30 November 2011

Icing

I like Andrew Bird. A lot. I first heard his slightly flat and raspy gypsy + swing + funk fiddle work on an early Squirrel Nut Zippers album, and I loved it without knowing who he was. Later I discovered Armchair Apocrypha, and from there launched squarely backwards (chronologically) into the Bowl of Fire.

Somewhere in that discovery process I took a shine to the tune "50 Pieces" and, on a whim, played it for the kids. They immediately started dancing, and they LOVED this quirky line towards the end: "Hey, who's that old man in the overalls? His cows lick the ice from off the stable walls."

Makes no sense, right? And even less so couple with the refrain, which he sings just before it: "I thought perhaps we could sit down for tea; "Nein" was the cold reply from Frau Ecstasy." Love it, not that I understand it. But the cows? Huh?

I'm not sure what my somewhat eclectic musical tastes are doing to the kids. I've exposed them to loads of stuff that kids their age probably shouldn't hear, much less hear regularly. Here's the iPod playlist that we usually cycle through in the car:
  • The Sick Bed of CĂșchulainn by The Pogues 
  • The Rock Show by Blink 182 
  • TGIF by Katy Perry
  • Dynamite by Taio Cruz 
  • Bat Out of Hell by Meat Loaf 
  • Party All Night by the BEPs 
  • Raise Your Glass by P!nk 
  • Bad Romance by Lady Gaga 
  • Hey, Soul Sister by Train 
  • My Life Would Suck Without You by Kelly Clarkson 
  • Tubthumping by Chumbawamba 
  • Bang the Drum All Day by Todd Rundgren 
  • Gives You Hell by The All-American Rejects 
  • Hey There Delilah by the Plain White T's 
  • Waka Waka by Shakira 
  • 50 Pieces by Andrew Bird 
Both kids know more of the lyrics than they should, even some of Shane MacGowan's sloppy brogue. On the one side, I'm sure I'm somehow scaring them with exposure to adult themes and material and lyrics. But while simplistic and whitewashed kids music certainly has its place, it simply can't compare to Andrew Bird or the BEPs in terms of ear candy. How can you can learn to listen actively unless what you're hearing has enough complexity to challenge you?

There was that big Baby Einstein push to play Mozart for infants. But then when they've developed further, we're supposed to limit their exposure to 'safe' kids' songs and the Chipmunks? I played more Bach for them than Mozart (because Mozart annoys me after awhile -- I know, heresy) when they were kids, but it wasn't really part of a methodology. I was just cycling through the library and trying different stuff until I found pieces they seemed to like. Sigur Ros, the Gipsy Kings and David Pulkingham were big winners back then.

We're doing the same thing today: spinning through the radio and our library until we find stuff they like. Except now that they're older, it's even cooler since now we can deconstruct it. They can differentiate the piano from the electric guitar from the synthesizer in Bat Out of Hell, and they can rock the drums. They know 50 Pieces is violin, and that a violin is a fiddle. It's harder to tear the BEPs apart, but there's a lot going on in there. Solid stuff, really.

Anyway, this whole post got started because Tai has been singing the cow lyric from 50 Pieces around the house, but he's intentionally singing it wrong: "...his cows lick the icing off the stable walls."  He just likes it that way.  Peace, little dude.

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