A Dose of Culture for Parents

What pre-school parent is not immersed in Henke books, and owns at least one Tickle Me Elmo stuffed doll? What child doesn’t tune into Dora by the age of 2? While we’re at it, how come nobody told me parenting is a sub-culture? My ears are full of Ralph’s World, Raffe songs, and VBS camp soundtracks from the summer, and by now, I have read the Curious George anthology (around 200 pages) about 100 times now. My sister in law who gave me the book has completely memorized it, and can recite it in her sleep.

It has come to be that even when my children aren’t even in the car, and their music is playing, I subconsciously sing with it! A bit horrified, I quickly change to the radio, and that’s what happened this morning, and I received a dose of culture.

I was dropping my son off to school, I tuned into NPR and found the Piano Puzzler, on Performance Today, and it was exactly what I needed. Having some exposure to classical music, but even more so, having a love for it, the Piano Puzzler program is perfect for someone like me who is trying to expand her repertoire.

A contestant, pretty much an educated one, tries to guess the familiar tune and the style of piece. Bruce Adolphe takes a popular tune and transforms it into something that sounds like it was composed by one of the Greats by emulating his/her style. Then the contestant guesses the Great and the song. The contestant figures out if Adolphe played in the style of say, Mendelssohn, or Brahms, and at the same time, he un-buries the hidden song.

Of course the fun part is guessing the piece and the style, but they elaborate on the musical styles of Brahms and Mendelssohn by expounding on the clues of each composers’ style, so for instance, Brahms’ signature pattern was reflected in the tune: 3 against 2 pattern that is noted in Brahms conflict of rhythm, where you might not find that pattern in Mendelssohn, or Brahms’ heavy lower notes that is often found in his piano pieces would be explained.

Without getting too technical, I find this program very enlightening and in the same, I get a dose of culture outside my circle of Elmo and Henke. But, what is more impressive is Adolphe’s talent in transforming pieces to exactly the composer’s style. Next time you’re in the car, tune into NPR, and try to find when the PianoPuzzler will be aired in your area or by logging onto: www.performancetoday.org. You can also subscribe to podcast and hear the last two months of the Piano Puzzler as well.

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