All About Lullabies, Part 1
Music is the one art we all have inside. —Fred Rogers
Recently I had the opportunity to meet and interview Jane Roman Pitt, also known as Lady Lullaby. Jane is a singer-songwriter, composer, and educator whose recorded work includes elements of classical, folk, jazz, country, and ethnic music. Jane is currently working with Carnegie Hall’s The Lullaby Project to write “The Lullaby Instinct: The Extraordinary Power of Soothing Songs, Generation After Generation.”
Jane is also the grandparent of three grandchildren ranging in age from five to 14 years old. So, we had a lot to talk about!
Jane is passionate about the importance of music in the lives of her grandchildren—and all children—because it can have a powerful impact on brain development, give children an opportunity to learn about their heritage, and strengthen relationships with the adults in their lives.
Music is structural, mathematical, and architectural. It’s based on relationships between one note and the next—brains have to do a lot of computing to make sense of it. So, music stimulates all parts of the brain, forming connections that can continue to strengthen, enhancing a child’s facility with math, writing, expressing feelings, and problem solving.
In most cultures, adults instinctively want to vocalize with babies in a “parentese” voice that is raised and sometimes even singsong-y. It was interesting to learn from Jane that we do this because babies respond to musical tones much more than “straight speech.”
Jane has learned through her research that most cultures have a lullaby genre in which stories of its history are told. Parents can also use lullabies to share their deepest hopes, dreams, and concerns. The outward purpose may be to lull a baby to sleep but, taken as a whole, lullabies can be a snapshot of humanity.
When we think of lullabies, we tend to think of very old songs, such as “Rock-a-bye Baby,” “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” or “Brahms’ Lullaby.” These were first published in the 1700s and 1800s. But Jane believes you can take any song, slow it down to be gentle and calm, and you have a lullaby! The contemporary lullabies Jane has recorded are popular songs set to a slower tempo.
Singing to young children has proven to strengthen the bond between adult and child. For us grandparents, lullabies can be an opportunity to share our backgrounds and cultures with our grands through music. And, children tend to hold these oft-repeated songs—special songs that they share with us—in their memories for a long time. What a gift!
As a parent and grandparent, I have always loved that special time of rocking a baby and singing softly to them. I believe it is one of the most beautiful and powerful ways to make our grands feel loved, safe, and connected to us, strengthening our bond. And really, what is better than that quiet and cuddly time?!
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post where Jane and I share how to how to make your own lullabies “in the moment” when you are rocking your grandchild to sleep!
You can learn more about Jane and hear some of her wonderful music on her website www.janeromanpitt.com.
If you do sing to your grandchildren, what songs are your go-to and when do you sing to them?
If you don’t sing to your grandchildren, what do you think you might need to get started?
Do you have family songs that you are passing on to your grandchildren and what are those songs? What stories do they tell?