Lullaby Singers Wanted
By Julia Soto Lebentritt

What is passed on from grandparent to parent to grandchild has changed dramatically in the past century. In Peripheral Visions, Mary Catherine Bateson continues her mother Margaret Mead’s insightful commentaries: “The deepest changes may take generations with old attitudes concealed beneath efforts to adapt. My mother once commented that when a woman who was herself breastfed shifts to bottle feeding, she still holds her infant as she was held, as if nourishment were coming from her body; but when her daughter bottle-feeds, the echo is lost….”

Hannah Yaffe’s recent research in Jerusalem led her to believe that lullabies are becoming obsolete. The Jerusalem Post Daily (Dec. 24, 98) quotes Yaffe: “I think the shift away from sung lullabies began when child care became more scientific….”

Many of us are now singing an ode to lullabies as an obsolete parenting tool. The short answer is we are finding less and less sung lullabies and therefore remembrance of lullabies and more and more conflict, broken families, violence, need for intervention therapies, and medications, as well as a colossal frightening national and international insecurity. There is a slow loss of the capacity to use the lullaby form in this generation.

In my opinion, the lullaby is no longer popular because the mother’s dance is dying. Lullaby is a practice of saying goodbye, of trust building so that tomorrow will come with assurance. Lullaby is a learned practice providing rituals that are soothing to all participants. While holding, rocking, singing to, and comforting an infant or child, you are also encouraging sensory integration. As an intervention, comforting touch is particularly effective for children who have experienced a history of abuse, abandonment, and neglect.

Lullaby is never just music. It is movement, dance and speech, and so it is a form of spontaneous music in which one is involved not as a listener but as a co-performer. In a workforce designed as if we all have a nanny at home to take care of our domestic needs, and our children, there is often no time for a quality bedtime. If practices that enable people to express elemental emotions are not passed on from generation to generation, we may lose our memories of what it is to be human and our ability to be human.

My interest in the essential need for musical language in parenting has peaked over the years since 1981. New York City Lullabies recordings issue from the incredible palimpsest of activities and diverse input of all the friends, neighbors, and relatives I met along the way, and others I had the opportunity to read and hear. I thank all who contributed to this important research project for the children of the world.

You can pass on lullabies with your own conscious music making voices and beliefs.

Julia Soto Lebentritt, Only Lullabologist on Earth
January 18, 2004
Troy, New York