Songs and Recordings
This page contains audio recordings that sometimes supplement our students' other work: one relaxation script and three sets of songs.
Psychological Skills Songs: Spirit of Nonviolence
These songs about psychological skills feature Dr. Strayhorn singing and playing the guitar, with Steve Paris providing accompaniment on the keyboard and drums. Most of these songs were also written by Dr. Strayhorn; he provides a bit more information about each below.
Track 01: Spirit of Nonviolence. This first song puts into words a wish for a world which grows ever more peaceful and kind. I composed the melody for this one when I was in my 20’s, and the words when I was in my 40’s (or so). I loved watching my daughters dance around to this one when they were young.
Track 02: Here's How You Learn. This song is my attempt to mention some of the processes for optimal learning – the use of modeling, the use of self-reinforcement, a dearth of self-punishment and self-criticism, and lots of practice. The skill of productivity is at the center of this song.
Track 03: Maybe Someday. This is another song that envisions and hopes for a nonviolent world. It’s a simple song, easy for young children to learn and sing. But I hope that the basic idea of a wish for nonviolence and harmony in human relations is something we don’t outgrow.
Track 04: Who Was the Braver Man. This song deals with the issue of machismo, the tendency of young males to establish their position on dominance hierarchies by fighting each other. In the song, one of two men chooses not to accede to the senselessness of dominance-oriented fighting. The song asks the question of which man was braver, and I hope that to the listeners, the composer’s assumed answer to the question is pretty obvious. This is about the skills of nonviolence and conflict resolution.
Track 05: What's the Most Important Thing About a Person? People worry so much about, and pay so much attention to, the relatively superficial aspects of themselves and others: their outward appearances, what clothes they wear, the color of their skins, whether they are exactly the right body weight, and so forth. In this song I make a pitch for focusing more upon how much we make the world a better place, with the reminder that making even one person happy succeeds in this goal.
Track 06: Many Different Ways to Solve a Problem. This song focuses on the basic process of listing options and choosing among them. If we can cultivate the reflex, when things go wrong, of rationally generating alternative responses to the problem situation, evaluating them as well as we can, and enacting the best one, we will have a habit that will be highly conducive to a happy and successful life. This is about the skill of good decision making.
Track 07: When You Love Someone. What’s the meaning of love? People who profess to love one another often make one another pretty miserable. Sometimes the possessiveness that people think is a product of love leads one to act quite hateful to a partner or ex-partner. The song, When You Love Someone, is my statement of the idea that the most basic and central aspect of the meaning of the word “love” that I like the best is a wish to see the other person happy – a wish for the other person’s welfare. A very simple idea, in a simple song, but an idea that is all too often overlooked.
Track 08: I Can Take It. This song is about the skill of fortitude. When things go badly, a good algorithm is, to make things better if possible, and to tolerate what we don’t like if we can’t find a way to make things better. The “not awfulizing” affirmation that “I can take it” seems to make things go much better than the “awfulizing” thought, “I can’t stand it.”
Track 09: If You Read and Follow Directions. One of the amazing and wonderful things about this world is that there is so much written information available, telling us how to do almost anything we want to do. One of the major goals of education is for people to gain the ability to assimilate written directions and to follow them successfully. With this master skill, all sorts of other skills can be acquired. This song simply celebrates how many useful and fun things you can do when you've nailed the skill of following written directions.
Track 10: I Can Hear the Sound of Kindness in the Air. If you’re a classroom teacher, especially with young children, you might observe their spontaneous interactions with one another, watch for the kind interactions, and burst into a few lines of I Can Hear the Sound of Kindness to commemorate and recognize the positivity you’ve seen. The same goes for parents who observe siblings. Musical reinforcers and attention-givers for positive interactions for some children may be more powerful than prose statements.
Track 11: Cooperation. The emphasis on competition is everywhere in our lives. Cooperation is a little song to celebrate the collaborative element of human interaction, the part that makes life something other than fighting.
Track 12: Golden Rule Song. This song contains one sentence of lyrics, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The Golden Rule is an idea which dates at least as far back as the time of Confucius. There are statements of it in many of the world’s religions. It’s fairly similar to the “Categorical Imperative” that is the center of the system of ethics espoused by the philosopher Immanuel Kant. Our family has from time to time used this little musical version of it as something to sing together before eating. It sounds good if someone can add a harmony part above or below the melody.
Track 13: Ole, Ole. This song is about the use of positive reinforcement and approval. A more liberal use of approval, both toward others and toward oneself, would almost certainly make the world a better place.
