Friday, May 22, 2009

DJ B Plays Air Guitar to Deerhunter and Drums along with Ani DiFranco

Back in October I went to the CMJ Music Marathon in New York City and accumulated a pile of promotional CDs that I intended to pass along to DJ B for review. It's taken awhile, but once again we got back to this project. Yesterday I presented her with the stack of music to see which releases caught her eye.

The first CD that she investigated was a CMJ promo CD called "CMJ New Music, Issue 155." From the opening notes of track one (Deerhunter's "Nothing Ever Happened"), Miss B was energized. She jumped up and down and said, "You dance with me momma. See I'm gonna dance really fast." She continued to jump and implored me to join her, saying, "you try." She shook her hips to the driving rock song, played with a pez truck on the floor, then began to strum her fingers on her air guitar. She then yelled, "where's my guitar?" I found her pink princess guitar and she promptly strapped it on and played along to the music while dancing. Her next request to me was, "you get dadda's guitar!" I passed on that, but enjoyed watching her walk forward and backward while playing her guitar. She then turned down the volume on the CD so that she could hear her guitar while she played along. As the song ended, she took a bow.

The next track was Ani DiFranco's "Emancipated Minor." As it started, Miss B said, "let's dance really slow" as she wiggled, danced, shrugged her shoulders, and demonstrated a high knee march. She then picked up a drum stick and drummed to the beat on the old plastic baby wipes container that we'd been storing the promo CDs in. She grabbed a second stick and used both to drum, then started to tap them together while she danced. After about half a song she turned off the CD.

Perhaps we'll check out the remaining tracks on this CD later. For now, Deerhunter was the winner as it inspired DJ B to bust out the air guitar.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

DJ B's Kindred Spirit in Art Criticism: 4-year-old Tiny Art Director

Wow. Thanks to my pal Colin for passing along this Boing Boing piece about the brilliant blog Tiny Art Director. The author of the blog has been doing a project with his young daughter (she's now 4, but they started when she was 2) in which she dictates drawing requests to him. After he creates the artwork, she then offers up her critique. And now they've got a book deal with Chronicle Books. Awesome.

I love it when parents work with their kids on creative projects like this. And Tiny Art Director sounds like a kindred spirit for DJ B.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Vietnamese Ballads are Baby's Favorite Music

Recently DJ B and I made our first visit to the remodeled main branch of the San Francisco Public Library. It was gorgeous, with a huge children's area and an enviable Audio-Visual room. When Miss B and I entered the AV Room to search for CDs it was like entering a musical mecca. It was a huge room, with CDs on shelves and in record store-like bins. It made the random nature of our CD selection process a bit more challenging, as the sections were divided by genre. Luckily, I didn't realize that until after I had steered Miss B down one particular row; so she selected something out of the first row that we hit. We'll have to go back and explore some more, because after picking one CD, DJ B transitioned into full-on meltdown mode.

So, what did she pick? Tuan Ngoc's "Nhung Tinh Khuc Yeu Cau" release from the Vietnamese section of the library. The first few times that I tried to play this at home, DJ B stopped the CD immediately. Today, however, I placed it in the CD player while she was happily making music with one of her instruments. As the music started, she continued to jump and dance around. She then began some dramatic slow dancing, with leg extensions, twirls, fancy footwork, and grand emotional sways with her eyes closed. The album, full of slow Vietnamese ballads with male vocals inspired her to do slow, measured dance moves.

As she listened, she grabbed her baby doll and rocked her in her arms before dancing while holding the baby. By the third song, DJ B said, "This is baby's favorite music," as she continued to dance. She'd stop occasionally to feed her baby milk. Then she said, "It's your turn to dance, mommy. I need to write about it." As I took my place on the "dance floor," Miss B sat down and asked for a piece of paper so that she could write notes. As she jotted down her observations, she asked, "What are these dances from? I think they're from New York." She then started to play with brightly colored tissue paper, placing it on the floor and then dancing while waving 2 hot pink pieces. Suddenly she stopped the CD, saying "no music" and removed it from the player. She handed the CD to me and said, "I didn't like it." She could have fooled me. Miss B then got on the floor, saying, "I have to snuggle in my little patch" and curled up on top of her tissue paper nest.

