Wednesday, November 24, 2010

No Wave is No Fun

135 Grand Street New York 1979
Well, leave it to nearly-5-year-old DJ B to turn her back on music review duties. When I put on a CD these days, she's most likely to turn it off immediately. She's much more interested in watching TV, playing with her dollhouse, crafting imaginary worlds with her Barbies, or doing art projects. 

But sometimes I actually have to listen to music in order to write reviews for the radio station where I DJ. Normally I do my music reviews while Miss B is in school; but this week she was home with a cold on my designated day for music listening. So, I broke the news to her and told her that she was not allowed to turn off the CD player because I had work to do.

I managed to listen to 3 entire releases without too much protest from her; but by the end of the third one, the soundtrack to the film 135 Grand Street New York 1979, she was over the whole process. Although I found the no wave music to be artful and compelling, DJ B argued that, "This music is too noisy and no fun. Turn it off. I'm bored!"

Monday, June 7, 2010

Miss B Accompanies They Might Be Giants on Air Guitar

Here Come The ABCs

A few months ago we took our visiting teenage nieces to Amoeba Records in San Francisco for some serious record shopping. During that trip each of us picked up some CDs (including DJ B). DJ B's dad was the only person to select a children's CD, the much-talked-about They Might Be Giants release Here Come The ABCs, and we finally got around to listening to it.

When I turned on the music, Miss B was sitting on the couch and began tapping her fingers. After I approached her for a reaction, her face cracked into a smile. Looking lethargic, she continued to lounge while she listened. Upon hearing a lyric about wine, she pointed to me and said, "You make wine." She then picked up a marble from the table, rolled it around on her belly and in her hands while kicking her feet on the couch.

By the time the 7th song came along ("Pictures of Pandas Painting"), she was inspired to play air guitar, then pretended to play guitar on a remote control. When the imaginary play wasn't satisfying anymore, she grabbed her pink princess guitar and played along with the music. After her bride game ended, she stopped to peruse the CD booklet and then donned her Minnie Mouse Ears bridal vein and asked for a bouquet.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Adios En Clave De Bolero. We Hardly Knew You.

The third CD from Miss B's most recent library excursion, a Spanish language collection called En Clave de Bolero, did not capture her attention. When I put it on for the first time, DJ B put her fingers in her ears. She was playing with a toy dollhouse and ignored the music entirely. I turned it down a bit since it seemed to be too loud for her and she continued to work on her project of removing address label stickers from her plastic dollhouse. Yet, after a few songs she pushed stop on the player, removed the CD and handed it to me wordlessly. When I asked her about it she said, "I don't like it. You told me I could watch a movie."

Obviously bored with the flurry of CD reviews that I was asking of her, Miss B reached her breaking point. I relented and let her watch a DVD that she picked up from the library.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Little Willies' Fly Funeral Music

The Little Willies

While at the public library DJ B selected the self-titled CD from The Little Willies from the shelf. The copy that she picked up had a purple cover and I'm sure that was part of the allure. Upon listening to it for the first time, Miss B smiled and hopped around before asking me the name of the band. She ran in place, kicking her feet and then ran and kicked going forward and backwards with her hands on her hips.

Miss B said, "It's like Kai-Boy music!.... No, cowboy!" I asked her if she wanted it louder and she yelled, "Don't write! Just watch." She then did a plie and jumped to the beat. After putting on some lip gloss she hummed along to the music and lip synced using her lip gloss wand as a microphone. 

After some technical difficulties (the CD skipped), Miss B sang, "sitting on a's what I did. Took off my shoes." She then applied lip gloss to her toe nails, spun in a circle, and made herself dizzy. She turned her attention to some dead bugs on the window sill and told me that she was sad, saying that the bugs probably needed a hug. She asked me how they died and said that she wanted to write a letter to them. She dictated it to me: "Dear Fly. I love you so much. I am the owner. The bug is my pet. Love, B."

It's amazing how quickly a dance party turned into a memorial service for a dead fly. That's the beauty of the 4-year-old mind.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Cranky DJ B Despises Opera

Denyce Graves - Voce di Donna

Well, it was finally time to return Seussical to the public library, so DJ B was invited to turn her attention to some of the other CDs that she's selected over the past few weeks. First up was Denyce Graves' release Voce di Donna. The first time we played it DJ B exclaimed "too opera-y!," a surprising comment since she went through a heavy-duty opera phase in which she listened to non-stop Verdi and even borrowed a neighbor's collection of opera DVDs.

