Elena Moon Park – How Nature Inspires Art and Music


When it comes to weather right now, I’d say we are a nation divided. The calendar says it’s spring though many are still experiencing the effects of winter. At the same time, other parts of the world are experiencing winter at just the right time.

During her visit to Iceland, Elena Moon Park, was inspired by the beauty of a freshly powdered landscape. Seeing the art in nature is something that inspires her as an artist and informs her craft as a musician. Below Park shares inspiring thoughts about her relationship with the natural world and the beauty of its elements, particularly during winter.

The photos featured below are by Elena Moon Park. You can view additional photos of her Icelandic adventure here.

At one time or another, I imagine that we all see ourselves as minuscule beings rambling through a boundless world of natural landscapes. Perhaps this is becoming less common in recent generations, as we continue to surround ourselves with buildings and technology. Once in awhile, I am reminded of the sweeping power of the natural world, and I am invariably captivated by the thought. I feel a deep reverence towards nature — this unyielding, powerful, unforgiving, breathtaking and beautiful force – and I embrace

Elena Moon Park - Rabbit Days and Dumplings Cover Artthese moments of reflection as crucial and wholly inspiring reminders.

Many of the tunes I discovered in the process of recording Rabbit Days and Dumplings reflect wonderment at brilliant natural forces. The Korean traditional song “Poong-Nyun Ga” celebrates the fall harvest season, the Japanese sea shanty Soran Bushi depicts life on the rough oceans, the Korean ballad “Doraji” describes a white root that grows on the mountainside.

Reverence towards nature is heightened for me in wintertime. Where I live and in many parts of the country, people are fed up with the snow, ice and freezing temperatures. It has obstructed work and lives and travel, and I understand the frustration. But when I step out of the madness of the city and stand in silence in a snowy landscape, I feel invigorated and deeply calm. A canvas of white snow and ice covers the earth. A stillness and silence take over. In winter, the majesty of these natural landscapes astonishes me.


I’m fascinated winter’s intricate, complex formations; ice on ponds, streams, trees, and icicles dripping from rooftop gutters. Cracks crawl slowly across icy surfaces, somehow appearing random and orderly at once. Fresh, untouched snow sits on top of bare trees, outlining the coordinated tangle of tree limbs. Mountains, frozen lakes and snowy plains blend into the horizon of white winter skies. Landscapes are still, except for the wind that stirs the powdered snow. I breathe fresh, cold air. I feel energy. Beauty. Solitude.


Make Your Own Irish Drum for St. Patty’s Day with Daria!

Top o’ the mornin’ to ya!

20050102_daria_003Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou, aka DARIA, a World Music children’s performer and American folk singer, devoted to educating children about world music. Daria has traveled the world collecting and immersing herself in musical styles while also introducing these cultural artifacts to children around the world. I love World Music and always feel as though I learn something new about a country’s culture and its people through the style of their music and the musical instruments used so following Daria has been a wonderful learning experience for both me and Em.

Daria is passionate about the power of creating and sharing music on a global level. To encourage this, she regularly features multi-cultural activities as a resource for parents, teachers, home schoolers and kids of all abilities. Whether she is making crafts such as button castanets, transforming a cardboard box into a cajon (a drum shaped like a box), or mimicking the sounds of a washboard using manila file folders and a spoon, Daria encourages kids and parents to really experience music in a holistic way.

Today I am excited to present a guest post by Daria for St. Patrick’s Day! Read on to learn how you can make a hand drum, called a bodhrán, out of of simple everyday objects.

To learn more about Daria, check out her official site which features songs that are popular or represent celebrations in different countries around the world.

