‘Music for Infants’ is a series of recordings I stitched together from short musical excerpts, designed to enrich babies’ musical environments. My hope is parents will play these recordings for their children to encourage their musical development.
Most music for babies is produced by record companies, who choose music based on parents’ tastes, catering to our popular ideas of ‘baby appropriate music’ (lullabies, classical music and sing-a-long nursery rhymes). I edited these recordings instead choosing music to stimulate infants’ musical minds.
The recordings are without lyrics to emphasize the music’s tonal content, they include a variety of styles from different cultures, they’re edited for babies’ short attention spans, and they’re arranged them in patterns designed to engage babies’ memories and prompt them to compare the musical features between excerpts.
Suggestions for Listening
I recommend safely setting up a stereo and playing one session at a time, at very moderate to low volume, during ‘captive audience’ moments like the start of naptime, or in environments relatively free from distraction.
To avoid hearing loss never use headphones on your infant.
The sessions are purposefully short so sleeping babies aren’t subjected to endless music.
Try repeating the same session several days in a row, before switching to the second session from the same group (more details on sessions and groups below). Eventually when all the recordings become familiar, vary them at will.
Note: Mixcloud, the service streaming the music, also has a free app for iPhone and Android. Be aware when listening to Mixcloud on their website, the service auto-adds suggested music and will continue playing past the end of whatever playlist you initially started — to avoid playing music you didn’t select, click “Next” on the player, hover over each suggested playlist and click the “X”es in the right-hand corner to close.
Choosing the Music
Each recording is made up of short musical excerpts chosen from my home collection. Choosing the music I followed these general guidelines:
Excerpts include a variety of styles, tonalities, meters, and timbres.
Excerpts are limited to ~30 seconds each, in an attempt to stimulate and hold infants’ short attention spans with frequent changes.
Selections are performed on instruments only, without lyrics to distract from the music’s tonal content. The few exceptions are sung in languages other than English.
Arrangements are limited to one or two instruments, without percussion, to encourage focus on the qualities of the featured performance.
As often as possible, I edited the excerpts to stand alone as complete phrases and musical ideas with natural resolutions.
After choosing and editing over 60 excerpts, I narrowed the final selections down to 38 that best met these criteria.
Ordering the Music
Instead of playing all the excerpts from start to finish, I arranged them in repeating sets of two; for example:
|1||Children’s Play Song / Bill Evans|
|2||Lagrima / Antonio Gonzales|
|3||[repeat] Children’s Play Song / Bill Evans|
|4||[repeat] Lagrima / Antonio Gonzales|
|5||Var. 10 Fughetta a 1 Clav. / Caitrin Finch|
|6||Portrait of Tracy / Jaco Pastorious|
|7||[repeat] Var. 10 Fughetta a 1 Clav. / Caitrin Finch|
|8||[repeat] Portrait of Tracy / Jaco Pastorious|
This repeating ‘ABAB’ pattern increases exposure to each excerpt, and may better stimulate memory, pattern recognition, and comparison between selections.
Groups and Sessions
Playing back all 38 excerpts, repeating in pairs, lasts 40 minutes. To create shorter listening sessions, I divided the excerpts into three smaller groups, and created playlists from each group.
For variety, from each group I created two different playlists, varying the track order. All the excerpts in a group make an appearance once within both of the group’s playlists, but they will appear in a different order and will be paired in different ‘ABAB’ sets.
This organization resulted in the six listening sessions above (3 groups x 2 playlists each), with each session lasting ~13 to 16 minutes.
This last section uses musical jargon with few elaborations, and is intended for music nerds.
The variety of excerpts used in these recordings, and the scope of their musical qualities, is limited to the music available in my personal collection. With a composer and a recording budget, I can envision some exciting improvements, including:
- Composing musical excerpts that isolate and emphasize a single musical dimension, for example:
- Playing rhythmic ‘melodies’ that use only a single pitch, emphasizing rhythm content.
- Repeating the same melody played at different tempos.
- Repeating the same melody played by different instruments (emphasizing timbre).
- Transposing melodies to different keys (emphasizing relative interval sequences).
- Adapting melodies to different beat groupings, e.g. a march feel vs. a waltz (emphasizing meter).
- Composing excerpts that represent a more thorough and systematic review of tonalities, meters, rhythmic divisions, interval patterns, etc.
- More closely aligning musical content with research on infant cognition and musical development, for example:
These studies indicate infants are capable of perceiving melodies using both absolute and relative pitch cues: Saffran & Griepentrog 2001 / Platinga & Trainor 2005.
Saffran & Griepentrog suggest infants may recruit either absolute or relative processing strategies based on the structure of the melodic stimuli, with ‘atonal’ melodies encouraging absolute pitch processing, and melodies following typical compositional structures encouraging relative pitch processing.
Melodies could be composed following both traditional structures (e.g. discrete tonalities and diatonic harmonies), and atonal structures, to encourage stimulation of both processing strategies.
- These studies indicate infants are capable of perceiving melodies using both absolute and relative pitch cues: Saffran & Griepentrog 2001 / Platinga & Trainor 2005.
For the time being and improvements aside, I’ve very much enjoyed putting together these recordings, and I hope parents and their children enjoy listening to them.