I probed further and asked her if she liked opera, to which she responded "no!" I should probably mention that she was already in a bad mood before we put the CD on, so I should have anticipated this response. She played with a book she'd been looking at, grunted, folded her arms across her chest, and grunted some more. I noticed, however, that her toe was rhythmically tapping in the air. She looked at the CD booklet, tossed it up above her, and said, "This is boring! This is too boring! Too opera-y and too boring! I just wanna eat! No music!" She grunted, folded her arms again, but then started to rock back and forth when track 2 came on, bobbing her head and tapping her toe on the floor. She grunted at me with a scowl on her face and said, "Sit with me and turn this off. I don't like it," before screaming, "Turn it off!" She then, finally, resorted to taking control of the CD player and turned it off herself.

Today I played the CD again (after feeding her lunch) and Miss B's first reaction was similar to the last time. She yelled, "Opera. Boring!" But then she immediately started to sing along and do ballet moves to the music. Appropriately, she was already wearing 3 layers of leotards and 2 tutu skirts. She smiled as she performed for me, dancing and then balancing a frisbee on her head.

The lesson from all of this is that mood and food are clearly correlated with DJ B's reception of opera music.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Thee Oh Sees Spark Skeleton Teeth Art

DJ B's third and final purchase on Record Store Day 2009 was (at the time) a brand new album by Thee Oh Sees called "Help." This was actually one of the first things that she spotted after we arrived at Aquarius Records for the 2nd annual Record Store Day in April 2009. It was a featured release near the entrance to the store and Miss B seemed to be drawn to the bright cover art featuring a rainbow and a purple bat.

Before we played the CD for the first time at home, she perused the inside of the CD case and yelled, "Skeleton! Mommy!" She continued with a series of questions, asking, "Why are there skeletons, Mommy? Is it gonna be scary?" She then said, "I'm scary-ed of it. To turn it on. I just want to look at this right now." So she spent some time looking at the cover art with the bat and rainbow as she considered whether or not she wanted to hear the music. Finally she commented, "I don't like bats or Halloween or skeletons. I don't want to try it."

DJ B's Artistic Response to Thee Oh Sees

Miss B then stacked up the pile of CDs that she collected at Record Store Day and repeated that she didn't want to try them, adding that it was "too scary." She added, "Not any of these...just Easy Ride" [an Asian pop CD she had recently reviewed and was obsessed with]. DJ B kept saying how scared she was and implored me "don't turn it on!" Since I was really interested in her reaction to the music, I put it on anyway. She then started to scribble in my notebook and said, "I'm drawing scary skeleton teeth."  As she drew along to the music she asked, "Is this a Halloween CD? It sounds like Halloween." She drew for awhile, then danced, saying, "I'm a scary, silly skeleton" as she swayed her head. Eventually she turned off the music, but continued to draw a skeleton. And that was the last that we heard of Thee Oh Sees.

DJ B's Previous Record Store Day 2009 reviews:

Black Time's Scary Overtones
Bottom's Mean Stepmother Music

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Black Time's Scary Overtones

Midnight World 
This past weekend we celebrated Record Store Day 2010 by hitting up two of our favorite indie music stores in San Francisco. Our first stop was Aquarius, the site of a successful Record Store Day trip for DJ B back in 2009 when she selected three CDs. Before posting about her 2010 selections, we figured we better get caught up on our reviews from last year. Yes, we're slackers...

DJ B has already covered her feelings about Bottom, so next up on the review pile from Record Store Day 2009 is the Black Time release "Midnight World." Also selected by her from the bargain CD bin (easily accessible, since she was able to sit on the floor while looking through the cardboard box full of items), Black Time caught her eye and was in the pile that she wanted to take home with her.

When we pulled it out to review for the first time last fall she looked at the cover and said, "How about night?" and asked me, "Is it scary? Less scarier?" She added, "When I turn it on I think it's gonna be scary." After some reassurances by me, we put it in and pressed play. DJ B bobbed her head and started dancing immediately, patting her hips while she rocked. After a few seconds she stopped it and said, "Now I wanna try the bat one." When I asked if she liked Black Time she said, "uh huh" and we moved on to listen to her next Record Store Day selection.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

All Seussical All the Time for DJ B

Seussical: The Musical (Original Cast Recording)

Recently we saw a performance of the Dr. Seuss-themed musical Seussical at the San Francisco School of Performing Arts (SOTA) and Miss B was riveted. It quickly became her new obsession, with its cheery songs, fluorescent-colored costumes, and high-wire acrobatics. She announced to us that she wanted to see the musical again and that she wanted to BE IN IT.

