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Claudia Robin Gunn - Album Review: Firefly

02 Oct 2023 // A review by Trevor Faville

Working in music education gives some insight into what challenging area that Children’s Music can be. The first essential consideration is simply coming to terms with the makeup of the audience, and knowing that children, whanau, and teachers are combined into particularly unique ‘demographic’.

Secondly, from a compositional angle there are many considerations, as connection with-and inclusion of-the audience is essential. The approach to how to combine musical elements involves making choices with a great deal of care. This becomes vital because audience response in this genre may be articulated in a wide range of subtle, and not-so-subtle ways. Frankly, If ever there is a crowd that can tell if you don't “mean it, man”, It's this one. Writing 'Kids' Music requires a steady hand, because It's a tightrope, and a long way down.

Claudia Robin Gunn brings considerable experience into Firefly, she and co - contributor Dean Jones have an extensive background as performers in a range of musical contexts. Gunn’s previous work in Children's Music is impressive, in terms of sheer catalogue and where her work is being performed. Jones also has been running his band Dog on Fleas since 1999 and producing over 85 albums(!) for himself and other artists.

There is no question that these two are thoroughly versed in how to work effectively in this genre.

The writing on Firefly displays a consistent emphasis on strong melodic writing. Every song hangs on melodies with effective balance between leaps and steps. Not just ‘catchy’ (you won't get away with that) these melodies are well crafted over longer phrase structures. Listen to the phrasing in the verses of Winning to hear an assured and experienced vocalist fitting words to a melodic line.

In terms of Instrumentation and arrangement, there are steady and professional hands at work here. Vocal harmonies abound, tempos are mostly in the middle ground from Andante- Allegro Moderato and the choices of timbre for instrumentations are careful to work in support of the vocal framework. Groove isn't ignored- the arrangements remain sufficiently rhythmically lively, without becoming relentless or overly repetitive-this is another area where Guinn and Jones’ experience in this genre is clear. As an example, Listen to how the slow tempo of Little By Little is kept lively with a sixteenth note ostinato pattern. Sympathetic production means that these subtle effects are not lost.

Lyrical considerations are a key aspect, and this is where Gunn’s experience in this genre really shines. Listen closely to the lyrics of Only One You, Hope is a Verb and Superheroes for examples of affecting and effective lyric writing. The difference is that of talking ‘to’ and talking ‘with’ your audience. This balance has to be just right, elsewise the message is entirely lost. The songs on Firefly excel at this.

The 'crossover' song is Scooter. Bookended with the phrase “watch me go" there is a nod to the tradition of tearjerker songs like Tom Waits' Kentucky Avenue or Billy Braggs' Tank Park Salute where an adult reflects on their own childhood. Gunn and Jones don't apply the same emotional sledgehammer, though! The approach to Scooter is characteristically subtle, creating a wistful and gently melancholic mood. It's a standout track.

Experience, musical skill, intelligence and understanding of the audience are all blended effectively in Firefly. Gunn and Jones have crafted a clever and engaging collection of songs. If we consider the work of the Sesame Workshop - when one thinks of classics like Born to Add or Feist’s Counting to Four (we ALL have our favourites) this is the tradition to which Firefly deservedly belongs.

 

About Claudia Robin Gunn

Claudia Robin Gunn’s kids folk music captures the golden essence of childhood. Twice awarded APRA's children's song of the year award, she loves to support families with music that offers delights and surprises for both parents and the kids they love. Her independent label is Little Wild Music.

Claudia is a songwriter with electronic act Substax, a long term collaboration with fellow artist and producer Nick Farrands.

Claudia is a member of the Recording Academy and Children's Music Network in the USA and APRA Amcos NZ, Music Manager's Forum, Independent Music NZ and Kiwi Kids Music in New Zealand.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Claudia Robin Gunn

Releases

Firefly
Year: 2023
Type: Album
Little Wild Christmas Volume 2
Year: 2021
Type: Album
Little, Wild and Spooky
Year: 2021
Type: EP
Little Wild Universe
Year: 2020
Type: Album
Little Wild Christmas
Year: 2019
Type: Album
Little Wild Lullabies
Year: 2016
Type: Album

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