Posts tagged ‘music’

Speaking of Music…

If you happen to be in San Francisco Saturday night, check out this rare local appearance by Sharmila Roy Pommot, a well-known singer of Bengali music who has sung on the soundtrack of Satyajit Ray films, worked with Peter Gabriel, been sampled by underground house musicians, and happens to be the aunt of a friend of mine.

The concert is at the Cultural Integration Fellowship, 2650 Fulton Street at 3rd Avenue. Contact for more info.

MotherTalk Blog Tour: That Baby CD/DVD

Edited to add:
If you’re interested in ordering That Baby DVD, or That Baby CD, or the set, enter the coupon code “MotherTalk” when purchasing from the website, and save 20% on your entire order! Also, from now until May 18th, all orders using the coupon code “MotherTalk” will be entered in a drawing to win a new iPod nano.

I grew up listening to my parents’ music: Judy Collins, The Kingston Trio, Pete Seeger and Joan Baez recordings, augmented by occasional trips into Manhattan for afternoon symphony rehearsals. “Kid’s music” as we think of it now, didn’t really exist, though everything my parents played, of course, was perfect kid’s music: clear lyrics (focusing often on peace and social justice); beautiful melodies. And my tastes now run usually (though not exclusively) toward the unplugged and the solo vocal or small group over the bigger, more raucous sound of a band.

When Ben was born, we didn’t run out and start buying kids music. I played him the Indigo Girls, Tony played him hip-hop. We were doing just fine (and Ben was learning about many different kinds of stringed instruments, plus keeping the beat very well) but inevitably kids’ music started making its way in the door: Dan Zanes, Ralph Covert. We signed Ben up for a music class with a local former indie rocker, Chris Molla, where he banged a tambourine and learned great old folk songs.

I didn’t realize how lucky we’d been with the music Ben, and then Eli, were listening to until recently, when we were given an “educational” CD called Color Train. I’m not linking to it because it’s simply too terrible: over-engineered synthesizers and a chirpy vocal, with inane lyrics like “Where oh where did the dinosaurs go? I guess we’ll never know!” which make Tony and Ben yell at the CD: “We do! We do know! We know because of science!”

I disappeared the CD as quickly as I could and we went running back to our beloved staples.

After the Color Train debacle, I didn’t expect much from the That Baby CD and DVD, but I signed up for the MotherTalk blog tour because something in the description of the CD and its producers made me think it might be ok. It’s a Mom and Pop outfit, literally. Rob and Lisi Wolf aren’t a committee of teachers and child development specialists who have compromised their way to 41 minutes of age-appropriate pablum. They sound kind of like me (parents who think having kids shouldn’t mean turning the stereo off for 10 years), and their musical tastes are right in line with mine. The track list for That Baby CD showcases the groups that created the soundtrack of my high school years: Joni Mitchell, Fleetwood Mac, 10,000 Maniacs, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen and more.

But still, I was skeptical. If the music’s that good, why not play your kids the originals, rather than acoustic covers? Well, we very well could, but the fact is we don’t. The CD is like a mix tape made by a good friend, someone who knows your taste well enough to put some of your favorite songs onto a recording, plus some great unfamiliar stuff. So, in fact, while I love Bruce Springsteen, the Springsteen song on this CD, Pony Boy, is new to me, and the cover (by Jaycob Van Auken, a Lyle Lovett-sound alike) is gorgeous (the accompanying video is one of my favorites, too). Stephanie Schneiderman is a terrific discovery for me, as well; I think she’s brave to take on Joni Mitchell’s Circle Game, but she brings something beautifully new to the song. Her cover of Peter, Paul and Mary’s Garden Song is a beauty, as is her take on Paul Simon’s St. Judy’s Comet (honestly, I like her voice so much, I’m going to buy her solo CDs).

The CD is now firmly established in our car music rotation; the accompanying DVD is terrific (except, I have to say, for the kids lip syncing to Brass Pocket, which we all find a little disconcerting!) Although we don’t watch a ton of tv around here, and when we do, it is hard for the boys (or any of us, really) to shake the family Oswald habit, they have started to request repeat viewings of the That Baby DVD, and I am happy to oblige. The That Baby CD and DVD make a great addition to any family’s music repertoire.

