Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Music Listening

We listen to a wide variety of music at our house. Kal-El was a testament to this the other day. He was plucking out tunes on the piano and he created a mash-up of the "March" from The Nutcracker and "Go, Go Power Rangers." I asked Me Too to name his three favorite songs yesterday and he named four:  "Holy, Holy, Holy", "Allegro" (Suzuki), "Friday", and "Rumpshaker."  NO,  we don't let them actually listen to "Rumpshaker"!  VERY inappropriate.  I won't even link to that. However, my husband teaches them to "rap" and "get funky" when I am out of the house and sadly both boys like to sing "hey shake your rump!"  Here is a video of Kal-El and Daddy "getting funky," but I warn you...if you click it is 43 seconds of your life you will never get back.  I wish I could upload some of the videos of the boys "rapping" but I don't have any in which they don't say their names.

Fortunately, most of the music listening they do either fits into our "educational plan" or is "clean fun."  I've been asked what CD's I would recommend from a music appreciation perspective and some of you might find my answer to that surprising.  We have a rather large CD collection but 99% of it was never unpacked after we moved over a year ago.  This isn't a result of unpacking laziness, but because we haven't needed it.

We actually use Pandora radio almost all of the time at home.  Most of you are already familiar with Pandora, I'm sure.  For those who aren't, it is a site that offers free, personalized radio with limited ads.  When you go to their homepage it offers a search box where you can enter an artist, song, genre or composer to create a "station" or choose an existing station to customize.  As you listen, if you wish, you can give tunes a thumbs-up or thumbs-down.  If you don't like something, it will never play it again and it will tailor the songs it does play to what you DO like.  Our family has stations created around "Led Zepplin," "Family Folk Songs," "Cat Stevens,"  "Tchaikovsky,"Bach," "Mozart," "Stravinsky," "Hymns," "Run D.M.C." and "Journey."  However, the "Tchaikovsky" station doesn't only play works by Tchaikovsky...but rather works by him as well as the other composers of his time period and genre.  It is as if I put all of our CDs of the Romantic era, and then some, into a big CD changer and hit "random."  Yes, they have holiday music too!  This was very handy for us at Christmas time and we had a lot of fun with it around Halloween.

My husband and I both like it for ourselves because we like having our music mixed and like being surprised and occasionally finding something new or something we've forgotten about.  For the boys, what I really like is that this truly lets me follow the child. Both boys, Me Too in particular, are very clear in telling me when something interests them.  Me Too will march right up and demand I play certain things "again" which, is sadly something you can't do in Pandora.  But, thanks to You Tube, I can usually pull up a "repeat" right away.  I choose what CD's to pull out of our otherwise unpacked collection based on what they are interested in.

Kal-El was turned on to The Nutcracker when he heard the "March" on Pandora.  I put the CD in our car.  We watched the full Balanchine-version of the ballet on Netflix (Macaulay Culkin dances a role, and yes, two little boys gladly sat and digested an entire ballet!) as well the animated dances from Disney's Fantasia (The original, I don't know what's in Fantasia 2000.  I'm not a modern Disney fan).  It led to an intensive listening experience for them, and they both can identify all of the major dances in a "drop-the-needle" sort of way.  Kal-El was motivated to figure out how to play some of the little phrases (like the opening measures of the march) by ear on every instrument he could think of:  violin, Montessori bells, xylophone, and piano.  He enjoyed exploring the piano, bells and xylophone and transposing it to as many different keys as he could.  This was a great natural introduction to the half-step/whole-step lessons on the bells.

I keep a small stack of CD's in the car based on the boy's interests.  Currently in our car are the following CD's:

"Peter and the Wolf" (David Bowie)
Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker" (Same CD as "Peter and the Wolf."  That same CD also has Britten's "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra" but the boys REALLY don't like it for some reason.)
Suzuki Violin School CD, Volume 1
Sci-Fi Channel - Sci-Fi's Greatest Hits, Vol. 4: Defenders Of Justice

We listen to the Suzuki CD every time we go anywhere in the car (almost daily), and relieve it with the others after we've listened.  Whenever possible we also listen to Children's Storytime or "Sailor Sam"/"Ranger Bill"-type programs.  They are usually on in the late afternoons and Saturday mornings.  Otherwise, we can't listen to broadcast radio much in the car.  I'm uncomfortable with what horrid thing they might say during one of the many "news breaks." One minute you can be listening to a nice song, the next second the song can end and the first sentence out of the broadcaster's mouth can be "A man murdered the mother of his children today..."  Also, Kal-El dislikes most of the music on the radio.  I've cycled through the stations many times over the years and he almost always asks me to change it.  The few times he's asked me to stop for a song were for "Justin Timberlake", "Bon Jovi", and "Motley Crue."

I also think it is important that my children learn to recognize the top 100 classical pieces.  I will blog more about that in the future.  However, if you are looking for a good music collection to use for that purpose I have been pretty happy with the "101 Greatest Classics " collection.  We own all five volumes and there are very few pieces that I have to pick up elsewhere.  Usually it is more the case that I want to teach "more" of a particular piece and need all of the movements so I have to supplement (like, Scheherazade, great for fifth graders!).


If you are looking for the rest of my series on Montessori Music, there is a tab at the top of my blog under the header, or they can be found here!

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  1. Great post! Love Pandora! Another digital addiction. And oh my goodness. The video. Hilarious. I can tell you're in your element here. What a blessing and gift to be able to share your musical talent and interests with your children. We always had fun listening across genres in our class. One week might be swing or big band (kids LOVED swing, cdn't stay still), the next the blues, the next a classical period, or maybe folk or traditional fiddle pieces. Sometimes we'd start the morning with soft soothing music in the background, a la Windham Hill. I love having music integrated into the day. Yay for mixing it up, boo for strictly segregated classes. I'm pinning your music posts to my Pinterest boards. Thanks for this great series!

  2. Thank you SOO much Beth. It is nice to get comments :) Especially such interesting and thoughtful ones!

  3. What a great post! I'm so glad I found it =) You have really good ideas - especially listening to the Suzuki cds in the car! Great idea. We have those - we should listen to them! I remember from the few times I pulled them out that the kids really enjoyed them. And I really need to check out Pandora. I've never been over there. I listen to a lot radio stations on iTunes which is fantastic! My favourite right now is this old French music station -- it's thee best. Thanks for all your ideas! I'm sure I'll go through your post again to get them all =)

  4. Kimberly,

    I did NOT even know that itunes had radio stations! I just opened up our itunes, and sure enough, there the were. I'll be poking around in there today for sure.

  5. Well there you go! I know I was excited when I found that out. And there are even Christmas radio stations too -- they are great during Christmastime! The French Station we love is ParisChanson and then the showtune one we like is ShowBizRadio -- broadway all day! If you find a good one you like let me know because there are so many stations!