It’s long been recognized that fetuses can hear as early as five months, but as to what they hear beyond Mom’s physiology is still up for debate. As an expectant father, this makes me naturally dubious of “prenatal music” and whether or not DJ-ing an in utero-listening party would benefit (or perhaps even annoy) my unborn kid.
When I searched online for “prenatal music,” topping the Google charts was Austin-based Center for Prenatal and Perinatal Music. Mysteriously, its Web site greets users with an aural assault (sans an “off” button to the chagrin of my officemates) that begins with six seconds of what sounds like grappling hooks drawn across coarse gravel, followed by some New Age noodling in a minor key. After repeatedly hitting the refresh button out of masochistic curiosity, I was able to deduce that the grappling and gravel combo was actually a “rainstick,” a long tube filled with baubles, beans or beads that emulates the sound of precipitation when turned. I should have recognized the rainstick right off since (a) I’m a child of the 1970s for whom the instrument was a permanent part of west Sonoma County’s ambient soundtrack and (b) I’ve smoked pot with the late, great Darrel DeVore who made the devices and other experimental instruments in a shack in rural Petaluma. Anyway, the Center for Prenatal and Perinatal Music Web site offered little more than the “runes and tunes” musical moment and the tagline “Mothering You and Your Unborn Baby Through Joyful Sounds, Creative Movement and Color.” This all sounds very pleasant, but it was not the hard scientific data that I sought.
A deeper search turned me onto the “Baby Mozart” phenom of the 1990s (it’s still widely believed that subjecting a fetus to Mozart’s oeuvre will result in something akin to superpowers). Eventually, I discovered the BellySonic site, which proffers a belt-like device that fits around the abdomen, replete with speakers and a place for one’s iPod. Moreover, the site provided reams of research repackaged in articles from the BBC, USA Today, WebMD and even Wikipedia (not to mention a whitepaper by the nice lady from the Center for Prenatal and Perinatal Music). Admittedly, I began to warm to the idea of bringing a little belly-borne Muzak to the kid, but the $79.95 price tag swiftly cooled my inclinations. Then it occurred to me – cut out the middleman – I’ve already got the iPod and the pregnant wife, surely there’s a way to get some thump in the bump without spending $79.95. With my wife’s indulgence, I simply inserted the iPod’s earbud into her navel. As one can see in the accompanying photo, it was a perfect fit. Am I a genius? No, but now my kid will be – particularly if he sidesteps my genes for intelligence.
Now I need a playlist suitable for the pre-tyke. My own iPod playlists are rife with 1970s glam rock, Bach and entertainment biz podcasts, which would likely produce a schizophrenic. Or a concert promoter. So, here I turn to you dear readers – please send your suggested prenatal playlists to firstname.lastname@example.org and together we’ll create the ultimate in utero mix. We’ll call it “Unborn to Be Wild.”