Earlier this year, I recorded ‘Little Star Lullabies’ – an album of classical music specially created to help babies and small children relax and sleep. I’d always felt that the music on many of the albums in this genre wasn’t of a particularly good quality and this was confirmed from discussions with several musician friends who have children. Parents were dismayed that childrens’ music was often highly artificial, with synthesized childish sounds, clumsy harmonies and could become grating after a few listens. We discussed the point that record companies and producers wouldn’t contemplate using such poor quality sounds on a release aimed at adults, yet it was considered entirely appropriate for a small child. Taking this to its logical conclusion means that children’s ears become acclimatized to unrefined, unnatural sounds instead of subtle, authentic ones.
Another common technique in releases which are often described as “Classical Music for Babies” is to take well known classical or baroque pieces of music (such as Pachelbel’s Canon in D or Bach’s Air), strip them of their subtlety and sophistication, then present them in a simplified, synthesized form (often involving a glockenspiel and sometimes even a synthesized drum beat!). By removing the expression, nuance and elegance, the piece becomes unnatural and again is a bit like surrounding children with plastic flowers in the hope that this will cultivate a love of nature.
What I wanted to do was to compose and record a selection of organically written pieces played on real instruments which could be enjoyable for both babies and their parents – without it becoming predictable or wearing after a few repetitions.
The end result is ‘Little Star Lullabies,” an album recorded using orchestral instruments such as violins, violas, cellos, piano, harp, recorders, flutes and glockenspiel. It offers children the chance to experience music played on real instruments and is beautifully written to include more subtle harmonies, musical contrast and counter melodies to engage the ear but remains gentle, soothing and uplifting.
Here is a review by one very satisfied parent:
‘Little Star Lullabies is a CD of 8 relaxing instrumental musical pieces to help babies and children sleep. All of the tracks are composed and arranged by Vaughan Jones – 3 around traditional melodies including Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.
I started by putting on this CD during what I tend to call the grizzle hour in our house – the hour between about 6.30pm and 7.30pm when the kids are getting tired and need to start calming down before bed. With the rush of getting in from nursery or work, unpacking bags, clearing up mess etc., tempers can become a bit frayed. This is the hour when CBeebies can become my best friend or the prospect of back to back Peppa Pig seems quite attractive rather than intensely irritating. However, on this particular evening I resisted the urge to switch on the TV and put ‘Little Star Lullabies’ on instead. We had a couple of false starts (Lyra – 14 months – took the CD out of the player a couple of times and tried to eat it), but eventually we got going.
The first song started with a gentle melody that made Iris (3) waft around the room and pretend she was a bird flying over the sea. She then asked me to put a blanket out on the floor and get a box so she could make a little boat. She sat in her box and pretended to float around on the waves. Lyra tried to capsize her a couple of times, but Iris managed to hold on.
The rest of the CD continues with beautiful, calming melodies. There is a lovely mix of instruments – violin, cello, harp, flute, piano and recorders to name just a few – and these give variety, depth and texture to the pieces. Both girls enjoyed the music and it definitely helped to calm the mood as well as getting Iris‚Äôs imagination going.
Music for children is not always suited to adult listeners. However, we have played this CD a number of times now and I still enjoy listening to all of the tracks – they are beautiful little pieces to listen to and whenever I hear them I do just want to take a deep breath, shut my eyes and relax…
I have also played the CD quietly in Lyra’s room when I have been putting her down to bed. It does a good job of masking the sound of Iris thundering up and down the landing like an elephant, and at the same time provides a soothing and calming atmosphere that does help her to settle towards sleep.
We all really enjoyed the CD and would recommend it for babies, children and parents!’