Since we haven't yet found a musical theater program for 4-year-olds, we settled for checking Seussical: The Musical (Original Cast Recording) CD out of the public library. When it arrived through inter-library loan, DJ B was ecstatic and the CD has barely left our player since we picked it up.

Before listening to the recording for the first time, Miss B got into a fancy pink leotard, purple tutu and put on one pink glove in preparation for her performance. As the music started she kicked her feet into the air, laughed excitedly and sang along. Getting into character, she pronounced, "I'm the sour kangaroo," as she shook a cape around her waist and over her head. As the music progressed, Miss B imitated various characters from the musical. At one point she put on a large raincoat and said, "I'm the mayor." She then left the room and returned just wearing a leotard, pronouncing, "I'm the trapeze girl." For her next costume change she placed a pink tutu on her head and announced, "Jojo!" And, then, for the final act she put on a fluffy tutu and simply stated, "Gertrude McFuzz." She then tossed a balloon into the air, tied another balloon to a stuffed Easter bunny and swung it around her head.

Variations on this initial performance have played out every time we listen to the CD and sometimes other family members are invited to join in the fun "on stage." The one downside is that the library CD had already been well-loved before it got into our hands, with several of the tracks not working. The technical snafus disrupt Miss B's momentum when the tracks sputter, skip, and stop. Unfortunately it also means that she's missing a few key songs, so we may actually have to fork over some cash to buy our own copy so that she can perfect the choreography for every single song and finally hear those mysterious "hidden tracks."

Friday, February 26, 2010

Shape Shifting and Pogo Dancing to Ornette Coleman

During one of her recent listening sessions, DJ B opted to spend some time with Ornette Coleman's "The Shape of Jazz to Come," a CD that she hand-selected from the public library. Right when the music began she exclaimed, "Dance with me!" as she spun around and reached for my hand. She then set her sights on her singing lamb, yelling, "Lamb's coming!"

After opening her Mother Goose book to a page with blue and white squares on it, she told me, "It's a diamond, but it's it a square when I move it that way" while adjusting her head to show me her great understanding of shapes. After issuing a series of instructions to me, she told me, "I have a new dance. It's called the flower spinners." In rare form, she continued with a series of dances, telling me, "This one is called the kangaroo jumper. This one is called the pogo stick." She then swirled, saying, "Ice cream...strawberry shortcake...and spinach and cheese" before leaping through the air.

At this point it was nearly impossible to keep up with Miss B's flurry of both words and activity, but there was talk of butterflies, bugs and princesses, along with more instructions to me.

She then asked, "Do I look big?" When I said "yes," she said, "That's because I am big." She continued, "Read this and you can see...Practice it. Sing along. Do it with your fingers and sing. Sing!!! Say butterfly.... It's called the Butterfly Dancer of the World." With that she sang a bunch of nonsense words and played a few notes on her keyboard before turning the volume down on the CD player. She then calmly sat in a chair "reading" a book aloud, saying, "It says that a monster turned it off. And the CD died." She then said, "OK. I'll turn it back on" and turned the volume back up. Miss B then put a pink plastic chair over her head and yelled, "Help! I'm in jail!"

I'm exhausted just recounting her reaction to Ornette Coleman. I guess that's the power of jazz.

Monday, February 22, 2010

John Cale's Monster Music Sets the Mood for Roasting Marshmallows

John Cale's "Black Acetate" album was one of the CDs that DJ B recently selected from the public library shelves. During a day when we listened to a number of her choices, she put this on, saying, "This sounds like a great monster one. Let's go under the covers." She told me, "It sounds great" as she brushed her lamb blanket. Going along with the theme she added during the first song ("Outta the Bag"), "I heard him say wool! I heard him."

Miss B then sang into her black plastic witch party hat, crooning, "wooooo" like a ghost. As the 2nd track began, she said, "This is a good one. Now go under the covers!"

She continued with some imaginary play, asking, "Do you hear that sound? He got out of his cage. So we've got to hide!" She waved a remote control at me and added, "The monster is about to...He decided to go somewhere else to say 'hi' to his friends. He wake them up. The day after he said 'quack quack'...'wee, wee, wee all the way home...and then he said meow meow."

