ‘E’ key and playing it to the rhythm she said ‘tweet, tweet, tweet.’
“Very good,” I reply. “Now the sound of the bees.”
She gives me a look that says, ‘are you serious?’ to which I manage to keep a straight face. Then she looks at the keys again as if the answer is in one of those letters. She chooses ‘B’ and just holds it down, before looking back at me with a smile.
“Well that is a bee,” I say matching her smile. “But does it sound like bzzzzzzzz?”
“No,” she says with a hint of ‘of course not’.
“How about this,” I say taking my left forearm and laying it across the bottom register keys.
“No,” she says with a laugh for the joke she thinks I’m making.
“Wait,” I say, “push the pedal.” And she reaches her leg down to put her foot on the hold pedal as I raise my arm off the keys. “How about now?” I ask as the sound of all of those keys resonate with a slow decay.
“Yes,” she says wide eyed with excitement.
“Now which one do you think is music, the birds or the bees?” I ask the follow up.
“The birds?” she responds with a question.
“Are you sure?” I probe.
“Well,” she thinks it over, “the birds do make music, but maybe the sound of the buzzing is music to the bees too?”
“But what would we call it?”
“I don’t know,” she says wanting to have the right answer. “It’s just a noise.”
“We call it noise, but maybe they call it music?”
“Yes,” she says hearing back her own conclusion.
“But what if the birds didn’t think of their songs as music?”
“But a song, *is* music,” she catches me with the logic.
“Yes but we call it music,” I come back. “What if they just called it talking?”
“Oh,” she says realizing what I mean. “I never thought about that.”
“Come,” I say standing up from the piano bench and leading her to the studio, where I do a quick search for ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’ so she can read as I type, before clicking on the link to theWynton version.
“Does that sound like a bee?” I ask.
“Yes!” she says holding the ‘s’ to match her smile emphasizing her excitement.
“Does it?” I ask again.
“Well it does,” she says puling back on her excitement. “Not *exactly* like bees, but if bees made music.”
“Or if people made music to sound like bees,” I add.
“Right.” She says assured again. “But it’s not the actual sound of bees.”
“Could the actual sound of bees be music, or is it just noise?”
“Well it could be,” she says. “There is good noise and there’s bad noise.”
“Do bees make good noise?”
“Then what’s bad noise?”
“Like,” she pauses to think about it. “Like when my brother’s just going crazy being really loud.”
“That’s a bad noise.”
“So what’s a good noise?”
“Hmmmm,” she thinks. “The sound of the timer when a cake is ready to come out the oven!”
“That is a good noise,” I smile reassuringly. “What else?”
She thinks some more, and then looks up with a smile, “Your music!” As if she finally got the answer I was looking for.
“Why do you say that?”
“Well sometimes your music does sound like noise.”
“Sure,” I acknowledge, “but not all of my music is noise.”
“But some of it is,” she says to make it known that she was right to say what she said. Then she starts thinking it over. “Dad, why do you make noise music?”
“Now that is a good question,” I say to let her know that she has followed the right bread crumb trail. “It’s like that song ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’. That was written over one hundred years ago.” She reacts to this like she does about all things older than ten years. “Back then you couldn’t listen to a song over and over again unless someone was playing it. So to get people to play music you had to make it into the notes that musicians could read. Today I can go out and actually record the sound of bees and use those sounds to make music. I don’t have to use notes to sound like the sound, I can use the actual sound. Not just the bees either. There are a lot of sounds in the world which may sound like noise, but could be music. There are a lot of sounds now, noises that didn’t exist 100 years ago and there are a lot of sounds which don’t exist yet, and are just waiting to be made.”
“What do you mean make sounds?”
That’s when I typed Atari Punk Console into the search bar. She read along, “punk?” And then she started seeing all of the case work in the results. “Click that one,” she demanded pointing at the Altoids can version.
“That’s really cool,” she said when it was finished, and that’s when I gave her the kit. It took two late nights to complete, but together we built her very first noise synth. May she never hear the world the same again.