October 1, 2008

‘It Staggers Me How Much My Twins Absorbed’

By Michael Tumelty

THE Tumelty twins, Adam and Andrew, now four months from their fifth birthday, have been exposed to music since the day they came home from hospital. Not a note of it has been formally delivered. It's simply been there, ubiquitous, in the house. They know a phenomenal amount, though they don't realise it, and all of it by exposure and osmosis. They are sponges.

Nor is it exclusively classical: their perfectly syncopated duetting with Bix Beiderbecke and Louis Armstrong embraces every nuance of the music. A prepared recording of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony (with the storm edited out) was their constant companion in infancy as they sat strapped into their baby car seats . Their mother made up words for the golden tune of the finale, featuring family names, which is sung to this day.

Something of a revolution occurred with the discovery of the Baby Einstein series of videos, in which a huge range of classical music is coupled with striking visual displays. Addiction to these followed , and it staggers me how much has been absorbed. Only last week, in the course of my Herald duties, I was listening to Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. The Promenade theme of the piece, a kind of leitmotif, is featured very strongly in the Baby van Gogh video in the Einstein series, but the version I was listening to had a wholly different arrangement and orchestration. The Promenade theme, now on strings, not trumpet, was just a few bars in when Adam dashed into the room, bawling: "That's Baby van Gogh".

Every night they fall asleep to music. Currently it's a Beethoven compilation, including, of all things, dramatic extracts from the Fifth and Ninth Symphonies. It doesn't keep them awake. It's all music, and it's in the air. Will it bear any fruit? Who knows. That's not the point. It's not an exercise. But seeds are sown.

Originally published by Newsquest Media Group.

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