The following is an excerpt from an interview with David Weinstone
(Creator of Music for Aardvarks)
by Fabra Kate of Kid's Cuts Radio
Fabra Kate: You have obviously hit a nerve with your audience. What is it about your music that children respond to?
David Weinstone: I think it's a matter of getting into their heads and trying to see the world from their eyes. I wrote the song "Velcro" because my son was learning to dress himself but couldn't tie up his sneaks. We bought him the velcro kind and he was like master of his feet. There are dozens of trials and tribulations in the day-to-day life of children and sometimes the little things can mean a lot. I write about things that really happen to kids and they recognize the situations.
FK: You also write songs that deal with birth and death, feelings of separation and anger. How do you make more complex subjects accessible to a child?
DW: Well, I don't think the examples you mentioned are as necessarily complex from a child's perspective. If your kid gets upset you pretty much know why immediately. They were denied a toy or they were scared of a new situation. Maybe they just needed a diaper change. When adults get upset or react to things with fear or anger it may really be about something else that happened to them twenty-five years ago. You can broach these topics with kids because it's easier to pinpoint the source of their feelings. So instead of writing a fluffy song about how it's o.k. to be angry, you write a song about the elusive Buzz Lightyear toy or something. I wrote a song called "Little Flower." The flower is born, blooms, almost gets trampled; falls in love with the sun then withers and dies. It's an epic tale in a minute-and-a-half about love, vulnerability, triumph and finally death. Is it too complex for a two-year old? No, it's a song about a flower.
FK: The first time I listened to your music was in my car driving home from work and I found myself laughing out loud. I remember thinking how witty and sophisticated it was at times, but there is also this element of ridiculousness likened to a Three Stooges movie. Can you talk a little bit about the humor in your songs?
DW: I don't know why but I never liked The Three Stooges. Could you change that to The Marx Brothers or The Keystone Cops?
FK: O.K., Seinfeld meets The Keystone Cops.
DW: Everybody needs a good laugh now and then. Despite all the mood swings I think kids are pretty easily amused, especially by their own antics. I wrote a song called "I Crack Me Up" about that giddy state of mind kids can get to where they're laughing for it's own sake. I also like to poke fun at kids in a way that lets them laugh at themselves, like in the song "Grumpy" or "Meltdown." Humor is a great healer but sometimes funny is just funny, like when a child asks, "How many more minutes until I have to go to bed?" You say fifteen more minutes and they ask, "How many is that?"
FK: And how do you answer that?
DW: I don't know, it always stumps me.
FK: Parents I've talked to speak passionately about your music, but some of your critics have suggested that you sometimes cross the line between what is appropriate for young children, and what is really more adult music.
DW: Is that a question?
FK: Well, I guess it's really two questions: What is the appeal to parents? And, how do you respond to your critics?
DW: I think the parents find the stylistic diversity in the music exciting. The element of surprise both musically and lyrically. The different energy levels. And I also think they recognize it as being authentically original and intelligent compared to other children's music. As far as the music being inappropriate for young children, I think that's ridiculous. My writing is full of traditional folk, pop and jazz, classical and Latin influences, but I've grown up listening to The Ramones, David Bowie, Brian Eno, Lou Reed and Nirvana. If some of my songs seem over-the-top to a few people I say "buy something else." I'm not crossing a line. Hopefully I'm erasing one.
FK: Is there any music you do consider inappropriate for children?
DW: Yes, most children's music.
DW: I am serious. Music that's dumbed-down and full of corny cliches is offensive to me, and I think it does our children a great disservice. Kids are smarter than that and deserve better from us. Of course, I'm opposed to music with violent themes or foul language for children. I would like to see us (as a culture) introduce music to children with the same kind of intelligence and creativity we introduce them to the other arts. We have wonderful theater for them. Wonderful children's literature and art. Why should they be listening to the equivalent of stick figure drawings?
FK: How do your kids like your music?
DW: I think they like it. Unless they're just being polite.
A Simple Philosophy
Provided with a stimulating and fertile musical environment, positive role models, gentle guidance and encouragement, young children will have enriching and vital musical experiences that help them gain a sense of themselves and a connection to the world they live in.
Goals and Expectations
A Music for Aardvarks and Other Mammals class is a place where children can experience music in a rich variety of ways. Whether actively participating or simply listening and watching, children are learning in ways that are right for them as individuals, and at their own pace. A more instructional approach, with a focus on specific results, is not only age inappropriate, but totally unnecessary for their musical development. Exposure to musical experiences, guidance and parental modeling allows young children to explore and learn on their own without the anxiety of others expectations.
Parents as Models
Parent/caregiver participation in class activities is strongly encouraged. Whether you consider yourself to be musically inclined, or someone who can't carry a tune to save your life, is of little importance when it comes to the positive impact your participation will have on your child. Your willingness and enthusiasm are invaluable assets to the group as a whole, and exemplify for your child that joining in is not about "performing" but having fun. And by the way, if Music for Aardvarks and Other Mammals isn't fun, demand your money back. Hope to see you in class!