Behind the Music Box Orchestra
You don’t know it, but you probably know Bill Weisbach. Bill is the “ears” behind our Baby Einstein Music Box Orchestra. In fact, he has been writing beautiful music for Baby Einstein ever since its inception. He does it all—from composing to playing to producing—and because of his vibrant vision, Baby Einstein music helps introduce little ears to Mozart (hyperlink), Beethoven (hyperlink), and traditional and original music (hyperlink) from all over the globe.
How long have you been composing music and sound design for Baby Einstein?
“I started composing music for Baby Einstein in 1997; the first video title, (then named) BabyEinstein featured images, movement and color, short poems, with verse and recitations in several languages, and simple focused melodies, rhythms, and natural sounds. For that title, I composed the original theme and music score, and also created the sound design.”
How did you get involved with Baby Einstein?
“When my son was very young, I wrote several lullabies and also created some sound collages for him – as a means of exposing him to music and sound, and also to provide a unique way for us to interact in quieter settings. When my friends Bill and Julie Clark invited me to discuss ideas for a video ‘board book’ for young children, I was very much in the midst of the sharing this new joy of music with my child. As new parents, the timing for all of us couldn’t have been better!”
Were you musical as a child?
“I grew up in a musical family; my mom played piano and my dad played string bass in a swing band. I was fortunate to have lots of encouragement and I was deeply curious about how instruments made their specific sounds. My first instruments, after pots and pans in the kitchen, were piano and guitar. When I was 11 or so, my grandmother treated me to season tickets at the symphony, and around that same time I heard Switched on Bach (Bach’s music realized on the Moog synthesizer). Right then, I had this new interest in color, and it wasn’t visual, but instead the color of music. Between hearing live acoustic symphony performances and these beautiful and strangely organic electronic timbres, I wanted to compose my own music.
So I got way interested in percussion instruments, and also exploring raw sound – making our family piano and other instruments sound unlike their natural selves: I used my dad’s bass bow on my cymbals and I dropped pennies and other things into the piano while scraping the strings (which I still love to do). Anything to explore timbre – not so great for the piano, but great fun for me!”
Describe the sound of the Baby Einstein Music Box Orchestra
“My aim with Baby Einstein is to create and present music that is fun and engaging for children, and also to expose them to music they may pursue more growing up. The Baby Einstein Music Box orchestrations are intended to provide a colorful, playful experience – created specially for little ears.
Take the idea of a music box with it’s intimate, resonant sound, capable of vibrant musical color. For the Baby Einstein classical music titles (starting with Baby Mozart) I experimented using different instrument sounds and blends, and liked how plucked sounds worked with softly struck sounds. Orchestrated with other instruments worked to create a musical feel which is not specifically, but suggestive of, the magical sound of a music box.”
How do you go about composing music for Baby Einstein, and what inspiration do you look to?
“I compose original themes, instrumental scores, and songs for Baby Einstein – and each kind of music requires a different approach, with it’s own starting point. I’m a big fan of creating music using what’s around, which is also an incredible experience to share with your child – spending time together to whistle a tune, clap out a beat, tap out a simple rhythm on a can or home-made shaker, move, and find the music around you.
Right now, I’m composing new original music for a Baby Einstein DVD, which is inspired by different cultures as well as aspects of different colors – some very cool stuff! But whatever the style of music I’m composing or arranging, my goal is to create a fun musical experience for the child.”
Baby Einstein also has music CD titles – how are they different from the DVDs?
“The Baby Einstein music CDs represent a really wonderful growing library of music that includes featured music appearing from the DVDs along with additional music, not on the DVDs. I’ve produced these CD titles so that each is designed and paced to provide an altogether different experience from the DVDs: since there is no visual, the focus is entirely on the music and the music can be enjoyed in different settings. A couple titles feature traditional songs with child vocalists accompanied by activities so that children can interact with parents and/or other children clapping, dancing, playing and singing. Focus is on interaction, appreciation of basic music forms and, of course, sharing the musical fun!”