Friday, September 24, 2010

Kids' Music

The theme of this week at home with Emmett is music. We've been sharing music with Emmett from the very beginning, including my playing/singing selections from two favorite children's music albums, Sandra Boynton's Philadelphia Chickens and No! by They Might be Giants. I've also been making the effort to learn the actual lyrics to some Spanish songs so that we can sing those to him as well. (Recently, Adam and I both sang the Spanish version of "Rubber Duckie" to him). I haven't wanted to limit him to "real" children's songs and thus have opted to add various upbeat songs and soothing songs to our shared music-listening experiences. So, early in the day we might dance around the living room to 80s music, or later in the day I might try to soothe him with something like Van Morrison.

Earlier this week my sister sent me about 15 different CDs of children's music from my nephew's early years. I've been spending all week listening to and cataloging the various selections. It's really propelled me to do even more to expose him to more and more music. Right now the idea is to build up a basic library of songs that I can draw upon at various times in the future. I want to learn many of the songs now while I have the time. I particularly like putting together different songs that relate back to the same topic or theme (probably because I used to do this when I was planning lessons as a music teacher). For example, Emmett and I have a series of "farm songs" and this week we added "I Had a Rooster" to our song mix.

Additionally, I've started playing various songs for him on mandolin. I especially like doing this with some of the classic children's songs that I don't feel like singing. Let's take "Rock-a-bye baby" as an example. The lyrics to that song are disturbing! I seldom find myself in the mood to sing about my baby falling from trees, but I do often find myself in the mood to plunk out a nice calming melody. I also like to play bits of classical music for him. For some reason, I don't typically enjoy listening to recorded versions of classical music (unless it's Yo Yo Ma), but I do like playing the music on an instrument. At one point in life, I was terribly sick of a lot of it (especially anything from the first few books of Suzuki violin music) but 20+ years after I first learned the tunes, I can enjoy them again.

I have grand plans that I will one day compose original children's music that doesn't have disturbing lyrics. When I was working with kids, I was always pretty good at reworking existing songs to create something topical (the Weird Al school of songwriting), but I hope that if I keep things up, I'll be able to move up to the Sesame Street school of catchy songwriting. I'm definitely out of practice at the moment but am working on it.

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