I came to Baby Music not as a parent or child expert, but as a conductor.
One of my joys over the years, in between the symphonies and operas of my daily life, has been doing concerts and recordings with The London Cello Sound, my orchestra of 40 cellos. So many cellos playing together make a sound which is deeply rich and satisfying.
We started with The Swan—perhaps the most famous cello melody ever written—from The Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns. We found that the most beautiful sound came when the 40 musicians didn’t play at full intensity as they would if they were individual soloists. When playing more gently, an amazing resonance built up between them, warm and enveloping. This was something unique, and our three CDs, The London Cello Sound, Latin Cello and A Cello Christmas, became best-sellers for our company, Cala Records.
We went on to make similar recordings with large numbers of violins, violas, double-basses, horns, trumpets and trombones, working with the best London orchestral, solo and chamber music players.
As an experiment, we recently put together a selection of the softest massed-cello tracks. We tested it on adults, who loved it as relaxation music, but a truly surprising thing occurred when parents played the CD to their babies and young children. The effect was instantaneous—even fractious and troubled kids calmed down and soon fell asleep.
It seemed to be the combination of the effortless manner of the playing and the deep, warm sound of all those cellos which so comforted and soothed them. We decided to release the CD to the public as Baby Cello.
I’m sure that the music we chose for Baby Cello added to the soothing effect of the CD. Songs like Greensleeves and Ave Maria, with their gentle contours and wistful moods, have for generations evoked tranquility and repose. Vocalise, Black Orpheus (one of my personal favourites) and Songs My Mother Taught Me weave a similar magic. Some of our other choices, such as Begin the Beguine and The Girl from Ipanema, are perhaps less obvious but in the hands of the cello orchestra they too add to the restful mood. In fact, in including quite a variety of music, we also had parents in mind, feeling that their interest would also be held as they listened and enjoyed the special cello sound.
Very soon after the CD came out we started receiving responses of appreciation—and in many instances, relief—from parents and, surprisingly, a large number of grandparents. An “iParenting Media Award” followed in America, and glowing reviews. We decided to open a website, babymusic.com, so as to make the recording, and others like it, as widely available as possible. The site enables us to offer companion CDs, such as Baby Symphony, and also to bring in a selection of the best music presently available for babies and children.
I have realised that, as a musician, I can help provide music for young people which in later years will bring them ever-increasing joy and fulfilment.