Sunday, November 6, 2011

In review--Sing children, sing

Joshua Leeds
Good Night Baby
Music to Soothe Your Infant to Sleep
Sounds True

Jai Uttal
Kirtan Kids
The Elephant, the Monkey, and
The Little Butter Thief
Sounds True

If adults find the technological era stressful, imagine what children feel, especially the extra-sensitive infant.  Plenty of record labels release recordings for children and I’ve featured a handful on this blog already.  I contacted Putumayo about its children’s compilation series and never received a response, then Sounds True came out with Jai Uttal’s  (famous in the world of yoga kirtans) Kirtan Kids and psycho-acoustic researcher Joshua Leeds’ Good Night Baby (Music to Soothe Your Infant to Sleep).  While I don’t have any children myself, I feel that music is a healthy non-toxic medicine for stressed out children.  And in the case of Jai Uttal’s recording, he offers an avenue to a higher spiritual source.  A child needs to feel connected to the natural world and the Divine.  I know that as a child, these connections saved me from falling into endless despair.

Oddly Joshua Leeds returns to synthesizers/programming for Good Night Baby.  When he teamed up with Lisa Spector for Through a Dog’s Ear series, he insisted on employing only acoustic instruments, and in fact, was adamant about this in a radio interview I hosted in 2008.  Not that the programming seems out of place on Good Night Baby.  It actually works in a counter intuitive way when combined with sounds from the mother’s womb and classical chamber pieces performed on piano, oboe, and cello.

I listened to the entire recording one time through headphones.  I have no way of testing this recording out on infants so I’ll take the researchers word for it. However, I wonder what type of affect it would have on the rebirthing process for adults or healing traumas from the birth experience.  The famous French ear, nose and throat doctor Alfred Tomatis successfully combined Mozart’s concertos with sounds from the mother’s womb when working with children with vocal and hearing problems.  You can read about this in Don Campbell’s book The Mozart Effect.

Getting back to Leeds’ sound healing recording, the researcher/musician features three long-playing tracks including Earth Plane Welcome (17 minutes), Inside Mama (10 minutes) and Floating Free/Remembering Before (32:48 minutes).  Leeds and his chamber ensemble musicians, including pianist Lisa Spector, wed classical pieces by Brahms, Corelli, and Schumann to programming, while slowing and speeding up the music to match the infant’s energy.  Parents are encouraged to either play the entire CD or just pieces off of it depending on their infant’s response.

I’m wondering if this recording would also help an anxious dog relax around the infant.  Many dogs grow stressful around an infant entering the household and since the dogs already have their own series, I’m guessing that this new recording will help dogs relax too.  The concept is rife with possibilities and I’m certain that parents who have already purchased this recording are saying, “It’s about time.”

Jai Uttal isn’t the first musician to bring the music of India or even kirtans to children. I believe Putumayo arrived there first.  Nonetheless, I believe that kirtan chants could work wonders in teaching children how to focus and also increase their storytelling skills.  While adult kirtan recordings feature chants allowing the practitioner to connect with Divine entities, in the case of Sanskrit kirtans, Hindu gods, this children’s recording features fun stories to melodic call and response phrases. You hear Uttal telling the stories of Ganesh (the Elephant god), Hanuman (monkey god) and other colorful deities.  Then children sing along with the expressive Uttal.

While I’m certain the recording Kirtan Kids is fun for children and adults with children, I personally couldn’t get into it despite my sister-in-law calling me an eternal child.  But the songs here rise above cloyingly cute and they offer children a gateway to the divine experience, possibly healing some children of their lack of attention.  I also think that most children are aware of their spiritual nature, especially when they’re under the age of 5 and they need avenues, (why not a musical one), to express their spiritual yearnings.  I know I did as a child.

Each kirtan comes with a story which you can find in the colorful CD booklet along with the kirtan text.  In fact the CD packaging is exquisite with its Indian motifs.  I think Uttal describing his experience as a father and kirtan singer sums it up best.

“…The many streams of human life began to mingle with my boy’s incredible wise innocence—personality, wanting, individualization, the joy of saying ‘no.’ But still his eyes shone.  Singing to my Gopala gradually changed to singing with my Gopala.  And as the practice of kirtan reminds him of his divine nature, I realize that mostly it’s me who needs the reminding.  I fall asleep most of the time.  And my boy wakes me up.”

I realize that some parents will feel put off by Indian chants that feature Indian gods and that’s okay.  That’s probably not Uttal’s target market.  However, for parents who are more spiritually-open, why not introduce your child to these fun stories and engage in a sing-a-long that helps your child stay centered? The chants help a child to learn phrases, follow a lead singer, tell stories, learn how to focus, and stay spiritually connected as well as, learning about another culture. In a nutshell that's the mission of a cultural creative.

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