Lullabies have been around for a long time.
So long in fact that we don’t really know who composed them. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Itsy Bitsy spider, This Old Man and many others are simply classified as “Traditional”.
So, how did these songs come about?
The only answer I can come up with is drawn from my own experience as a parent.
Putting a newborn baby to sleep is not easy, and if you are a parent, you know you will do any thing to get that baby to stop crying and go to sleep. Rocking, tapping, running water, turning on the dishwasher, humming, singing, middle of the night car rides…any thing goes.
In this context of lullabies, most fascinating is the vocal part. Always something repetitive and basic …a chanting like loop designed to almost hypnotize the baby and help them relax and sleep.
“…Another possible origin of music is motherese, the vocal-gestural communication between adults (usually mothers) and infants. This form of communication involves melodic, rhythmic and movement patterns as well as the communication of intention and meaning, and in this sense is similar to music…” (Wikipedia)
When my daughter was 5 minutes old, the doctor and nurses were still caring for my wife, and I was guarding the door armed with a bottle of Purell. My wife’s exquisite uncle, who incidentally is a doctor and a dedicated musician showed up at the door. Waving a bottle of Champagne, he just walked right by me and my now non relevant bottle of Purell, and went on to grab the just born baby, cover her with uncle saliva, kisses, smooches and good old uncle like mayhem.
Being a leading researcher of biology and medicine, he must have heard of GERMS before, I remember thinking: “I wonder what is he working on in the lab right now????” … Then, just before I was ready to embarrass myself beyond repair, he did something that I will never forget; he held her gently in his arms (up to this point he was holding her in what I can only describe as a choke-hold) and started singing to her, he only sang two notes for her, it was Sa and Pa.
Sa is the Indian classical music equivalent of Do (the first note in a major scale in the western discipline) and Pa is parallel to Sol (the fifth note in a major scale). These two notes make the most fundamental musical interval of all; 1 and 5, or a Perfect Fifth.
It is only a coincidence that Twinkle Twinkle Little Star starts with a Sa, Sa, Pa, Pa,
or is it?
Lullabies are a specialty item, specifically tailored for newborn babies and designed to help them relax and sleep. My little unscientific research even points at a very fundamental connection between lullabies and the development of human communication and of music.
So it seems like my first version of this post was most accurate, it went like this:
Lullaby, Why? . . . . . . . . ……Cause!