Make Your Own Irish Drum for St. Patrick’s Day

Looking for a last minute craft to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with the kids?  This easy hand-held drum is fun to create from “take-out” containers and is easy to play for kids of all ages. Modeled after the bodhrán from the Celtic tradition of Ireland, younger kids can tap the drum and older ones can try the more traditional method of playing the drum with a “tipper” or cipín (in Celtic).
bodhrans on green
What is a Bodhrán?
The bodhrán (pronounced “bow-ron”) is a hand drum that probably evolved from farm tools.  Music historians believe it was created in rural areas where farmers took big round, grain sieves and turned them sideways to be used like drums or tambourines.  To play this drum, you use a special beater that is held in the middle of the stick and the drum is tapped with both ends to create beautiful rhythms.
Although it sounds a bit complicated, it isn’t hard to play after a little bit of practice.
Take-out container and lid
Materials to decorate (paint, markers, stickers, glitter, glue, etc.)
2 plastic spoons
Make Your Drum And Tipper
take out bodhrans
Your take-out container works perfectly as a drum already.  But feel free to take the lid off and decorate it as you please or with a St. Patrick’s Day theme.  Then put the lid back on and create the special stick to play your drum.tippers for bodhran
To make the tipper, tape together two recycled plastic spoons.  If you don’t have any spoons handy, you can use unsharpened pencils or chopsticks as well.
Time To Play!
Everyone loves to play a drum!  You can start to play by simply tapping the drum with your tipper and making a beat.  Then try holding the tipper in the middle and letting the spoons on each side tap back and forth.  Tap one side first, then the other.  Try is slowly, then pick up a bit of speed, while keeping a beat.
Need a little inspiration?  This video shows a masterful musician from Ireland playing slowly at first and then demonstrating all kinds of wonderful ways to play this wonderful British Isles drum.
Happy St. Patty’s Day To One And All!

Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou

World Music Childrens Performer, DARIA (Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou) has spent the last two decades performing in the USA and around the world, creating music to inspire all the world’s children.  Along with numerous national awards for her culturally diverse music, Daria’s website (www.dariamusic.com) was given a Parent’s Choice Award and offers a variety of great resources for teachers, parents and kids of all abilities.

Exploring Kids’ Music Album Art: The Perfect Quirk by Secret Agent 23 Skidoo


Secret Agent 23 SkidooThe Perfect Quirk

Secret Agent 23 Skidoo’s 2014 Grammy nominated release rode in on the wave of encouraging kids to be themselves. This empowering proposition has been the underpinning of Skidoo’s genesis as a kids’ musician.

Throughout his career, Skidoo has been a staunch advocate of embracing your quirks, standing proud and tall and being who you are. His expressive style of encouraging kids to show their natural, bold colors is complemented well with the tonal choices made by North Carolina-based artist, John Hairston, Jr

Hairston, jr. is a fine art painter who often captures the juxtaposition of beauty and oddity. The images that appear throughout The Perfect Quirk packaging are unique for a kids’ album cover, and together with the music make a cohesive package. Skidoo is a kid hop artist and pays respect to the hip hop genre by including elements such as his graffiti tagged name, and the third eye of the boy on the back cover.

Emily carried this CD around for weeks completely fascinated by the metamorphic characteristics of the kids, especially the boy with the third eye. She was intrigued and wanted to know what the reasoning was behind the choices made for the cover. Seeing the peculiar images piqued her curiosity and imagination over and over again which ultimately enhance her listening experience.


“The kids and parents all represent a mutation towards higher consciousness. The boy is spiritual, with a 3rd eye representing higher awareness. The girl has antennae, representing alien or intergalactic consciousness. The mother is multi-armed, riffing off Hindu deities and the Dad has angel wings. The race is supposed to be a futuristic mix of all races, when racism has been put down and everybody gets with everybody. The skin color, hairstyle, face and eye shape, etc.” Continue reading

Music + Art: Edie Carey and Sarah Sample – ‘Til The Morning: Lullabies and Songs of Comfort


Edie Carey & Sarah Sample – Til’ The Morning: Lullabies & Songs of Comfort.

Edie Carey & Sarah Sample join forces to bring this gorgeous lullaby album to life. Their hauntingly beautiful harmonies create a soothing atmosphere for new parents and their little ones. The duo’s hushed lullabies are full of emotion that will swell your heart. Each song delivers a special kind of comfort and poignancy that matches the deeply tender expression between the maternal figure and her infant.

