Music: The Sound of Colors

I listen closely to lots of children’s music. Perhaps too closely. To speak in generalities, there are two distinct modes of music for kids: on one hand you have the songwriters/bands such as Caspar Babypants, Dan Zanes, Frances England, Recess Monkey and Rocnocerous, etc. where the subject matter of the songs might be more kid-centric or in the point of view of children, but musically they write songs that are not that different from indie rock and without thematic centralities; on the other hand you have songwriters/bands which write thematic albums, which are usually teaching albums, seeking to impart knowledge or lessons to kids, such as Orange Sherbet’s album Delicious which is all about food, or in this instance Hope Harris’s Picasso, That’s Who! (And So Can You!) [which I will call Picasso from here on] which is all about art and artists. Picasso is a musically diverse album with musical styles that veer from the rocking A-C-T-I-O-N (Jackson Pollack) to the country boogie-woogie of Grandma Moses to the acoustic folk ballad of See A Painting By Georgia O’Keeffe, which makes it a more listenable experience as the changing diversity of styles will keep kids interested. But the challenge here is conveying sight to sound, and Harris seems to capture it well on some songs, such as A-C-T-I-O-N (Jackson Pollack) or on the title track, where the flavor of the music matches the subject. Perhaps one of the more interesting ones is the Elton Johnish Who Made The Splash? (David Hockney), which seems to fit so well to the art that you can visualize it almost. But there are some misses too, such as the Paul Klee song Dot In Motion, which for me did not evoke any of the power or promise of Klee’s work. and therein is a unique problem for an album of this type since art does provoke such subjective responses it is hard to fit a musical style to the art which will make sense for the majority of listeners. As to the uses for this album, educators might find it useful when introducing young kids to art to use the music as a soundtrack for a slide show of the artists’ works, or to put it on while kids are experimenting with creating their own art, and that same use could extend to the home as music for art time. I am not sure that this will be an album you would play in the car for driving the kids around town, but the diversity of musical styles certainly opens up more possibilities for repeated listening than were there a sameness to the sounds. In the end, Picasso is a colorful album that exposes children to many facets of art and the artists involved.


Hope Harris’s Picasso, That’s Who! (And So Can You!) is out now.


A CD was provided for review.