Sudden Song

When I had kids, I started singing. All of a sudden, just like that.

No, silly, not right there at the hospital after birth! (What a mental image!)

But gradually.

Poco a poco, as my Spanish teacher would’ve said. It was unsuspected and entirely unplanned.

Somewhere from the furthest, dustiest corner of my brain, a song simply emerged one day. And then it was followed by another.

And another.

At first, I only remembered faint lines.

Feeling my way in the dark, I slowly added more and more details to what I had at first recalled.

Sometimes my memory started at the very beginning, sometimes at the middle. Nursery rhymes and Christmas songs came out, all in English.

I sang to my two tiny babies to entertain them. I sang to let them hear my voice. I sang to calm them down. I sang to make them fall asleep.

It didn’t always work, and they stopped sleeping full nights after their first birthday. But I kept singing.

The Finnish version of a song about a frog that wanted to get married sprung to mind, and I switched languages. I looked up its many, many verses and altered them to my liking, as I tended to do – apparently. Not being an experienced singer, it seemed odd that composing new versions of classics felt this easy, but I went with the flow. The frog came to life.

I even created an alternative version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star – improved, dare I say. It just rhymed better now. And many songs are quite sad: did you realise Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer actually spends his days getting bullied? How many of us really listened to the lyrics we sang as kids?

Sometimes the lyrics seemed so odd I had to look them up. A musical toy lying on our floor played a tune that made me respond with, “A-hunting we shall go, a-hunting we shall go…” and I thought, this can’t be right! Why would a children’s song be about hunting, it makes no sense!

Meanwhile, the babies grew into active little boys who can now show their age with three and a half fingers. More keen to rock and roll than sleep, they perhaps haven’t mastered the art of calming down yet, but they have turned out to be very musical and can sing in two languages.

All this singing in our household feels wonderful, and yet very odd to a girl who was never good at singing.

Back in the 90’s, the teacher of our compulsory music classes at school made us all pass singing tests (and flute tests!) in front of the whole class. We were mercilessly critiqued and graded in front of the class, too, and for a shy student like myself, waiting for that day was pure agony.

I never thought of singing another note after that. I was told I was a bad singer (and also bad with the flute).

So you can imagine what a genuine surprise it was when, decades later, song started to burst out of my mouth. I had no idea why it was happening. And it didn’t stop.

In the land of midnight sun, we now have midday moon. The stars twinkle, and frogs, I’m sure, are getting married somewhere in the darkness of winter.

31 responses to “Sudden Song

  1. I am not a music person, not by choice but just because my mind doesn’t connect to music in any special way. I think the fact that I trouble understanding mathematical relationships is somehow tied into my inability to fully experience music. It seems to me that math and music somehow go hand in hand.

    Your sudden song reminded me of a book I read by Oliver Sacks titled “Musicphilia”. Sacks is a neurosurgeon and in the book documents strange happenings involving patients and music. These are events that are similar to, but more dramatic, than to yours. Even though I don’t “understand “music”, or maybe because of that, I found the book to be fascinating.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey David – same here! I’m not a musical person, I don’t even like listening to music or going to concerts! (I love silence – well, unless it’s my kids singing, I do like listening to them!) Which is why this whole thing is so baffling.
      That book sounds interesting, I’m adding it to my list right now!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Some of the older lyrics are horrid, just like the Brothers Grimm fairy tales. Awful. I don’t think folks literally concentrate too much on lyrics, it is more about the melody, otherwise the InXS song Suicide Blonde would be banned.
    I am happy that you have found the joy in singing. Like you, I didn’t sing that much until I had children and then I sang to them all the time. The daily practise really hones one vocal cords, and this continued until I felt good enough to join a Scandinavian choir (to improve my language skills). That was fun even though I wasn’t a confident singer.
    I used to adapt words to tunes, I knew too, even if they didn’t have words. Greensleeves seemed to be a tune my first son (that never slept), liked to calm him down. My daughter liked a Disney variant and my middle child, the melodies from Thomas the Tank Engine. He picked up very early on that each engine had a different melody – I didn’t realize that. No wonder he is a musician now, albeit a struggling one).
    I think a midday moon sounds quite romantic. Btw, we have frogs here at the moment too. About 6 all up and the neighbours three moon. My new pup likes to hunt them – but we don’t let her, of course.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Funny how your experiences are so similar! Singing to young children must come somewhere from the subconsciousness. And yes, so many fairy tales are brutal!!!!! I’ve bought the boys books that start with everyone dying and when I read them I have to come up with happier versions on the spot and just improvise based on the pictures. Like Bambi. And ALL the Grimm tales (they are grim!!! wonder if that was their real name???)


