Experimental music for kids on PBS
Every weekday morning, my kids and I enjoy some public television programming while we eat breakfast and get ready for our day. It’s probably just a coincidence, but the PBS morning programming for the last two days seems to have been themed towards experimental music.
One of my favorite television shows of all time is Arthur. The stories and morals are great, there are a lot of in-jokes for the grownups (always a plus in any children’s programming, as far as I’m concerned), and there have been some excellent guest appearances, including some great musical guests such as Yo-Yo Ma, Taj Mahal, and Koko Taylor.
Most episodes of Arthur contain two short stories, and the first story in yesterday’s episode was titled “DW Beats All.” In it, Arthur’s younger sister DW decides she wants to perform in Elwood City’s annual music festival, the Summer Serenade – but she doesn’t have the time to learn and practice a new instrument before then. After much thought, she devises a plan.
On the day of the festival, DW takes the stage wearing several noisemakers as her father wheels out a cart filled with even more. She then performs a piece of music on these found instruments – a hammer on a metronome strikes a pan, a fan blows cutlery and windchimes, she rubs her sandpapered feet on the floor, squeaks a rubber duck, plays a broken See-N-Say toy, and much more. At the climax of the song, an egg timer sounds, and DW opens an agitated can of soda – a soda coda!
The performance is very reminiscent of John Cage’s Water Walk, which I linked to in an earlier post. At the end of the story, DW taps the family car with a drumstick, and says that she plans to build something even bigger next time.
Another great kids show on PBS is Fetch! with Ruff Ruffman, where an animated dog sends a group of live-action young people on various missions to exercise their gray matter. This morning’s episode had him sending two members of his team to hang out with the Blue Man Group, where they learned to spit balls of paint at a canvas and play some PVC pipe instruments.
I don’t think my opinion of the Blue Man Group needs to be expressed. It can be safely assumed. If you’re not familiar with the Blue Men and their incredible work, be sure to check out the links at the bottom of this post.
It was great to see these two episodes about experimental music and found instruments. Thanks, PBS, for helping to foster the next generation of musical explorers!
Errr… I mean my kids want them. *ahem* )