"Is your baby getting enough music?" Musical interventions into gestational labor

Drott, Eric and Thompson, Marie (2022). "Is your baby getting enough music?" Musical interventions into gestational labor. Women and Music: a Journal of Gender and Culture, 26 pp. 125–147.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1353/wam.2022.0006


Music has often been figured as an ideal accompaniment to social reproduction. Arts institutions, advertisers, media companies, and streaming services have sought to emphasize music’s reproductive utility: its purported capacity to help listeners to take care of themselves and others; enhance sociality and subjectification; and improve health and wellbeing. Music’s reproductive utility has also been articulated in relation to pregnancy and childrearing. In this article, we distinguish between two types of musical interventions into pregnancy and gestational labor. On the one hand, music has been figured as a reproductive technology that can “improve” both future mother and future child. We take A Sound Beginning, a music-based family bonding subscription service, as exemplary of this tendency: through a personalized “Womb Song,” the program promises to help parents-to-be to “raise a calm, loving child.” On the other hand, music has been figured as a social service that can support disadvantaged future mothers and their children. Here, we critically examine Carnegie Hall’s Lullaby Project, which engages new mothers and mothers-to-be to co-compose lullabies for their babies. Noting the coherences and differences between A Sound Beginning and the Lullaby Project, we situate these interventions in relation to the post-Fordist organization of social reproduction; racial histories of pregnancy and maternity; and the cultural economy of music. In so doing, we hope to provide an alternative perspective on music and pregnancy’s imbrication with capitalist social relations.

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