Then DJ B placed a blanket on the floor and said, "Aren't you ready for some marshmallows?" She lined up a bunch of washclothes and told me to "cut up some quesadilla shells and put them on a stick and make some fire. For real, mama." She added, "I'm pretending they're marshmallows. We're gonna burn them up. Make some fire. OK?" She then leaned on me during a particularly pretty song. As the music got more rocking she turned to me and asked, "Why did he say he's gonna kill him?" And with that, Miss B summed up the many moods of both John Cale and a 4-year-old.

Monday, January 25, 2010

DJ B Gets Married While Listening to Harry Chapin

The other day DJ B asked me to put on some music, so I took the opportunity to try out one of her latest library selections: Harry Chapin's "Greatest Stories Live." I handed the Cinderella dress-clad Miss B the CD case to take a look. She smiled, wiggled her foot, and clapped when the music started.

DJ B pretended to be a bride by donning a white cloth over her head. She walked slowly to the music while carrying a paper plate & ribbon bouquet. After clearing a path in the toy-covered floor, she did some slow dance moves and twirled in her princess shoes. With the veil over her face, she held her bouquet high in the air while kicking up her leg. She then asked me, "Did you have a cape like this on your head?" Miss B then told me, "Well, some people go in cars when they're married."

She trotted, tapped her feet, clicked the heels on her shoes, and when she heard applause on the CD she held up her bouquet. DJ B then pranced backwards and kicked her feet. At this point I was surprised to hear lyrics in the song that said "the day you married me," but I'm not sure Miss B even noticed this coincidence. Instead she continued with the questions, asking, "Did you have real flowers at your wedding?" She swayed to the music with her arms outstretched. She then got irritated by my note taking, saying, "Don't write! I just want you to watch!" She then grabbed my notepad and scribbled, telling me, "That says 'I married dada.'" She followed that up with a drawing of two people getting married (disturbingly, it was Miss B and her dad).

"That's me. That's dada marrying."- DJ B

After her father arrived home, she invited him to dance with her and she continued with her graceful ballet moves while her dad played tambourine.

Today, it's 2 weeks after we first listened to this and I showed DJ B the CD case while the music played and asked her if she remembered what she did to this music. She shyly replied, "got married." Wow. I guess it was memorable.

Friday, January 22, 2010

DJ B Performs to Wayne County and Almost Learns the F-Word

As adults we often spend so much time listening to the opinions of experts before we give something a chance. Although DJ B is willing to pick up CDs from the library that she knows nothing about; I would guess that it's rare for adults to do the same, especially when we are forking over cash for music. Similarly, we often let reviews and published biographies of artists tell us what to expect when listening to music. Since DJ B isn't reading yet, she just takes in the music at face value. Despite all of that, I find that her reactions to music often mirror the intentions of the artist.

This was certainly the case when Miss B grabbed a CD from my personal "to review" pile and requested that we play it. Surprisingly, this has never happened before; but I've often thought that it would be interesting for her to review CDs that I'm reviewing for the station that I DJ for.

After she put the Wayne County and the Electric Chairs "Rock 'n' Roll Cleopatra" CD into the player, she asked me and her father to sit on the couch. She then left the room in order to change into an appropriate outfit for her "fashion show."

Miss B pranced into the room wearing several layers of clothing, including two skirts, a tiny vest, faux fur wrap, and rain boots. She danced around and kicked a toy car. She then said, "It's really cold. Snowflakes are coming down. Better get your blankets on...I have ice skates." After she brought a blanket to us and tucked us in, she pretended to ice skate, saying, "OK. I'll put the ice out" as she spread her fuzzy "fur" shawl on the floor. She continued to dance and then walked on her "ice."

Next DJ B approached us with her boxed matching game and asked, "Do you want a s'more?" before placing the pretend treats on the fake ice. As she got down on one knee she waved her arms in the air and followed that up by marching. She made a stop at her new princess vanity keyboard and pushed a button to activate a princess song. She said, "everybody clap!" as she clapped to the beat while she continued to dance.

