Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Barney and Friends: Let's Help Mother Goose!


In this episode of Barney and Friends, Mother Goose's book of nursery rhymes is eaten by a bookworm, so Barney and the kids help her remember all the rhymes while she writes them down again. In this scenario, the relationships among print literature for children, oral traditions, games, and material play become clear in the dynamics of the nursery rhyme. Although Mother Goose can't remember her rhymes, which she wrote so long ago, the kids know them from memory and repetition. As they recite the rhymes for Mother Goose, they sometimes say them and sometimes sing them. They act them out as well, incorporating toys, costumes, and other material effects, using a tea set for "Polly Put the Kettle On" and cat ears for "Three Little Kittens." They put together puzzles illustrating the rhymes while repeating them. These activities culminate in "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush," a classic children's circle game with choreography. In the nursery rhyme, concepts of literariness and musicality converge. All of these activities, along with reading, or being read to, are integral to the transmission of the rhymes.  Indeed, Barney and Friends bases most of its songs on nursery rhymes and their tunes, constituting yet another way in which nursery songs are not only transmitted but also transformed in repetition. "Yankee Doodle" provides the tune for the show's theme song, and "This Old Man" becomes the show's other theme, "I Love You," which is sung at the end of the episode. This method of setting new words to an existing tune, contrafactum, is core practice of children's music by children and the adults who collaborate with them.

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