Alternative lullabies · the website of grandperoxide

I have had several jobs where I play music in different capacities for infants and toddlers. Almost invariably there will come a point of time when it is appropriate to play a gentle, simple yet harmonically interesting instrumental to either gently stimulate the childrens' minds in the background, or to draw their focus and encourage them to wind down and relax. These are songs that I have relied on for the last two years, at a job at which I play acoustic guitar.

Is it against the aesthetic to embed Youtube videos? I think it almost certainly is, but back in 2005 I tried pulling all sorts of shit to get videos to embed nicely. I'm not uploading no .movs, it's 2019 for crying out loud.

1. Piranha Plant's Lullaby - Koji Kondo

Oh damn, Youtube embeds are technically iframes. This is TOTALLY legal.

Is this a cop out because "lullaby" is in the name? I don't care. This is one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard and it's so simple and super easy to miss in the game it's from. Every child music gig that required me to audition, I played this at those auditions and got the jobs. Learning this on guitar started me playing more contrapuntal and rhythmically dense pieces, but as you'll see from the rest of the list, there's only so much I can do.

2. Theme In E Flat - Robert Schumann

The story is that this is the last piece of music Schumann wrote before he was confined to an asylum, where he later died. During its composition, he saw and heard hallucinations and attempted suicide. Even not knowing that, I think it's devastatingly beautiful. It's appropriate for kids if you don't tell them that backstory!

I play this in C on the guitar, because I'm reliant on open strings for a lot of stuff. I'm no Tárrega. And my favorite recording is a surprisingly straightforward tune from progressive weirdos PFS until the track starts to melt and distend.

3. Where They Belong - Brian Dewan

Brian Dewan's music is practically made for Waldorf/Steiner classrooms, except for all the words he sings. Bedroom musicians everywhere and people who own guitars and pianos are obviously keeping alive the longstanding American tradition of music self-played being happiness self-made, but Brian opts to do so with instruments like the autoharp and the parlor organ, things that a family would gather around one night to listen and sing, because there weren't no goddamn smartphones.

4. I Cannot Sing The Old Songs - Claribel

The eponymous Claribel is one of the few women songwriters who were "selected" to be published in the 19th century. Which is to say, most of her other compositions are available primarily in sheet music, and I can hardly read thay anymore. But the song is beautiful. I hesitate to play it instrumentally sometimes because the first few notes call to mind "America, The Beautiful," which is a fine song, but the message of which I don't really want to push on children of such a young age. I believe this video is from some archival of her works, they hired this unnamed amazing woman to sing and play her song for us to hear. I learned this song from a Brian Dewan recording.

5. It Only Takes A Mouse - Gayle Kowalczyk

Speaking of sheet music! I took piano lessons till I was 13, and promptly forgot how to read music. I write music out by hand more often than I read it. I saw this sheet on Amazon for like 2 dollars, printed on demand, and I was like I have to buy the song about the internet. I did sight read it in the video! Check me out.

6. Will You Love Me In December As You Do In May - Ernest Ball and disavowed mayor Jimmy Walker

Yes, of course I learned this song from John Linnell. My favorite recording is from a wax cylinder. There's some real sweet turnarounds in this piece. When I play it in class, my coworker tauntingly asks if I'm playing "When The Saints Go Marching In." Please.

7. This World Is Not My Home - Jim Reeves

Yes, I learned this song from Kentucky Route Zero. That scene stopped me dead in my tracks. Another case of "don't sing the lyrics for the children!" Next update you'll see For The Sake Of The Song or something here. Good Year For The Roses.

8. Have You Seen My Love - Barenaked Ladies

Don't sing!! There's enough to play here anyway, with the vocal melody and the nylon-stringed lead, and the upright bass harmonizing. The instrumental makes me want to cry. Also knowing Steve, who sang and wrote this, later divorced his wife.

9. Galaxy Of The Lost - Lightspeed Champion

I keep this in my pocket unless I'm feeling feisty. Some of those turns come a little quick for my fingers. If it matches the energy of the room, I go for it. Sounds mournful at times, angry at others. Kids need variation of emotion to know their own emotions are valid.

10. Corn Salad Is A Benefit - OK Glass

OK, technically I started writing this song at work and took it home and added all the images of decaying Americana and existential awe. But I do play it a lot.

My own lullabies

Usually I fall asleep listening to some inane/inconsequential podcast, or watching something on Youtube that I've seen a hundred times before. But when I do put on music to sleep, I put on a Christine Bougie record or the Isao Tomita Debussy record. I also absolutely love the Brothers Creeggan record Sleepyhead, which is indeed quite gentle and sleepy, but I love it too much to sleep through it. I used to try to sleep to Imogen Heap's Ellipse and Funki Porcini's Fast Asleep but they had the opposite effect.