I love this.
STORY FROM A MOM
Here’s a video of the group Alabama Shakes performing their song, “Hold On,” on the David Letterman Show. A mom sent me the link after her two-year-old daughter responded to it in an interesting way. “She likes to talk about the dynamics,” the mom wrote. Her daughter notices the contrasts in volume and energy throughout the song and adds her two-year-old commentary: “She screaming!,” or, “She quiet.” This is why it’s so much fun to play with contrasts in dynamics (loud/soft), tempo (fast/slow), pitch (high/low), and so on–children are searching for those sharp contrasts to help them learn more efficiently. Was this little Alabama Shakes fan more tuned into the dynamics because of our play in class? Who knows. All that really matters is that she’s noticing, learning, and talking about it…and her mom is listening.
This is just too much fun not to share. Here’s a YouTube video of Caspar Babypants’s version of “Mr. Rabbit.” The animation is great. When you share it with your child, crank it and sing along (even though the lyrics are different than the ones we sing in class). It’s got a rockin’ groove that you’ll both love. Enjoy!
STORY FROM A MOM (in her own words)
“I was watching TV this morning and my baby was in the room. A commercial for some European skin care product came on, and they have this cute little song that’s all in ‘la-la’ ‘words’. Well, he just started singing along. Like, literally singing along. For once I can say that I knew he was singing the same notes! I think the little song only has a couple of notes, but mostly stays in one or two, and he was totally singing the major two and even saying ‘la’ as his little musical sound. It was so shocking that it actually got my attention. Something about the melody pleased him, and I think he really liked that I noticed and went back to play along with him, as if I understood his side of the ‘conversation’. It was very sweet and cool, and without you teaching us that in MT, I don’t think I’d have noticed and had that moment…I love that you teach us so much about the way our kids play with music and are learning it like its own language at such a young age. Just like when he said, ‘Momma,’ the first time and I latched onto that and reinforced it, I know now to do the same with his musical language.”
Wow. Thank you, Momma.
(Hey…I found the commercial. Those “la-la”s are pretty catchy! This is not a product endorsement, by any means, but in case you’re interested in hearing the jingle, here it is…)
At the Grammy Awards this past Sunday, the band Foo Fighters won the awards for Best Rock Album, Best Rock Song, and a few others. The lead singer, Dave Grohl, said something incredible during an acceptance speech: “The human element of making music it’s what’s most important…It’s not about being perfect. It’s not about sounding absolutely correct. It’s not about what goes on in a computer. It’s about what goes on in here [pointing to his heart] and it’s about what goes on in here [pointing to his head].”
The music industry, and its ever-more refining production techniques, have resulted in a proliferation of recorded music that no human can really, truly sound like. When “regular” people listen to that music–and compare the music they make to that recorded product–they come away thinking that only people who sing or play like the recording have the right to make music. And, since that “music” is created by a team of technicians, computers, and other equipment, the truth is that no one person can ever sound like the recording. It’s an impossible standard that leaves the millions of musical people in this world feeling like they aren’t musical at all.
Baloney! “It’s not about being perfect…It’s about what goes on in [your heart] and it’s about what goes on in [your head].” If we can impart to our children the core belief that the music they make is valuable in it’s own right, exactly as it is–without alterations or corrections or auto-tuning (please, no auto-tuning)–then we will have given them the power to express their musical selves, the freedom to enjoy the music around them, and the armor to deflect the cultural expectations of unachieveable perfection. Now, that’s something that’s pretty close to perfect, if you ask me.
I just found this YouTube video of the Newfoundland band Great Big Sea doing their take on ”Lukey’s Boat.” As always, it’s fun to discover different lyrics in other versions of songs that we’re used to hearing on our CDs. (Though I’m not likely to sing the lyric, “My wife is dead and underground,” in class, I still get a kick out of hearing other possibilities!) Enjoy…
Over the holidays, we did some tinkering with our media system and I discovered I could watch TED Talks on our TV, and I proceeded to nerd out on TED for a few hours the other day. One talk I watched was entitled, “What do Babies Think,” by Alison Gopnik (psychology professor/researcher at U.C. Berkley and author of many books, including The Philosophical Baby). In this talk, Gopnik characterizes children’s consciousness as lanterns, with rays of attention shooting out in multiple directions at once, and thus receiving information from multiple directions at once. In contrast, our adults consciousness is more like a spotlight, where we are more likely attend to one concept, object, idea at a time. Children have a harder time focusing their attention, but their brains are more plastic and elastic, and they develop and expand in multiple ways simultaneously. Gopnik says that being a baby is like “being in love in Paris for the first time after you’ve three double espressos. It’s a fantastic way to be, but it does leave you crying at 3:00 in the morning!”
I love this! And, I think about the lantern-learning of children in my Music Together classes, experiencing melody, rhythm, tone, beat, phrasing, tempo, dynamics, harmony, community music-making, turn-taking, anticipation, humor, emotion, and so on–simultaneously. We adults end up focusing on a narrow band of stimuli at a time during class, but the children are tuned in to the whole experience. For some, this lantern-learning involves sitting still and staring. Other children need to move their lanterns around the room. Either way, it’s no wonder that they grow and develop so quickly, making music-development leaps from one semester to the next that might take an adult years to master.
Gopnik calls our children the Research and Development branch of humanity, while we adults take on Production and Marketing. I’ll buy that, and I’m imagining where our little music researchers’ learning spotlights will be shining when they are all grown up.
I just found out that adoring soccer fans in Mexico (and perhaps in other Latin American countries?) sing a version of “Palo Palo” when their team wins a game. Here’s a YouTube video, and the crowd is singing/chanting, “Palo palo palo palo bonito palo es somos campeones otra vez.” This roughly translates to, “Stick stick stick stick stick is nice we are champions again!” (I’m guessing Google Translate is missing some idiomatic meaning here.) How fun to know that if I ever end up at a soccer game in Mexico, I’ll be able to sing along with the victors!
I love the chant, “Everyday,” in the BONGOS collection, because it has both a two-beat section and a three-beat section — it’s like marching for the first half and waltzing for the second. Playing with this chant lets children really hear the contrast between the two meters (duple and triple), and they learn so much about rhythm from that contrast.
This week in class we danced to R.E.M.’s “Shiny Happy People,” which starts with a three-beat/triple intro before going into the two-beat/duple main section, and then switches back to triple in the middle of the song. There we all were in class, bopping around, and — boom — time to waltz! Watching the grown-ups and children in class shift from jumping and stopping to a big-arm-back-and-forth waltz was awesome.
TRY THIS AT HOME
Pull up this song on YouTube or Pandora or iTunes or CD (if you have it) and dance around. Watch what your child does when that slower, waltz section comes on — and keep on dancing. It’ll be fun to watch her/him try to figure it out!
Here’s a YouTube link to the video: http://youtu.be/iCQ0vDAbF7s
Last week, we danced to “Coconut Woman,” by Karl Zéro & The Wailers, which used to be on the Putumayo Kids “Carribean Playground” CD. It’s a fantastic song, and a couple of families wanted to know where to get it. For some reason, “Coconut Woman” was dropped from the ”Carribean Playground” CD, but I still play it in class from an old copy (thank goodnesss we have that!). Here’s a YouTube video of Karl Zéro’s version of the song:
And, while searching up info on this song, I discovered Harry Belafonte’s version, which I’m absolutely going to get from iTunes and play in class this Fall. I love him.