Track 14: Friends, Friends, Friends. This is a song composed by some anonymous person. A friend of mine taught it to me many years ago. It’s a very simple one, suitable for very young children, but the fundamental image of people having friends who love and help each other is one that should never expire.
Track 15: The Best You Can Do. This song is a life story of a nonviolence activist, who chooses to devote his life to the struggle for peace. At the end of his life, the bombs are still exploding, and hatred is still an uncured disease. But the man is proud of his struggle, realizing that the quest for a nonviolent world will take many people over many generations, and that being a part of that quest was the best thing that he could do.
Track 16: What Are the Qualities That Make Life Better? At the core of the work I’ve done in psychoeducational tutoring is a list of psychological skills. People can call these by different names and put them in different orders, but when they make lists of the positive qualities that constitute psychological health, they tend to come up with something resembling the lists I’ve been making and revising since almost four decades ago. The song, What Are the Qualities, is mainly a little jingle that helps to remember a very central list of 16 skills and principles: productivity, joyousness, kindness, honesty, fortitude, etc. This jingle has gone through my mind thousands of times as I go through the list of psychological skills that I use almost daily.
The Alphabet Song, which most children learn to the tune of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” is a great way for many children to learn the names of the letters. For many of us, songs stick in the mind much more easily than non-melodic information. The album is an attempt to extend this idea to a whole batch of letter songs. These songs are meant to teach not only the names of the letters, but also the much more important information of the sounds that the letters make. Some children have liked the songs on this CD enough to listen to them repeatedly, and learn them thoroughly; these children have gotten a really big head start into reading.
These are sung by Joe Strayhorn, who also provided acoustic guitar accompaniment; keyboards and percussion are added by Steve Paris. And again, Dr. Strayhorn provides a bit more information about each song below.
Track 01: Aah as in Apple. This song uses the tune of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” to connect each letter sound to a word that has that sound as its initial sound. The words are the same as those used in my book, Manual for Tutors and Teachers of Reading.
Track 02: The A says Aah. This song connects the names of the letters with their most frequent sounds, using the tune of “Jimmy Crack Corn.”
Track 03: This is What the Letters Say. This song goes through the letter sounds, with each one repeated 5 times. The melody is from a folk tune I heard. It’s a nice one to dance around to.
Track 04: Letter Names and Sounds. This is another song that gives the letter names and their most frequent sounds; put to a tune by Joe.
Track 05: Alphabet Song to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle. This is the traditional alphabet song, to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. A couple of changes are made. The rhythm is altered a little bit so that you don’t have to conglomerate the letters "lmnop" so quickly. And there’s a second verse with the letter sounds, to go with the first verse of letter names.
Track 06: The Vowels Song. The hardest sounds to remember are those of the short vowels. This song is meant to give quick concentrated modeling of the vowel sounds.
Track 07: Balls and Sticks. Another very difficult challenge for some beginning readers is distinguishing between b and d and between p and q. In my opinion, it was a bad idea to make these letters mirror images of one another – but, the person who made up the alphabet didn’t consult me! This song is meant to help the listener remember that the “ball” is to the right of the “stick” with b and p, and to the left with d and q. Now all he/she has to do is to remember what left and right are!
Track 08: The Letter Sounds, to the tune of "Brother John". This just uses another traditional melody to sing the letter sounds. As with the original, you can sing this in a round.
Track 09: The Letter Sounds, to the tune of "99 Bottles". This version, as you will notice, gets faster and faster with each verse. The idea is that we want kids not only to know the letter sounds, but to be “fluent” in them – to be able to be quick and automatic. For this song I expropriated the melody of 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall. Whereas I find the original lyrics of this song rather annoying, I seem to never tire of the replacement ones! (But maybe that's because I've never heard anyone even try to sing them 99 times in a row.)
Track 10: The Blends Song. This final song progresses from single letters to two-letter blends like ph, th, aw, and so forth. The tune is lifted from a traditional song called “I'm Going to Leave Old Texas Now.”
Songs for Math Learners: Skip Counting Songs
Here are some songs that help learn multiplication facts for one digit numbers. You can listen to the skip counting song for a set of facts involving a particular digit, or the composite songs for digits 2 through 9. For those who are using the book Reading About Math, the multiplication table, which constitutes the lyrics to these songs, is on page 84.
For the melodies to these songs Dr. Strayhorn was inspired by (or stole from) the vocal exercises written by Nicola Vaccai. (He lived from 1790 to 1848, and thus his voice-training melodies are in the public domain.) Some of his melodies are meant to illustrate a certain musical interval – a certain jump in pitch. The songs for the times 2's and the times 8's go along the major scale. The times 3's and times 6's illustrate thirds; the times 7's illustrate fourths; the times 9's illustrate fifths.