Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Bob Dylan's Rocking, Throwing, and Holding Music

I couldn't believe it when DJ B pulled a Bob Dylan CD from the shelf at the public library. As far as Bob Dylan goes, I live in a divided household. I still haven't found a connection to his music and am particularly turned off by his nasally vocal style. My husband, however, is a huge fan and for years has been trying to convert me to the pro-Dylan camp. The moment I realized that Miss B had chosen Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits Volume 3 on our library jaunt, I knew that my husband would be elated. In the intervening hours before listening to the CD the tension was mounting, as I wondered how Miss B would feel about her dad's beloved artist.

We decided to listen to the CD when the whole family was home. My husband put it in the player and Miss B said, "I wanna hold your hand." Muddying the process, Miss B's dad started singing along to the music and directed his performance at our resident toddler music critic. She shook her head, danced, then jumped on a chair. She asked her dad to hold her and dance, saying, "Rock me in the living room." After some slow dancing, Miss B then said, "Throw me dada. Put me in the basketball. Throw me in the basketball." He ignored her request and instead began to sing to her. During "Tangled Up in Blue," DJ B said, "This is a holding song." Her dad continued to dance with her in his arms for the entire song, even though she said, "Sorry dada. I'm going to have to get something else. I need something else" while shaking her fist. At the end of the song she got down and did some more energetic dancing.

A few days later Miss B grabbed the CD again, saying, "I wanna sing to this one." Yet after we put it on she didn't pay too much attention to the music. Instead she focused on her snack and her pink laptop computer, telling me, "I'm doing my email." When I asked what she thought of the music, she got up and turned it off.

It's clear to me that DJ B's enjoyment of Bob Dylan was highly dependent on the presence of her father. Music, like so many things, is so much more fun when sharing it with other fans.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Mobb Deep Gets Dismissed by DJ B

After the inspiring sounds of Curtis Mayfield, Miss B had absolutely no interest in the 50 Cent-produced rap of Mobb Deep. Despite the fact that she selected their Blood Money CD from the library shelf, at home she flatly refused to listen to it. On numerous occasions I tried to play it for her, with resistance every time. Considering the fact that the CD has a "Parental Advisory" sticker warning of explicit content, it's ironic that I kept pressuring Miss B to give it a fair listen. Today, on our final attempt, she said, "I don't wanna try it! I don't like it. I wanna leave it." She added, "I wanna listen to ballet music."

She did take a look at the CD booklet and played around with the case a bit, plopping it on top of her pink laptop. She said, "I just don't like it." I put it in the CD player anyway, but Miss B intercepted me, saying, "no!" as she removed it before we could hear any of the music. Is this some sort of weird toddler self-censorship? Does she somehow know that she shouldn't be listening to hardcore rap quite yet?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Curtis Mayfield a Compelling Listen During Election Week

A few weeks ago Miss B selected The Very Best of Curtis Mayfield from the public library. In the days leading up to the Presidential election, she gave it a listen and was enthralled. The opening track, "(Don't Worry) If There's a Hell Below We're All Going To," with its strong spoken word commentary on social justice didn't elicit too much of a reaction at first. But, as soon as the music came in, DJ B did some truly funky new dance moves that included shoulder shrugs, head bouncing, and fast arm moves. As she got down on the floor, she continued with her rapid arm gestures.

Miss B's dad joined in on the dancing, and she cheered him on, saying, "Go dada, go dada!" As the second song began ("The Makings of You"), Miss B changed her dance style to some slower ballet moves that were more in keeping with the pace of the track. She said, "This one is a good ballet one," before she walked out of the room, saying "bye bye."

A few days after the election (Go Obama!), Miss B listened to the Curtis Mayfield CD again. This time she accompanied the initial track on her toy piano, tapping the keys with a tiny plastic Sippy cup piece. She grinned, laughed, and yelled "yay!!" while running about the room with her arms stretched out behind her in a flying pose. Then she marched a bit before throwing a tiara across the room. As before, "The Makings of You" inspired slow ballet dancing. As the CD continued to play and the pace quickened, she put on her fairy skirt and danced with her hands at her waist. She said, "Can you say, 'go princess!'?" as she shook her hips and twisted her body while watching her reflection in the glass of our entertainment center.

