Lederman: The Hunt for the Perfect LullabyWritten by Leah Lederman | | email@example.com
Some people might say that the time of the mixed tape has passed; it’s gone. But here’s talking the only person in the tri-state area who giggled with glee when she discovered the used car she was buying was still equipped with a tape deck. I’ve got tapes from seventh grade that I still listen to, and guess what? They don’t skip. Sure, the sound isn’t HD, or whatever the high quality sound is, but the music is there.
Hopefully I have demonstrated with that introduction that I’m no music electronics snob. That’s why it carries a certain weight that even I cannot stomach the tin-can-inside-a-cardboard-box sound of most baby lullaby players. I don’t care if it’s a wind-up, swaying stuffed animal or a latch-on crib music box. The sound–and often the song–is abysmal. So when you’re trying to comfort your baby at two in the morning after managing a whopping sic hours of sleep in that given 24-hour period, the temptation to chuck the metallic melody maker out the window is warranted.
And you know, the sub par tinker-belling lullaby doesn’t do much for your kid, either. I’m still amazed that there are whole baby franchises that make their money off of “babyfying” the likes of Mozart and Beethoven. As if infants and young children will be traumatized or overwhelmed by an orchestral demonstration of superb music. Why do people seem to think that the masterpieces of these great composers need to be translated into xylophones and hand bells? Is a symphony too much for the delicate composition of an infant’s eardrum?
Not at all. In fact, babies even just three months old can appreciate and recognize the complexities of Classical and Romantic music. I encourage you to use this time in your life to broaden your own musical appreciation. Beethoven’s “Pathetique” is not as well known as “Fur Elise” or the “Moonlight Sonata,” but equally soothing, and a great way to have a Beethoven hat-trick end the evening. If you’re interested in Mozart, a simple Google or Amazon search will turn up dozens of samples of his vast repertoire. Then of course, there’s Debussy, Chopin and Schubert. My advice? Get yourself a sample Romantic Piano collection. I’m a piano lover, though. Whatever your instrument of choice, there’s a CD out there waiting to croon to you in the wee hours.
But maybe Classical and Romantic is not the way to go for you. I respect that (although I solemnly urge you to at least give it a YouTube sampling before you say no forever). In the meantime, go through your music collection and find those songs that were always able to calm you. Norah Jones and The Cure are chock-full of relaxing goodness and, of course, the Cranberries. But that’s me. Nirvana and Eric Clapton (Unplugged, of course) have also made a few evenings with baby more bearable. Stick to songs or groups that invite swaying more than foot-tapping, and you’re on the right track. Save the steady beats for the hip-shaking and twirling you’ll do once you’re all well rested. Tomorrow.
It helps to be familiar with the music you listen to with your baby. You can sing, hum or sway along more easily. Of course, be sure that your familiarity is a friendly one. Do you really want to rock your baby to sleep listening to the song from your sophomore year Homecoming—the one where Bobby mentioned casually that he might be more into Jill than he is into you? (No, you don’t. Trust me on this one). Play relaxing music and, if it invokes memories, make sure that they are fond ones. Recall, if you can, the songs that your parents sang to you. An old yoga CD can offer profound relaxation. Who’d have thought?
Then again, repeated night-time routines might be a good time to run the gamut on your musical experience, literally. Let’s face it, when you’re not oohing and aahing at baby’s latest laughter, faces and discoveries, the baby-raising process can be mundane—intellectually, at least. Use your time wisely. Introduce yourself to new sounds, if nothing else. I’ve discovered artists like Amos Lee and Theresa Andersson using this method, and found a new appreciation for some of the sweet Irish lullabies of my heritage. Always be sure, however, to sample your new musical choices before using them as lullabies, or you might not realize that the song is a bit too intense for anyone to sleep to (I learned that with Mozart’s “Requiem”).
Since the day I said, “Enough with baby Muzak,” and concocted myself an alternative in the form of a home-made audiocassette, bedtime (and those times between bedtime and daylight) has been a much more tolerable affair. Go back to the mixed tape. Okay, Okay, make it an iPod selection or an MP3 compilation (whatever the kids are calling it these days). Instead of relying on the computerized, mechanized, groan-inducing-ized lullaby machine, trust yourself to know what soothes you. What soothes you, surprisingly enough, will likely sooth your baby.
Leah Lederman lives in Toledo with her husband, their 20-month-old son and a boxer puppy. She has 11 nieces and nephews.