  3. Speaking as one who has no musical talent … I remember singing to my beautiful baby boy who’d watch me solemnly with his big brown eyes. That was until he was eight months old where upon he’d cover my mouth and shake his head 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Good for you, and good for your kids. I think music, including singing, is the universal language and can be appreciated by anyone, anywhere. Kids exposed to music have a leg up in life as far as I’m concerned.
    I know very few complete songs, but remember lines from lots of songs. I, too, make the rest up as I go along. Sometimes I fear for anyone listening to what I sing. The lyrics often don’t make sense and sometimes are downright inappropriate.
    As far as being a good singer is concerned, there’s an old Zimbabwean proverb that goes, “If you can walk, you can dance. If you can talk, you can sing.” I agree with that. If you and your kids are enjoying it, that’s all that matters. Your music class sounds like some I had, which weren’t about enjoying or appreciating music, but measuring kids against some arbitrary standard, that the teacher usually fell well short of.
    Jack Johnson, who hails from Hawaii I believe, has a version of the Rudolph song, which notes the point you made. I’m not a big fan of his, but I do like his version of that song. You can find it online I expect.
    And finally, your photos, as always, are a perfect complement to you story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I remember Jack Johnson now, we listened to him for a bit after our trip to Hawaii, though it’s not my usual style of music. I actually fell in love with Iz’s version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow whenwe visited Maui, I had never heard that version before and it became the Hawaii soundtrack in my mind everytime I look at photos or otherwise am reminded of our trip. Which seems funny now because now I must’ve heard it a million times!
      Anyway, I like the proverb you mentioned – we should just let loose and not hold onto inhibitions!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I used to have a favourite song to calm down my baby girl but for some reason I have forgotten it now. I don’t remember any lines or the music or the title which is strange because it had been my soothing magic trick for a couple of years. But I remember there was a hunter or some kind of rifle involved too!!!
    I guess these songs work like old school fairy tales. They need to be a little scary to be an efficient means of catharsis?!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahah! Maybe it was the lion hunt song, another classic that seems to be translated in every language? I remember writing a story about it in school in Australia, and I was very proud about the story. I even remember the notebook and my writing in it. Large letters in pencil, drawn with painstaking clarity and the notebook had red lines which you had to stay in. Some of the lines were dotted and they went through the middle of the letters. The mental image of that notebook is very comforting for some reason!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh, I dreaded those compulsory music lessons too! For us it was the recorder instead of the flute, and I was not very good at it at all! My shy younger self would probably be surprised to know I’m brave enough to sing at karaoke (gladly, even!)

    And, yes, some of the lyrics to children’s songs are quite bizarre, so I think it’s good that you’re adapting and changing them as you see fit. When I was babysitting my little niece, I would hum/sing Brahms’ Lullaby, but I didn’t know any of the words, so I made it up (it mostly consisted of “go to sleep… go to sleep…”)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Sing! – maqupi·

  8. Oh yes… every Mama needs to sing. Sing when you are mad, sad or even becomes just a normal habit and exquisite talent that I´ve picked up when I entered into Motherhood.
    P:S you are not alone!

    Liked by 1 person

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