I'd like to think that Miss B's glee over the funky stylings and social commentary of Curtis Mayfield were part of her celebration of the election of Barack Obama. After all, Mayfield's music was influential in the early years of the civil rights movement, so it's awfully appropriate to revisit it during the afterglow of this historic election.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Miss B Gets Married to the Sounds of Mahler

One of the most non-descript looking CDs that DJ B has selected from the library was Gustav Mahler's Symphony No.1 with "Blumine", performed by the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra. When she pulled it from the library shelf, no cover art was visible through the grungy, milky white plastic case. Yet, somehow she must have known that the music inside was going to speak to her.

When she played the CD, Miss B instantly began to do slow dance moves, spinning around. She then put her skirt on over her face like a veil and said, "Get me married. Cinderella is gonna marry me." At this point she got a bit philosophical, asking me, "You get sad when you're married?" Despite the question, she bounced about with the skirt over her face, spinning in a circle.

I asked her if she liked the music and Miss B said, "mmm hmmm." She put on her silver glittery shoes and stood still with her hands in front of her, saying, "The lights are on me. Watch me get married." She then pretended to be Sleeping Beauty and proclaimed, "I got married!" Wanting to do it again, she asked, "Help me get married. Hold my hand, so I can get married." When I asked who she was getting married to, she said, "To Cinderella and Mama and Daddy."

Today we listened to Mahler again and this time Miss B was intrigued by the picture of conductor James Judd in the booklet. She kept asking about him and wondered if he talked. Later on she referred to him as the "train guy," and she talked about how he was helping her to "get down and do gallops." Her overall assessment today was best summarized when she said, "I just love that beautiful jumping very loud song...[with the] loud drum in makes me Arabesque."

Sharon Little is Fab for Interpretive Dance

I have a growing pile of promotional CDs that I've been meaning to pass along to DJ B for review, but she beat me to the punch yesterday when one of them caught her eye amid the piles on the dining room table. Recently I got sent a copy of XPN Local, Volume 2, a compilation CD put together by the University of Pennsylvania public radio station WXPN. I write about college radio for my other blog, Spinning Indie, so they sent me the comp in hopes of getting some press about it.

Miss B grabbed the CD and raced to her room so that she could check out the music on her boombox. As track one began (Sharon Little's "Follow that Sound," which by the way is the theme song for the TV show The Cleaner), she started to stomp and dance around her room. The music began with prominent percussion, a hint of Native American sounds, and bluesy female vocals. Miss B stretched out her arms and balanced herself between a chair and her crib while she danced. She leaned back and proceeded to do some intricate footwork while holding on to the furniture. She then selected a pair of shoes to wear and continued to dance with a very serious look on her face. When the song ended, she said, "I want the other one that I liked," so I showed her how she could restart the CD so that she could hear the first song again. DJ B cranked up the volume and danced some more. She donned her tiara and fairy skirt and waved her hand while pronouncing, "I'm Sleeping Beauty."

She played the Sharon Little song over and over and over, rarely giving the rest of the CD a chance. Finally she allowed the CD to track to the second song (Amos Lee's "Sweet Pea") while she danced in front of a mirror, saying, "Mama. I'm the sad princess." After accidentally hitting herself in the eye with her wand, she said, "I'm the happy princess." As track 3 began (Illinois' "Things are Gonna Be Okay"), she started to melt down, demanding her Christmas dress. After she calmed down, she turned down the volume, asking, "What is this one?" before turning it off and playing Sharon Little again. Miss B then proclaimed, "I just love that beautiful music!"

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Celine Dion's World Tour Infiltrates the Library

I was a bit dismayed when Miss B chose another Celine Dion CD from the public library ("Taking Chances"), as it was pure torture the first time around. But, once again, my budding DJ B seems to have a knack for predicting when something will rear its head into the public consciousness (like her penchant for Chinese music during the Beijing Olympics). Or, as we'll learn later, it may just be that the marketing demons have infiltrated our lives.

