Wednesday, July 30th, 2008
Music Review: Beethoven’s Wig, Vol. 1-4
Forget Baby Einstein. Beethoven’s Wig plays real all-age orchestral music for your babe that gets richer as your child grows. I’m talking classical music’s greatest hits with educational and funny lyrics put to them by lyricist Richard Perlmutter.
In 2002, Beethoven’s Wig was released. It netted a Grammy nomination.
In 2004, came Beethoven’s Wig 2 and another nomination. Our daughter was born and we became crazy children’s music hoarders, buying both CDs.
In 2006 came Beethoven’s Wig 3 and another nomination. The Grammy is such a tease! We bought the CD in a heartbeat.
On August 12, 2008 Beethoven’s Wig 4: Dance Along Symphonies comes out. Aha! I have a blog and was sent an advance review CD. Woo hoo! Now I can close Thingamababy. Oh, and I think my son was born this year too.
For our family, Beethoven’s Wig is a must-have CD quadrilogy.
First, let’s address the name. This “wig” thing refers to the first CD’s title song put to Beethoven’s 5th Symphony:
Beethoven’s wig is long and curly and it’s white
Beethoven takes his wig off when he sleeps at night
Because it’s big
It’s very big
Beethoven’s wig is big!
The first half of each CD contains the music with Perlmutter’s lyrics sung by himself and occasionally others. The second half contains the scores alone, or what some would call the karaoke versions. When the straight music hits, I find myself singing the words under my breath. They are great sing-along CDs.
Some of the lyrics are sophisticated for a young toddler, but I don’t believe in dumbing down. This music works on multiple levels for multiple ages.
Many of the songs weave biographical or historical information about composers into them, a bit more than the size of a wig. Other songs create a story around the song’s title or the song’s original or modern use. Here are a few favorite examples:
The crowds were cheering at the concert hall.
The night Tchaikovsky shot a cannonball.
It was the loudest cannon that you’ll ever hear.
It was so loud it even shook the chandelier, oh dear.
All the girls in Paris, France
Love to do the Can-Can dance
Kick their legs up in the air
Shake, shake, shake their derriere!
When I go “Giddy up!” to my horse Buttercup,
Buttercup won’t get up and get going.
Ole Buttercup will not giddyup.
I’m stuck in the saddle again.
When I go “Tally ho!” she will not tippy toe.
Buttercup isn’t up to tiptoeing.
That so and so will no tally ho.
I’m stuck in the saddle now.
Wig 2: It’s The Same Every Verse is In The Hall Of The Mountain King from Peer Gynt Suite. It’s been made into a reverse counting song from 17 to 1 with the pace quickening as you go.
Here’s a piece that’s quite perverse
It’s the same every verse
So for better or for worse
We’ve 17 to go
One by one we’ll count them all
It might seem off the wall
Just in case you don’t recall
We’ve 16 more to go
Wig 3: Bull In A China Shop is an unusual case. It’s the Toreador Song from the French opera Carmen. The original is an aria sung by a bullfighter espousing the glorious nature of bullfighting. This new version has several singers discussing a china shop.
Please keep your bull outside the china shop.
No bulls allowed,
That’s where they stop.
It’s the rule, the way it’s always been,
Your bull cannot come in.
I guess I must insist that you abide
And keep your bull outside.
Wig 4 is different in that it’s comprised entirely of pieces written for dance, although not quite what constitutes toddler dancing. I won’t have listening links for the songs until the CD debuts, but you can listen to Wig 4 snippets [pop up version] through this Flash player.
When we hear the trumpets blow,
The band is on the go,
But where we go we never know, so
Forever we’re marching, marching, marching.
Be a good doggie, good doggie now Rover
Be a good doggie now Rover roll over
Come on now Rover, come on roll over, come on roll over, Rover boy
Rover I think you’re not even trying.
Any dog can do this, I’m not lying.
I don’t know why you are not complying,
But I’m gonna give you one more chance.
(And Rover does eventually make it after several last chances.)
Wig 4: I Want My Diploma is the Pomp and Circumstance March heard at graduation ceremonies. Again, ingenious lyrics. I’ll never hear this music the same way again. (Listen to this Youtube clip for the music sans lyrics).
I want my diploma, I want it right now.
I made it through 4 years, nobody knows how.
I want my diploma, I want a job too.
It’s not asking that much, with all I’ve been through.
You can’t help whispering the lyrics whenever you hear any of the scores used in any other context, especially in TV and movies.
What I love about the Beethoven’s Wig series is that it brings classical music to life. Aside from each work’s original or historical context, these vocal versions give us present day meaning and attachment. I have never seen an opera and symphonies are but an elementary school memory, so Perlmutter has broadened our not-classically savvy appreciation. And now our 4-year-old daughter has been known to conduct her own stuffed animal orchestra.
In the words of Radar O’Reilly, a quote that will confuse younger parents, “Ahh. Bach!”
Here’s to hoping Beethoven’s Wig becomes a quintilogy.