Goodnight Moon: You've Read the Book, Now Listen to the Music

January 17, 2014 | Deb

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Goodnight Moon originalBack in 1945, when children's author Margaret Wise Brown woke up and wrote down the words to a book that had come to her in a dream, no one imagined that this book, first called "Goodnight Room", would become a classic loved by generations of children around the world.

Today, almost 70 years after that fruitful dream, "Goodnight Moon" is a cultural icon and available in an astonishing range of formats and languages, including Spanish ("Buenas Noches, Luna") and French ("Bonsoir Lune") and Braille, to name just a few. These three editions and more are at the library.

"Goodnight Moon" has also inspired numerous parodies, including this one which cleverly sends up the same cozy bedtime rituals that Margaret Wise Brown wrote about in the first edition:

Goodnight iPad

In short, there's now a "Goodnight Moon" of one kind or another for almost everyone -- including one that acknowledges our fascination with technology.

What there has not been, at least until recently, is a musical interpretation of Margaret Wise Brown's text. Her text, which lists ordinary, everyday objects (socks, comb, brush,) somehow presents these things in a way that is viewed as -- and there is a wide range of feelings on this matter -- either perplexing and odd ("What's the deal with the bowl of mush?") or mystical and maybe even a bit profound.


Goodnight Moon interior

But whatever one's feeling about the words, at the end of the day, there is something about the rhyming verse that invites a second (and third and fourth ...) reading. The words are simple and yet compelling, just right for a young child getting ready for bed. Soothing and gentle, they're like a lullaby. All that's missing is the music.

Thanks to the efforts of my colleague Patrick (Thank you, Patrick!) I was delighted to learn about the musical version of "Goodnight Moon" composed by Eric Whitacre. Part of his 2012 recording called "Water Night," this song captures all the mysterious, poetic, "what-does-it-all-mean-anyway?" mood of the book. You can listen to an excerpt of "Goodnight Moon" here:




The singer with the lovely, silvery voice is Eric Whitacre's wife, Hila Plitmann, who talks below about the significance "Goodnight Moon" holds for the two of them and their young son. Interestingly, she notes that the composing of the song, like Margaret Wise Brown's writing of the words, happened very quickly.




Eric Whitacre first came to my attention as the composer behind the Virtual Choir project, which brings together thousands of singers from around the world to perform his works as part of a giant "there-but-not-really-there" high-tech choir. ("Water Night" also features Virtual Choir performances.)

There's a terrific overview of Mr. Whitacre's Virtual Choir work in the following TED --Technology, Entertainment, Design -- talk that he gave. What a choir he has created!



The complete "Water Night" CD is available from the library here.

As well, the library has the following highly readable works about Margaret Wise Brown. They're written by Leonard Marcus, a historian and children's literature critic with a passion for children's books. Both works include interesting facts and little-known background on the writing of "Goodnight Moon." The slim book on the right, below, also shows the page where Margaret Wise Brown wrote her first (and, remarkably, almost final) draft of "Goodnight Moon" immediately after waking.


                            Awakened by the moon                Making of Goodnight Moon

Happy listening and reading -- and please let me know your thoughts (yea or nay and why) about "Goodnight Moon." I would love to hear them.