The alluring illustration was done by Caitlin Connolly, a Utah-based artist who explores the human experience, with an emphasis on women in different life phases. In this piece, Connolly exhibits thoughtful detail and subtle textures using curves and lines that, together, create an intimate scene and an intensity that is palpable.

In her personal statement, Connolly expresses:

“My work often explores the feminine experience as I attempt to understand myself and all women more fully and view them the way I see them – powerful yet flawed.”

When I first saw the album art, I was flooded with memories, recalling the potent range of emotions I felt as a new mother. However, after hearing Carey and Sample share their raw, personal experiences, I was compelled to look even further at Connolly’s design.

Sample explains,

“I have known Caitlin Connolly for many years and watched her art and drawings evolve over time. She seems to have settled into her artistry in a deep and beautiful way, often drawing women and life phases they are in. I had seen one of her drawings entitled “A Piece of Me” and was immediately struck by the beauty of the image of mother and baby.

The mother in the drawing is wearing a dress that is fractured into many small pieces. The baby is wrapped in her dress, and the mother is tenderly looking down into the face of her child. I identified with the mother in the drawing. I was living in Seattle when I had my first child six years ago, and the transition required to become a parent was rough to say the least. I was enamored with my beautiful baby, and yet I felt like I was falling apart at the same time. Caitlin’s image perfectly captured the fracturing I felt in my own life as a mother, and yet at the same time showed a mother’s love.’


Photograph by Ryan Tanner

Carey continues,

“When Sarah showed me Caitlin’s incredible work, I was immediately taken with it, and it just felt like the perfect image for the soothing, healing, intimate feeling of the record. The mother’s fractured dress spoke to me as it did Sarah of all the difficulty of breaking down the “you” you once were to remake yourself into a mother. It also reminded me of the struggle my husband and I went through to become parents. Infertility has been – and continues to be – the most difficult experience I’ve ever had – and while it brought with it feelings of being broken, it also has made me more grateful than I might have been otherwise to finally have gotten the chance to be a mother – and all the beauty and struggle that comes with that privilege. Caitlin seems to just understand and convey all the complexity of those feelings in her work.


To read other posts related to the exploration kids’ album art, read the feature on Secret Agent 23 Skidoo’s Grammy nominated album The Perfect Quirk.

Exploring Kids’ Music Album Art: Pairing visuals with sound

cover art comp_v2

I love album art! Since I was a child, I have been obsessed with the imagery that accompanies music. Two art forms in one package has always been a source of wonder. Getting a new record, taking in the smell of fresh pressed vinyl, and examining the cover was just as exciting as dropping the needle and hearing the crackle and pop.

LP jackets adorned our walls as though they were installations in a gallery, and with each one I would spend a considerable amount of time examining the art, wondering why a specific image had been chosen, what inspiration and story lay behind it, and how it represented the music within.

As music is increasingly consumed digitally, album art is at risk of becoming an afterthought. There are still many musicians, however, who are taking the time to ensure that their music has a visually distinctive identity. In the children’s genre many kindie artists are preserving the novelty by releasing a complementary LP version of their album while others are beefing up their album packages with informational booklets, and DVDs.

The graphic at the top of this post shows a sampling of albums from 2014 that caught my eye. As you glance at this collection, you’ll immediately notice what a diverse array of artwork it is! I feel so fortunate to be a part of such a talented community of artists and musicians, each working hard to create a lasting multi-sensory impression.

Over the coming weeks I’ll be talking with musicians and artists, gaining and sharing insight into the creative process that led to the final packaging you see today. If you’re a music fan, a fan of art, or simply a collector of interesting artifacts, I hope you’ll join me in learning about the “other half” of the album…. the one you see, but never hear.

Follow along by reading about Secret Agent 23 Skidoo’s Grammy nominated album, The Perfect Quirk.