The Significance of Children’s Folksongs in the Byron Arnold Collection
Humming, singing, swaying, jumping–music and movement have been vital to children throughout time. Likewise, parents’ and caregivers’ lullabies and tuneful play have always been babies’ musical introduction to the world. Long after we have learned and lost a whole lot of information, songs of childhood linger at the fringe of our memories. The captivating Bullfrog Jumpedcollection presents the clear voices of women fluidly casting back to songs of their childhoods and their years of caring for and entertaining young children.
Asked to do the same today, many of us might recall “Little Sally Walker,” but most songs on this CD are no longer familiar. We are more likely to blurt out rude parodies such as “Teacher Hit Me with a Ruler” than lyrical play party songs, but odds are if urged we could still sing songs we thought we had long forgotten. What cultural insiders take for granted–childhood songs, family customs, community traditions–cultural outsiders, such as Byron Arnold, notice as important markers of local culture. Recorded between 1945 and 1947 by this University of Alabama music professor raised in the state of Washington and trained at the Eastman School of Music in New York, the 42 songs in this collection are a window to history as well as folklore. They give us glimpses of everyday African American and Anglo American women and children, usually left out of history books, living in the segregated Jim Crow South yet often in intimate contact through proximity, play, employment, and the habit of singing.
This guide invites listeners of all ages to enjoy the voices and songs of long-ago childhoods, use the collection to teach young children old songs and games, and awaken interest in childhood songs across contemporary generations. What songs do students sing on the playground? What songs do parents and grandparents remember? What songs are recent immigrants introducing? What do caregivers and pre-school teachers sing with children? What music leaks into the traditional repertoire of young children from popular culture and mass media—and vice versa? Children’s folklore has always incorporated current events and popular culture, from caricatures of powerful adults to the latest fads. Popular opinion holds that today’s children are passive recipients of mass media onslaughts who have little free time to play unsupervised and thus pass on traditions such as music and play. How true might this generalization be?
Bullfrog Jumped as an Introduction to the study of Folklore
Use the lesson plans and activities to teach, explore, preserve, and sing childhood songs past and present. Readers can easily figure out how to play the games attached to some songs with the simple instructions in the Bullfrog Jumped CD booklet and teach them to children. Anyone interested in collecting songs and stories can use the songs to prompt people of all ages to share childhood memories. Despite our dependence upon mass media today, delving into such recollections is an excellent introduction to folklore and demonstrates that folklore is alive, well, and dynamic. Bullfrog Jumped reminds us of a time when songs at home and in the community were a major form of entertainment. To be reminded of the universal need for song, pretend that you are stranded without electricity and must engross a number of small children. Like Bullfrog, jump on in!
Bullfrog Jumped songs can be integrated easily into existing curricula and activities, giving children authentic voices and songs once familiar to children throughout Alabama. Use the songs in a variety of ways: play them as children transition through the day, sing together, play musical games, improvise movement, link traditional music with literature and history, and inspire children to be “song catchers” who learn and collect traditional songs from various generations.
Users will learn that culture is dynamic and that folk, popular, and academic culture often interrelate. A folk musician, for example, might incorporate a musical phrase from a classical composition, and vice versa. And all popular music is rooted in traditional music. Folk culture includes the knowledge and skills that are passed along within our various overlapping folk groups such as family, neighborhood, region, religious affiliation, and so on. Popular culture comes at us through mass media. Academic culture we learn in schools, academies, and formal classes. We move through these cultural realms with little thought to the learning and teaching that go on in everyday life. A child might study violin at school, play traditional fiddle tunes with family members, and plug into an electrical amp as a rock band member.
Tapping Prior Knowledge to Develop New Skills
Bullfrog Jumped presents traditional songs and games that play to children’s expertise in their own dynamic folk culture of music, movement, and play. Educators, librarians, child care providers, and families will find songs and activities in this guide to engage children and build important skills: listening, following directions, literacy, counting, sequencing, working cooperatively, singing, drawing, moving with purpose, acting out stories, and connecting family and home with school and formal education settings. Bullfrog Jumpedactivities call upon children’s prior knowledge, for music is a constant in children’s minds and bodies. Patricia Shehan Campbell writes inSongs in Their Heads: Music and Its Meaning in Children’s Lives (Oxford University Press, 1998, p. 168):
Music serves children in many ways. They group together to socialize through music, but they also take music into themselves at their most private of times. They receive it from many sources, and they learn to sing it, play it, and dance to it. They interpret it for its messages to them and absorb and rework it in new configurations as their very own music. They “have music” and “do music” for its visceral appeal, for its calming or stimulating properties, and for the associations it has with nearly anyone or anything they can name. Music seeps into their play, their social activities, their work, and their worship and is with them as they do what they do and as they think aloud or in silence about the various experiences they know.
Organization of Lessons in the Learning Guide
The three Bullfrog Jumped lessons are aligned to the Alabama Course of Study and link to standards across the curriculum for three age groups: Pre-K, grades K-2, and grades 3-5. Thumbnail sketches suggest activities for all ages and settings using Bullfrog Jumpedas a jumping-off point for exploring music as well as play across generational, geographic, and cultural boundaries. Resources recommend publications, recordings, and web sites that deepen lessons and provide even more avenues to exploring traditional children’s songs. Teachers using the guide do not need to own the actual Bullfrog Jumped CD; however, if they would like more information about the wonderful women who sang the songs, they will need to obtain a copy of the 72-page booklet that accompanies the CD. It may be ordered from the AFA Bookstore.