Despite what she said, I think DJ B dug this CD. How can you really go wrong with this suave Vietnamese superstar? I can hardly wait to return to the main branch of the library to find more Asian pop gems.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

DJ B Doesn't Subscribe to the Gospel of Campbell Brothers

Although DJ B personally selected the CD "Can You Feel it?" by Campbell Brothers from the public library, ever since bringing it home she has shown zero interest in listening to it. As we plowed through her backlog of reviews recently, I popped this sacred steel gospel CD into the player to see what she thought of it.

As the music began, Miss B, with pen in hand, jotted down some notes (imitating me, no doubt). She said, "It's starting now" and then danced for a little bit before stopping the CD. When I asked her what she thought of the music (that she'd been listening to for less than a minute), she replied, "It was good" with no emotion. I put the CD back in the player and again Miss B started to dance. She shook a pen while dancing, using it to point at things in the room. She stopped the music again, saying, "I thinked of it. I need to write Easy Ride. I love Easy Ride."

For her, the winning CD of the day was her old favorite "Easy Ride," a live Canto Pop CD that's intense and dramatic (with songs that stick in your head for months). Nothing compared and nothing elicited the same energetic response as that well-worn library staple. So much for this really cool-sounding sacred steel release.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Sometimes Miss B Doesn't Like Pianos that are Big and Blue

On a recent rainy day I was determined to get some feedback from DJ B about her growing stack of CDs from both the public library and from her Record Store Day spree. She was a reluctant participant and didn't give the music as much of a chance as I would have liked.

On this marathon day of listening, the 8th CD that I had Miss B preview was the Smithsonian Folkways collection "Classic Piano Blues." When I showed her the CD case, she said, "I don't love pianos. I don't think if I like it...Sometimes I don't like pianos that are big and blue..." As the music started she said, "I play it" and began scribbling in the notebook where I had been jotting down her reactions to the music. Then, exasperated, she sighed and said, "Alright. I'll play my piano." She smiled, sat down at her toy piano and played along with the music. She looked up, saying, "I don't have a blue one" before adding, "And I'll jump!" She then started to jump and dance to the music before turning it off after less than one track.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Cocteau Twins Disappoint the Resident Lullaby Connoisseur

Once again, I'm having to strongly encourage DJ B to get caught up on her music reviews. She's just not sympathetic to the fact that I keep getting insisitent emails from the public library, reminding us about all of the overdue CDs in our possession.

So, today, on a rainy day, I coerced my strong-willed 3-year-old to make her way through our pile of CDs and offer up her opinions.

First up, I asked her to revisit the Cocteau Twins' CD "Lullabies to Violaine: Volume 2." I have to admit that when she selected CDs from the library, I spotted this release. I love the Cocteau Twins and hadn't heard this particular album (a collection of singles, B-sides etc. from late in their career), so checked it out. When Miss B was a baby we had another Cocteau Twins album on regular rotation in her room, so I figured she might dig this one too.

Well, the first time I played this CD Miss B was busy with other projects. Eventually she looked up from her work and started smiling and dancing to the track "Pink Orange Red." She then turned to me, saying, "I'm going to turn off the music because I want my truck to beep. This is lullabies. I don't like this lullabies." When I asked her why, she said, "Because. It's too noisy." She then took out the CD. Who would ever have guessed that the ethereal, atmospheric sounds of this 4AD staple could be considered noisy?

Today we tried listening again and DJ B said, "It doesn't sound like my other lullabies," before turning down the volume. She then turned it off completely, saying, "I wanna try the other one" (meaning the accompanying CD). She then got angry, telling me, "I don't like it. I don't want it" and asked me to get HER lullaby CD from her room.

Unfortunately, for Miss B, her expectations were dashed. When she heard that the CD was "Lullabies," she assumed that it would be just like her one of her beloved lullaby CDs that are a nightly bedtime ritual for her. The beautiful sounds of Cocteau Twins just couldn't compete.