Thursday, October 22, 2009
Stay-At-Home Parenting 101: A Toddler's Guide to Ungodly Squawl* featuring Diamanda Galas and 1/2 Japanese
Whether you're chauffeuring your little trooper to toddler Pilates, the kiddie salon, or just an everyday anti-vaccination protest, you'll both want some music for the ride. And if Sting and Baby Mendelssohn are getting old, why not try something different--what I like to call ungodly squawl?
My four-year-old, Liege, has recently latched on to "the Silly Lady," a.k.a. Diamanda Galas, a Greek-American avant-garde singer best known for her important, moving AIDS benefit piece The Plague Mass. But we don't listen to that one--instead, we enjoy her song "Skotoseme," a smorgasbord of vocal shrieks, cackles, and foreign tongues. (The word "skotoseme" means "kill me" in Greek, but unless your little one has taken the Language Stars Greek class--NOT recommended--that'll probably fly right over their heads!) The song is from Diamanda's 1994 collaboration with John Paul Jones (the bassist from Led Zeppelin--rock on!), called The Sporting Life, and you can sample a live performance of it here:
Liege demands "the Silly Lady" every time we get in the car. His therapist, Dr. Hoffmeister from the Center for Jung Development, speculates that the aggressive music gives Liege confidence to face the day! (It's similar to how, in my pre-Stay-At-Home days, I used EMF's "Unbelievable" to pump myself up before seeing clients.) Dr. H also suggests that Diamanda's barrage of noises acts as a "vicarious release" for Liege's busy inner life. All in all, he beams, it's "quite a progressive choice for one so young."
If modern American primitivism is more your thing, Liege would like to recommend the 1979 debut album from the band 1/2 Japanese (careful--we're not talking Jon and Kate's kids here!), called 1/2 Gentlemen/Not Beasts. No videos available online, sorry--too obscure! Here's the beautifully instinctive album art:
The band made this album before they could really play their instruments, so it all sounds sort of like the bang and clatter you hear every week at Kindermusik! But it'll give your kids the confidence they need, to turn their God-given noise-making chops into a useful living. (We've been looking for something to supplement Liege's budding modeling career!) Liege is particularly taken with 1/2 J's song "Funky Broadway Melody," which has introduced him to the memorable catchphrase "Papa's got a brand new bag," but in a more artistically complex way than the original James Brown would have done. In addition, Dr. H suggests that "Funky Broadway"'s dissonant-yet-repetitive drone taps into Liege's "emotional comfort place"--it's sort of a substitute for me hugging him.
So remember--your kids' music doesn't have to be same-o lame-o! Put on some ungodly squawl instead. Those other parents won't know what they're missing!
*Apologies to the dead Lester Bangs; who, incidentally, appreciated 1/2 Japanese.