Last Saturday morning started like any other Saturday morning in my house. I woke up first and sat down at my computer to catch up on some writing. About 45 minutes later, Hunter woke up.
After he snuck up on me (his usual routine) and then climbed into my lap (again his usual), I played the first few minutes of a video for him. The video shows Kieran Hebden, better known as Four Tet, explaining how he makes music.
I had been looking for a video like this because Hunter loves to listen to music, but he also loves to talk about how the sounds in songs are produced. He understands acoustic music ("that's a snare drum," "that's a guitar") and most clear-cut rock music ("that's an electric guitar," "that's a bass"); electronic music is harder for him to see and harder for me to explain.
So we watched the video and then talked about it. We talked about the way the hardware was supported by software and about how the sound was looped and layered to create the "final" song. And then we talked about what we noticed about the musician's process. Hebden seemed to build his song by playing around, by messing around, by trying things out, by listening and learning and adjusting. In short, the maker tinkered endlessly as part of his process.
Attention spent, Hunter hopped off my lap and approached his piano; I turned back to the essay I was writing; Saturday, as it was, continued.
I continued to move verbs and nouns around. Continued to try out different sentence structures. Followed directions and redirections. Added and subtracted. I was, at times, almost deliriously happy, as I can become when I am writing.
Hunter's piano made a few sounds, and he moved up and down from the bench to occasionally jot down notes.And then, suddenly, out of Hunter's jottings and peckings came a tiny song: the first three notes of "What Child is This?" He almost fell off the bench.
In the moment between nearly falling and nearly catching himself, Hunter clearly felt the same feeling that I had been tapping into all morning as my own broken sentences clicked, as my own paragraphs came together, as meaning emerged, bedheaded and rubbing its eyes. Over the next 10 minutes, I only pretended to type. I listened and watched (and took pictures) as Hunter figured out the rest of the song in the same start, restart, false start, true start, start again fashion.
Only much later did I think about why . . . why this breakthrough? Here's what I can gather:
On this particular Saturday, Hunter was open to mistakes in a way that he, being seven, isn't always. And, it's reasonable to suggest, this openness happened when all the theoretical bones about mindset and grit and resilience gained some real, live flesh. In other words, the way we talked about Four Tet's music, the way we talked about "making," ultimately made both of our mornings, and whatever art we managed to scrape together, possible. Hunter was doing what I was doing, and I was doing what Four Tet was doing, and Four Tet was doing what Hunter was doing. We were all doing the exact same thing. It was so simple. . .
I guess I should add, too, by way of stating what is now hiding in plain sight: it was the weekend and we were not in any school.