Thursday, July 26, 2012

Music in Context-Take it!

Jimmy Stafford: “People are saying that we resemble the old-fashioned classic rock bands. It was nothing intentional. It is just all about the music for us and that’s where our roots are and that was our idea: write good songs and play shows and do the old-fashioned rock-band thing.”

My son:  I don’t think Train sounds old-fashioned at all.  They sound like they are trying to be as good as the old-fashioned bands.  Maybe they should listen to more bluegrass, they need to strip it down.

Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour is a musical education and pure entertainment. If you've never heard these shows, you should check them out. N.B. You don't need to be a fan of Dylan's music to thoroughly enjoy these beauties.

   My brother-in-law, Eddie Dean, introduced us to the program a few years ago and my two children (11 and 13) are now reaping the rewards of the musical education they've received.  Eddie may have intended the results that we are seeing, you never know what strategy he has in mind.  Side note about Eddie, he's a writer and could sell a glass of water to a drowning man with his turn of phrase. He's been published in The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington, D.C. City Paper, in Best Music Essays of 2000, and wrote Man of Constant Sorrow.

    Here is the story of how my children learned about hundreds of songs which I consider crucial to literacy.

 My husband is the one who drives the children to school and takes them on road trips, etc. Every time they were in the car he would pop in one of the Theme Time shows. He's the one who delivered the material, replayed songs, explained lyrics, parsed the vocabulary used, ad nauseam.

Year 1:  They had favorites and were quoting the remarks that Dylan made to give context (hence the  
            title, "theme" time)
Year 2:  They were singing the songs in the shower, recognizing them in T.V. shows and movies.
Year 3:  They recognized the bass lines of songs that were remixed into new songs and were talking
            about how the music was being used to make something new.

     Now, in our fourth year, they have the songs on their mp3 players, share them with friends and work them into conversations and book studies.  My son was reading a book this summer that mentioned a song playing in the story line, and was able to use that information to determine the year for the novel's setting.  The magic curriculum had worked.  Wish I'd planned it!

     It all happened under my nose.  Sure, I was listening when it was playing at home, and I have my favorites like the dog theme show from season 2.  It contains the song "Dog" by Bob Dorough which my kids quote when they signal they are leaving the house by saying, "the dog trots freely in the street".  Sure I added to conversations-but it wasn't until a few days ago that I realized what enrichment had transpired.  ("The home is a classroom."-Dylan and my daughter agree.)

Rocky Top?
We were sitting in a diner, our car had broken down (different story, not ready to talk about it yet), and the song "I'm Walkin'" by Fats Domino was playing. I looked down the counter to my son and he was mouthing the words as he scarfed fries, my daughter was tapping the percussion as the cheese in her mozzarella sticks turned to rubber, and my husband was clicking his fork on his iced tea glass. My kids know so much music that gives context to modern life! How in the world would I have shared all this music and history without those shows, my husband's determination not to listen to pop radio, and Eddie? They wouldn't. They'd be missing out on the depth of sound around them and the references in the books they read. Even worse, they wouldn't recognize the parodies of the songs, or think that a cover was an original never questioning a melody's provenance.

     A smart teacher would write some sort of curriculum using the shows.  Here's a link to the lists of songs in season two.  You'll see the titles and know why a curriculum can hook into these easily. Now, like the Smothers Brothers say,  "Take it!"

     And hey, send me a copy of that curriculum when you write it.

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