Suddenly an obscenity-filled track emanated from the stereo, so I had to put an end to DJ B's fun. She complained, but unfortunately Wayne County is probably a bit too saucy for 4-year-olds. Although she clearly picked up on the glam rock, performative elements of this transgendered punk rocker's influential music from the 1970s; the mom in me had to delay her introduction to the F-word. Oh well. Now I know how the FCC feels.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Anita Mui's Fashion Show Soundtrack Delights DJ B

DJ B is often drawn to library CDs housed in big, DVD-style cases, so I wasn't too surprised when she picked up the Anita Mui "With" CD (accompanied by bonus video CD). The first time she listened to it she immediately asked me to join her, saying, "I wanna dance with you." After a quick turn on the dance floor she adjusted the volume and said, "gimme some snack and TV," before turning it off completely. The second time I attempted to play this, Miss B was in the other room and when she heard the music she screamed, "Be quiet!" and walked in to where I was to turn off the CD, yelling, "I want you to be quiet. I don't like the music on."

Things couldn't have been more different last week when DJ B asked to listen to this CD in her room. As the music began, she smiled and shook her hips. Doing her best "America's Next Top Model" imitation, she pranced across the "cat walk" in her room. She clapped along to the music, laughed, and placed her hands on her hips. She grabbed a skirt from her chair and put it on top of her head like a hat. She then put a ballet skirt over her hands and began flapping her arms with it on.

After her facial expression changed into a strange grin, she began shaking a skirt in the air before putting it in her teeth. She then started pulling clothing out of her bag of dirty laundry, including a nightgown which she held over her face while she danced towards me. She continued layering on various items of clothing and completed the look with sunglasses and ballet slippers. She threw an inflatable space shuttle into the air, tucked a jump rope into her ballet shoes and danced with conviction.

DJ B then propped her sunglasses atop her head and silently sang along to the music with her arms on her chest and a scarf around her neck.

Although I was happy to see that the music by this dearly departed Hong Kong actress inspired Miss B to new levels of performance, I breathed a sigh of relief when she grew bored of the Asian pop-fueled fashion show before she hit the stinkiest part of her dirty clothes pile.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

An Audience Gathers for DJ B's Performance to Mozart

Lately it's been challenging to get DJ B to sit down and do her music review duties. So, I was shocked a few days before Christmas when she said, "How about some music?" before picking up the Mozart CD (Sabine Meyer's take on Clarinet Concerto K.622 and Sinfonia concertante K.297b) that she'd selected from the library.

As the music began she brought me a tray full of sequins, saying, "here's some pasta." She then said, "Dance with me! It's feast music." At our feet was a lovely selection of pretend food in preparation for the party. Miss B raced across the room holding a spoon, prancing and spinning around. She asked me to get her tutu, saying, "I have to hurry before the lovely part starts." She danced with a wooden nutcracker, doing dramatic twirls, proclaiming, "I'm a great ballet dancer because I can spin really fast."

Miss B then set up a series of chairs and placed various Christmas ornaments on each chair. After everyone was settled, she told me, "Look...there's a whole audience...the dog, the snowman, and the sheep are watching me."

At the conclusion of her performance she walked up to me, touched my face and said "God bless you. I do that at church."

From feasting, to dancing, to blessing; Mozart inspired the most elaborate performance by Miss B yet. I can hardly wait for her next show.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

DJ B is in Princess Heaven at Disney on Ice

DJ B Proudly Raises Her Swirling Princess at Intermission

DJ B has been in full-on princess mode for what seems like forever, so when we started seeing ads for Disney on Ice's Princess Classics show it was impossible to resist. Since Miss B has been talking about Disneyland with increasing frequency, this was also a nice consolation prize.

After donning her Cinderella dress we all embarked on our journey to the Oakland Coliseum for the ice show on a fall day that happened to coincide with a Raiders football game. As crowds of princess-dress wearing girls streamed into the parking lot, they were greeted by swarms of perplexed Raiders fans adorned with face paint, wearing their own costumes of silver and black.

Each set of fans made their way into their own venues and that's when the magic began. DJ B was mesmerized during the entire show full of classic Disney stories re-imagined for the ice. Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty were highlights for her; but it all reached a crescendo at the very end, with Miss B proclaiming that the grand finale with all of the "happy princesses dancing" was her favorite part.

As we made our way out of the show, the princess glow followed us. Although we were still struck by the odd juxtaposition of decked out princesses and enthusiastic Raider fans while walking back to our car; our amusement turned from magical to surreal when we spotted a vomiting tailgater. DJ B just pranced on by, still in her fantasy world of princesses and fairy tales. Lucky girl.