A Trip to the Ballet

The last time I went to the ballet, I was probably about ten. My mom took me to a New York City Ballet production of Petrouchka, and I don’t remember much about the event except wondering what made the ballerina’s cheeks so red!

We’re really kind of film/music people around here… I think dance is beautiful, and I’m always knocked out by the graceful strength of the dancers, but I’ve never seen many performances, or learned very much about it. Meanwhile, Ben’s interest in music started young and shows no sign of abating. He’s got a bin full of instruments, as well as two guitars, a ukulele, and a mandolin. He studies the fabulous San Francisco symphony kid’s website. And of course, we read books about music all the time, from Animal Orchestra, to Meet the Orchestra, to The Philharmonic Gets Dressed to Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin. He even has a 4,000 entry illustrated encyclopedia of music that Tony found at the used book store (Ben reads it in bed).

And yet, we still haven’t been to the symphony! But we recently tagged along with a friend who’d bought a block of tickets to the San Francisco Ballet’s special kid-focussed production of Stravinsky’s The Firebird. We got to watch students from the Ballet School warm up on stage while a retired dancer narrated their every movement; we got to watch an excerpt from the vivacious dance, Blue Rose; and finally, a full production of their world premiere Firebird.

Of course, Ben and I had done our homework. I’d found a picture book version of The Firebird, and we’d been reading it nightly for a week. I’d worried that maybe the story, with its demons and deathless king, would trouble Ben’s dreams, but he seemed unfazed.

We arrived early, in time to really study the beautiful performance space. We walked down to look at the orchestra pit, to note which instruments were already in place (piano, harp, drums), and we got to say hello to the trumpeter when he walked in to put his score on his music stand.
Then the lights flickered, we took our seats, and Ben and his friends watched rapt as the dancers moved through their warm-ups, then Ben leaned back and let Blue Rose wash over him.

When The Firebird began at last, I suddenly realized that Ben has never seen a live-action performance of any kind. The few movies he has seen are animated; he has never seen real people pretending to be characters. And he didn’t know quite what to make of it. He moved on to my lap, a little worried about Prince Ivan when Kashchei captured him. “Is that man real? Is he going to be ok?” And he still hasn’t stopped talking about the scene of Kashchei’s death, which I found beautifully, subtly staged (a flashing light and a brief black-out), but frightened poor Ben speechless. “He’s ok,” I kept whispering into his ear, “It’s just a story. It’s all pretend.”

He’s still at the stage where the line between real life and pretend is a little fuzzy, and it’s an interesting stage to witness. I want him to know and appreciate the difference between real life and stories, of course, but I also — almost even more — want him to be so moved by stories that they feel real. I think I’ll be a little sad when pretend doesn’t have the power it does now.

Seeing Dan Zanes

We took the boys to see Dan Zanes today. I love Dan Zanes – love the music, the politics, the raucous energy of his shows. We have several of his CD’s and a concert DVD. Ben has two guitars, a ukulele, a mandolin and assorted other musical instruments with which we have concerts at least once a day. “Concert in the living room!” Ben will shout, “Dan Zanes and friends!” And he assigns us all roles. He’s Dan, of course; Tony (who actually knows how to play guitar) plays the part of singer David Jones; I’m Cynthia Hopkins, the accordion player; and Eli is Baby Colin, the drummer. We make a joyful noise.

The first time we saw Dan Zanes perform, Ben was nearly three. He sat still for the hour-long show, shushing us when we tried to sing along, pulling us back down when we stood up to dance. He studied the show intently and then, when it was all over and we asked him what he thought, said only “They shined lights on Dan Zanes!” When we got home that day, he asked us to shine a flashlight on him as he strummed his ukulele on the hearth.

Eli was a baby for our second Dan Zanes show, so he mostly napped and nursed next to his quietly observant older brother. I was wondering how he’d react to the show today, given that he’s now at that exuberant toddler stage, running full-throttle into everything. But no, he was pretty bowled over by the experience, too. He moved from my lap to Tony’s, not objecting to our bouncing him or singing along, but not really grooving, either.

Were Tony and I like this as children, I wonder?! Our boys were the only two kids in the theater who didn’t get their wiggle on. But we all had a great time, and I’m sure Ben’s going to bust out a few new moves and a bit more patter for tomorrow’s concert.