After she requested that we play this CD, the first thing Miss B did was to walk away dejected after she couldn't remove the "booklet" (cover art) from the CD case. She came back with her Panda robot and rocked him, saying, "Panda is singing." It wasn't until the 5th track ("Shadow of Love") that DJ B seemed to notice the music. She bounced and rocked out a bit while shaking her head to the beat. She then asked me to join her in a dance, saying, "go mama!" Next, she requested that her father be her dance partner for track 6 ("Surprise Surprise"). Miss B stretched her arms into the air before pretending to be Sleeping Beauty as she said, "King kiss me."

I was hoping to quickly get the CD back to the library before a repeat listen, but today I was thwarted while watching "Mornings on Two." As I drank my latte and read the paper, Miss B started to scream and pointed excitedly at the TV, saying, "that's the CD on there! the black one." I was surprised to see that she was responding to a commercial for Celine Dion's "Taking Chances World Tour 2008." I wondered if she really recognized the music, since it had been over a week since we'd listened to the CD. Thanks to Tivo we were able to rewind and investigate further. As we scanned through the ad, Miss B danced along to the music, then pointed to a CD on the screen, saying, "Just like the one we have." She asked me to get the CD, saying, "can we match it?" So, I tracked down the CD from her room, and, indeed, it was the very same one being promoted on TV. At this point Miss B was beside herself with excitement and said, "I need the CD on" before she took control and popped the disc into the player.

It's an awfully strange coincidence that DJ B selected the Celine Dion CD from the library on the heels of her world tour. I wonder if Ms. Dion's promo folks are loading up the library shelves to help build the hype. Is Miss B just a vessel for their marketing message? Is she a hapless victim of multiple impressions? Don't worry. We will resist the urge to attend Celine's November 23rd appearance at San Jose's HP Pavilion. But you can still go. Don't forget to buy a T-shirt. That's where they earn the big bucks.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Miss B Gets an Early Start on Christmas (Again)

It's not uncommon for DJ B to reach for familiar CDs at the public library that she has previously checked out. Usually I intercept her and suggest that she pick a different selection since we've already borrowed that particular album. But, sometimes I just relent and let her bring home the beloved CD once again. Recently she reached for Linda Ronstadt's "Merry Little Christmas," an album that we reviewed 2 months ago. We brought it home, and, Miss B was into it even more than she was the first time around.

Miss B screamed, "Christmas! I want it louder!" After we turned on the music she climbed on the couch and gave me a big hug. She then began her ballet moves and said, "This is Christmas." She went on, saying, "I just love Christmas" and did more ballet with a huge grin on her face. She played with a toy key, galloped, and spun around. She then grabbed 2 CD cases and danced with them in her hands while doing ballet on tip toes.

With six weeks until Christmas, is your resident DJ itching for the tunes yet?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Jazz Still a Tough Sell for DJ B

DJ B keeps picking up jazz CDs from the public library, but never seems super excited about them once she gives them a listen. This week's choice, SFJazz Collective 2, turned out to be no exception. As is typically the case, Miss B was very interested in reading the CD booklet (ours actually had a bright orange and yellow, seizure-inducing cover), but after only a few seconds of music (the John Coltrane track "Moment's Notice") she yelled, "It's loud!" and asked for another CD. Before we were able to take the CD out she told me, "I want to go to the library" and did a brief bounce to the music.

A few days later we again tried to listen and Miss B asked, "Is this jazz?" While she scanned the booklet she was particularly interested in a close-up picture of mallets on a vibraphone, asking, "What are those?" She was very mellow, as she read the booklet and played with the CD case. When I asked her what she thought of the music she said, "princess." When we got to the second track (Coltrane's "Naima") she started to tap the CD case with her fingers, the first indication that she was actually listening to the music. I took the CD out of the player and Miss B said to put it back in, "it's princesses."

Although she never seemed to be super engaged with the music, I suppose I should never discount Miss B's quiet enjoyment of jazz.