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Hipposonic glad to contribute to lullabies project

Soothing mothers' and babies' hearts with lullabies


More from Daphne Bramham

Published on: December 7, 2017 | Last Updated: December 7, 2017 3:05 PM PST



Lullaby. Even the word for a mother’s song for her baby is soothing and intimate.

Lullabies are universal. They exist in every culture and are passed down through the generations. Almost all are written in the minor third. Researchers only recently confirmed what mothers have apparently known forever: The minor third is the first perceivable pitch that babies recognize.

Lullabies’ value goes beyond the obvious. Studies have shown that singing to babies enhances the connection between mother and child, stimulates babies’ brain development and helps them develop language and comprehension skills.

But aside from soothing babies, lullabies soothe troubled mothers, as the Weill Music Institute at New York’s Carnegie Hall has found over the past six years through its Lullaby Project.

It connects pregnant women and new mothers from shelters, prisons, hospitals and schools with professional musicians. Together they write and record lullabies that are archived on the Carnegie Hall website.


The Weill Music Institute, which describes the project as helping to create “the soundtrack of early childhood and family development,” has shared it with others and it’s now spread across North America.

Among the most recent additions to Carnegie Hall’s lullaby archives are seven written and performed by six Vancouver mothers earlier this year. One of those mothers, Robin Raweater will be performing her song at Carnegie Hall in June.

The Vancouver mothers I spoke to talked about past violence, trauma, isolation and their feelings that they aren’t up to the task of protecting their babies. But all of their lyrics affirm how much their children are loved and cherished.

For safety reasons, I’m not using their names.

“I have had a lifetime of sexual and physical abuse,” one told me. “The night of (my baby’s) conception was one of the scariest times of my life.”

When the morning-after pill failed, she made the difficult decision to continue the pregnancy. When the father found out, he threatened to rip the baby from her body.

“The lullaby was so healing. I was able to turn the situation into something beautiful,” she says. “Before the project I didn’t know what I would tell her when she got older and started asking questions about her dad and where she came from.”

Because her baby was colicky, she has sung the lullaby thousands of times. Now, when the mother sings the lullaby, her baby recognizes it and calms down almost immediately.

Writing the lullaby has helped the mother heal. It’s been a priceless gift to both her and her child. “It is timeless and it will outlast me.”

“Lost in the wilderness/Ancient tears carried forth/ Released from ancestor’s wounds./And in the darkness/And where the seed was sowed/Miracles and moonlit prayers/Demon cast out under vast skies/For love is stronger than all that dies/ Remember beloved/You are the purest light.”

The Vancouver project grew out of serendipity.

Laura Barron has transitioned from being a concert flutist with a doctorate in music to using art for healing and empowering vulnerable women, including those in prison and living on the Downtown Eastside, through her non-profit Instruments of Change.

Laura Barron, who is the founders of Instruments of Change, which did the Lullaby Project earlier this year relaxing at home in Vancouver, B.C., December 5, 2017. NICK PROCAYLO /  PNG

During a three-day professional development residency at the University of Michigan last February, Barron heard about the Carnegie Hall project from a professor. A few months later, her husband was having a casual conversation with YWCA CEO Janet Austin about the work Barron was doing. Austin and Barron connected and the Vancouver Lullaby Project was born, with YWCA staff helping identify the women from among participants of its many programs.

Barron had some discretionary money from Instruments of Change’s annual gala that was enough to hire two other socially engaged musicians, Leah Abramson and Missy Donaldson. 

The six mothers and the three professional musicians met, sang lullabies, talked about songs they loved, and the mothers wrote letters to their children to get the ideas flowing. Then, each mother and her musician/collaborator met separately.

Although the mothers have lovely voices, none plays an instrument. So, Barron says, they were like music directors determining the “feel” of the lullaby, the tempo and whether it would be in a major or minor key, slow or fast.

When the writing and rehearsing was done, they went to Hipposonic Studios, which gave them free studio space and an engineer free to record and edit the lullabies, which are now in the Carnegie Hall archives. They also performed their lullabies in October at an invitation-only concert at Tom Lee Music and will sing them again Jan. 31 at an Instruments of Change fundraiser.

The goal is not to turn mothers into performers, says Barron. It’s more complicated and nuanced. The goal is to use music as a tool for mothers to forge deep connections with their children, a way to create a safe, intimate space for them away from trauma and everyday fears and to enhance the child’s early development.

“Today be kind to others/Today be kind to you/Tonight let’s say a little prayer/And dream of all you’ll do/ Watching pinwheels, playing ball/Hearing waves crash, eating ice cream cones/Dancing with Mommy, taking baths/Cooking zucchini, climbing everything/You are my world/You are my joy.”

 One of the mothers read and sang to her child while she was pregnant and struggling in an emotionally abusive relationship.

“I would lock myself in the bedroom and feel like I was with somebody else. I would open a book of poems, hold my belly — hold my baby — and sing or read to remind myself that I would have this baby and I would have to take care of my baby and take care of myself. But I would try to tell myself that things will get better and change.”

Soon after the baby was born, she left the relationship. Newly single with a newborn, she felt isolated and alone.

“It was during the process of writing the song and meeting with the group that this has put my child back to the centre of my universe because I was so overwhelmed with everything,” she says.

Now, when she sings her lullaby, “My baby sees something that changes in me when I sing the lullaby. I think my baby knows that this song is something special. It’s about me talking about my baby … My baby will have this song forever.”




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The time we made the associated press

Death Cab's Walla: Feds Took My Music





The Associated Press
Wednesday, October 17, 2007; 11:19 PM


SEATTLE -- The guitarist for indie pop rockers Death Cab for Cutie still expects to release his solo album in January even though federal border agents seized a computer hard drive containing the master tracks.

A courier was headed to Seattle-based Barsuk Records from a studio in Vancouver, British Columbia, when U.S. Border Patrol agents seized the hard drive Sept. 19, Chris Walla said Wednesday.

"I don't know what red flag could possibly have gone up at the border," Walla said in a phone interview from Portland, Ore. "It's so baffling to me."

Walla said he had been in British Columbia working on the album called "Field Manual." Barsuk needed the music to meet its production schedule, and a Hipposonic Studios employee volunteered to drive the mixed songs, on tape, and the original master tracks, on a computer hard drive.


Guards at the Peace Arch border crossing in Blaine let the courier keep the tapes but seized the hard drive for examination by computer forensics experts, according to Walla and Hipposonic President Rob Darch.

Mike Milne, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said late Wednesday that Immigration and Customs Enforcement forensics experts had examined it and decided it could be released.

"We have attempted to make two notifications to the importer to pick it up, that it's free to go, but we haven't heard back from him," Milne said, adding it appeared those were phone messages left between Sept. 19 and Oct. 1.

Walla said he believed the confiscation was random.

Walla had the seized files on a backup hard drive on Vancouver Island, which was copied and shipped to Seattle. The lost time prevented Walla from finishing the album on time, but it's still expected to be released Jan. 29, said Josh Rosenfeld, the label's co-founder.


© 2007 The Associated Press