Wednesday, June 1, 2016

A Song about Ungulates?

The children’s music by Jeff & Paige is winning awards because they use music to teach environmental science. Whether it is the a cappella song “Mighty Wolf” that is structured like a Renaissance canzonetta, the rock song called “Dead and Delicious” or "Ungulates" which might be described as upbeat folk with a swinging, hoofy rhythm, the melodies and lyrics, and stories they tell, are smart and fun.  

A kid’s song about ungulates? This is how it goes: A long low note evokes the feeling of solitude; the listener is taken out in nature. Then the keyboarder’s right hand plays the sound of  sunlight streaming through the sky and landing on gently swaying grass. It is a happy place. The sound of galloping animals moves the listener away from solitude toward the first tug of scientific inquiry - a question about nature that is formed from curiosity. It is a question asked by children all over the world: What is it?

Next, a toe-tapping acoustic guitar melody accompanies call-and-response singing that explores preliminary science information about ungulates including what an ungulate eats, where it lives, and even (to the delight of children) what the poop looks like. Before the end of the song, the music changes tempo a couple of times to emphasize the different ways to learn about the animals: slower swinging sounds to describe the animal’s natural habitat, faster for the “roll call” that lists examples of hooved mammals.

By the end of three and a half minutes, the preschool-sized science lessons have been repeated a couple times and the musical hooks make the lessons memorable. It is a quintessential Jeff & Paige song.

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