Interview: Inside NYPL Sings! and "Greetings From NYC"
To celebrate the release of NYPL Sings, NYPL’s first album of original children’s songs written and performed by NYPL staff, let's check out the method behind the music!
The first song on NYPL Sings, "Greetings From NYC," is an upbeat, joyful celebration of language and diversity. The song is written and sung by executive producer Emily Lazio (read her interview here) and Joey Picciotto, with the help of native language speakers Ruth Rodriguez, Sallie Baron, Ching Yi (Christy) Lau, Alessandra Affinitio, and Alyona Glushchenkova, who all lent their voices and translation skills.
We asked Joey what it’s like to write a song that features multiple languages and music styles, and what makes "Greetings From NYC" such a special part of the album.
What inspired the tone and rhythm of this song? What did you want to evoke?
As far as all those interesting arrangements you hear, that was, to my understanding, the work of Sean Ferguson. The music I'd written was a simple folksy progression, but it went through a pretty amazing metamorphosis by the time it was released. It was really incredible to hear Latin guitars behind the Spanish vocal and quarter-tones behind the Arabic vocal; it really painted an image of a colorful and diverse city, where people can sing the same song and bring a completely different aesthetic to it.
Obviously you and Emily don't speak every language featured on this album. How did you recruit native speakers and what was that process like?
Well, the first step was deciding which languages to even use. We grew up in the 80s and 90s, when classrooms had a very Euro-centric understanding of foreign language, so we revamped that to include languages that more closely resembled the NYC population. After that, Emily worked her networking magic to seek out the singers, and the only thing I know about that process is that it took a long time. We have a lot of people who can sing at NYPL and a lot of people who speak foreign languages, but we knew finding people who can do both was going to be a challenge.
What about this song is unique to NYC?
I think it's important to highlight that NYC is a haven of arts and culture because people from all over the world are welcome here. The Statue of Liberty has always stood as a reminder that this beautiful city is defined by its diverse immigrant population and, after this song, I hope that the library lions serve as such a reminder as well.
You can listen to "Greetings from NYC" here—keep your ears out for all the languages featured! Singing breaks down syllables in words and helps build vocabulary, and research tells us that exposure to multiple languages positively impacts a child’s experience in school and life. Now you and your child can practice saying hello in English, Spanish, French, Mandarin , Russian, and Arabic.
Did you know we have early literacy kits in all the languages heard on "Greetings from NYC"? Our early literacy kits contain a board book, tip sheet, and growth chart for you and your child to practice early literacy at home. If you read and write in Spanish, French, Chinese, Russian, Korean, Spanish, Bengali, or Arabic, ask your local branch where you can get a copy of a bilingual early literacy kit in your language.
Learn more about early literacy at NYPL here.