Art and About
Engaging with the creative force in everyday life

February 22nd, 2008

Art And About themes in other resources

Posted by christina in Web Columns

The thing about living an artful life is that sometimes, living in the arts occludes writing about it. I’ve been sidetracked by some personal projects lately, but have also encountered some Art and About supporting material to share.

A terrific documentary aired on PBS called “Freeway Philharmonic.” It’s about the folks who make a living as freelance orchestra musicians and they exemplify that art is as important as breathing. Have your Tivo keep a watch for a repeat airing, or go to to find information about where you can catch it. It is inspiring and humbling.

A friend and Art and About reader directed me to an article in The New Republic about (I will quote my friend here):

….on the surface, it’s a book review, but in essence it’s a long discussion and meditation on the role of music in human life and culture. Also, the comments seem to apply as well to other art forms. Among the questions discussed:

Does the “value” of music depend on its cultural and temporal context, or does it transcend culture and time?

What does the concept of “pure” art mean?

To what extent is music a universal language, carrying meanings that are perceived similarly by diverse listeners in diverse circumstances?

Does music have a moral dimension?

Does it enlighten or otherwise humanize its listeners?

Does “classical” or “fine” music have enlightening or inspirational qualities that “folk” or “pop” or “commercial” music does not?

This is a meaty article, which may require several readings to digest. It took me an hour to read the whole thing the first time so before you tackle it, I recommend pouring yourself a hot beverage, getting on some comfy clothes and settling down in your favorite chair. Then prepare to go on an intellectual adventure. I’m still processing all the information it contains, and it has been several weeks since I first read it.

Keep living artfully!

February 3rd, 2008

Making Up A Song A Day

Posted by christina in Web Columns

I keep notes on my computer when my kids say something about the arts that I find poignant. Many times, these thoughts turn into Art and About columns. Sometimes, I compile them, print them out and paste them into their scrapbooks. One day, I hope they will read their quotes and marvel at their wisdom at such a young age.

I noticed on my list that about a year ago, my daughter asked me an awkward question. She caught me sailing through the house during my cleaning routine and said, “Mama, listen to the song I made up about a guinea pig.” She sang the song, followed by the query, “I made that up. What song did you make up today?” I was so embarrassed. Oh my goodness, it was already 9:30 a.m. and I had yet to make up a song for the day. In fact, I hadn’t set aside any time on my schedule that day to make up a song, and I didn’t have the flexibility to squeeze a song in. I backed out of the room mumbling about getting back to my cleaning, admiring her attitude and feeling ashamed of my priorities.

In the past year, she has produced an oeuvre of original compositions. Some she sings once and forgets. Some she hums again and again while playing, riding in the car or taking a bath. A few, her brother has even picked up and begun humming. She doesn’t quite write a song a day (to my knowledge) but she is way ahead of my output.

When I tuned my ears to it, I started to realize that kids are writing and singing original compositions at school, on the playground, in grocery stores, restaurants, anywhere you can name. I help out in my son’s classroom and one young lady writes songs to help her do addition. She sings them to herself while she does equations in her head. Creative and practical!

I teach choir classes to preschoolers and kindergarteners and we have a periodic activity called “music sharing.” The kids thought it up. After a session full of singing songs I taught them, the children wanted to teach me some songs. I expected them to sing tried and true tot classics but that isn’t what they meant. They wanted to share songs they had written. I learn what is going on in their lives from those songs.

At the end of class we all sing a ditty I made up: “Sing the song that’s in your heart all the day through. Sing the song that’s in your heart and let your love shine through.” I wrote the song because we needed an age-appropriate class closer that I hoped would send a positive message about singing. Turns out, the kids are living this message every day, with our without my encouragement.

Adults don’t sing songs they made up at school, on playgrounds or in grocery stores. Adults have learned that there are “appropriate” places to sing, and “inappropriate” places to sing. As children, that is either what the adults in our lives told us, or it is what we learned from our peers at a certain age. What is that age? Probably about the same time we become self-conscious about everything else. Probably about the same time we start to try to be more like everyone else at the expense of our own uniqueness. Most of us never go back to making up a song a day, let alone singing it for the world to hear.

What would the world be like if we never lost that impulse? Would it end wars, feed the hungry or make the poor rich? Can you say with certainty that it wouldn’t? My little ditty may be more than just a preschool class closer. It could be an eye opener, if we open our ears to the music pouring from the hearts of the children.

Sing the song that’s in your heart all the day through. Sing the song that’s in your heart and let your love shine through.