by Nat Bartsch
I have always been the kind of musician who wants to soothe troubled hearts and minds with the music they make. For me, at least, I think this aspiration comes directly from my own experience of depression and anxiety throughout my life. Life can be filled with so much pain and heartache—and reaching out to music in those moments is one of the simplest and purest things you can do.
When I was pregnant I decided to channel my gentle style of music-making into creating an album of lullabies. Unlike a lot of other music for babies, however, my primary goal was different. Whilst it is an album designed to help babies fall asleep, it is also, equally importantly, an album designed to be enjoyed by adults. The measure I had was: if you didn’t have a baby around, would you still want to listen to it? For people whom music is a special part of their lives, it seems odd that suddenly when a baby arrives, their listening has to be restricted to music that they don’t enjoy! I interviewed a couple of music therapists who completely agreed with me about my idea: if the parents are calm, the baby is far more likely to be calm.
I learned that music that uses gentle sounds (such as piano), repetitive ideas, simple melodies and chords, consistent volume and moderate tempos akin to a mother’s heartbeat could all help babies relax. Fortunately for me, many of these devices I already used in my music, so it was not too hard to modify things!
Most of the songs were written with my newborn son in my arm at the piano and are named after his various stages of development. I was very lucky to record the album with my dear friend and piano luminary Luke Howard, who contributed ambient electronics.
The album is called ‘Forever, and No Time At All’, describing that feeling of parenting where time goes simultaneously very fast and very slow – almost as if you’ve known them all your life. Since the album’s release I’ve been blown away by the feedback from people, young and old. This album is now the soundtrack to many families’ lives. It has been used in the birthing suite, at sleep schools, by parents experiencing PND, and by countless families going about their evening routine or night-time feeds. I feel incredibly honoured to positively contribute to families at such a vulnerable time in their lives – if ‘Forever’ had this impact only once for one family, it would have all been worth it. To see the effect grow is an absolute gift.
I hope you enjoy listening!
Nat is performing her lullaby project at two upcoming concerts in the school holidays (all ages welcome):
Melbourne: Tues 24 September 11am
Tempo Rubato (34 Breese St Brunswick) https://www.trybooking.com/book/event?eid=544895
$22 for parent and child
Sydney: Sat 28 September 10.15am
Zoneout Fest (the opening act of a day-long festival of neoclassical music and mindfulness)
See more and purchase Nat’s album here
About the Author
Nat Bartsch is a Melbourne-based pianist and composer who creates lyrical, ethereal work that crosses chamber jazz and postclassical genres. Nat is a mental health advocate dedicated to promoting the health and wellbeing of performing artists. She speaks about mindfulness and music, and has undertaken research exploring bipolar disorder and creativity.