For the uninitiated, the Take Along Tunes toy plays a series of excerpts from Classical- and Baroque-era (mostly) orchestral works while flashing colored lights; its purpose is to distract and occupy your baby while you’re forcing them to do something they don’t particularly enjoy (in our case, diaper changes). As musical toys go, it’s really not annoying, because the tunes are pleasant and the excerpts are long enough not to drive you up the wall with repetitiveness.
While there are some obvious, Greatest-Hits-of-the-Classical-Era-type selections (William Tell, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik), some other excerpts stumped me.
Step 1: Google.
I tried simply searching the internet for a list of songs, and I was able to find a review of the toy that appeared to have answered this question for me. A number of these were correct—all the Mozart selections, the Chopin, the Rossini, and Vivaldi “Spring”—but I listened to all of “Summer” and didn’t hear anything from the toy, and about four tracks were left unidentified.
Have a listen to these mystery tracks and feel yourself being transported to your last drop-the-needle test.
I then tried entering the unidentified melodies into things like Shazam and ThemeFinder.org, to no avail.
Thus began my wild goose chase.
Step 2: Musicology Twitter.
Clearly I needed to tap a bigger network, so it was time to bring in Twitter.
I was encouraged when, after less than 20 minutes, a hero identified two of the four tracks as some real deep cuts.
(at the risk of exposing an embarrassing lack of knowledge about a composer I once considered writing my dissertation on…)
wtf is a Goldberg canon!?
Apparently they were only discovered in 1975. Weird choice for a baby toy, right? Here’s an edition of the Goldberg canons on IMSLP—the toy plays #5 with some small alterations.
Vivaldi wrote so much stuff that I’m not surprised I couldn’t identify this violin concerto. We are very far out of my wheelhouse with this one.
But no one was able to tackle Mystery Tracks A and D yet.
Step 3: Ask nerdy friends.
As a result of being a music professor and obtaining a PhD in music geekery, I know a lot of people who seem to know everything about Classical music. I contacted some of my most savvy friends from CUNY—no IDs, although one friend suggested that D was “bad Handel” and that A had mode mixture that was “a Brahms or Dvořák thing, or like Berlioz.”
Then I even my former professor Bill Rothstein, who I suspect has a photographic memory and seems to be able to sit down at the piano and immediately play any piece you mention from memory—still nothing!
At this point I started to fear that I’d never know the answer to this mystery.
Step 4: Back to Twitter.
I went back to Twitter to beg and plead for my followers’ help. I even tried appealing to people’s egos by mentioning they’d be out-guessing Bill Rothstein if they knew any of the answers. Yet no one answered my calls. Inspired by the suggestion that Mystery Tune D was “bad Handel,” I decided to tag in Handel scholar Greg Decker. In a surprise twist ending, though, it was Mystery Tune A that Greg was able to identify!
Music Theory Twitter begged Greg to work his magic on Mystery Tune D as well. He did admit it “could be Handel” but said he was too busy for the time being to go on a scavenger hunt. (I mean, come on, though, what could be more important?)
But another surprise came when the final piece was identified by a theory professor whose expertise came not from their extensive schooling, but instead from their extensive family.
So it turns out “bad Handel” and “early 18th-c.” were both pretty good inferences.
The Complete List of Songs in the Take Along Tunes toy
Here is the actual list of pieces featured in the Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes toy and a Spotify playlist I’ve assembled for your (and my) listening pleasure.
|Composer||Piece and IMSLP link|
|Ludwig van Beethoven||12 Contradanses, WoO 14, No. 6|
|Wolfgang Mozart||Serenade in D major, K. 239, mvt. I|
|Frédéric Chopin||Waltz, Op. 70, No. 1|
|Johann Sebastian Bach||14 Canons, BWV 1087, No. 5|
|Antonio Vivaldi||Violin Concerto in E, Op. 3, No. 12|
|Gioachino Rossini||Overture from William Tell|
|Wolfgang Mozart||Piano Sonata in A major, K. 331, mvt. III|
|Antonio Vivaldi||Violin Concerto in E, “Spring”, mvt. I|
|Georg Philipp Telemann||Ouverture-Suite TWV 55:C3, mvt. VI|
|Wolfgang Mozart||Eine kleine Nachtmusik, K. 525, mvt. I|
For those who may not be familiar, the early center of the Baby Einstein brand — which was HUGE when my older kids were babies back in the early 2000s — was a series of DVDs (or VHS tapes!) featuring long close-ups of colorful toys being shown or operated by the hands of off-screen adults against a white backdrop, accompanied by classical music arranged for cheerful synths. We didn’t hold any stock in the “Mozart makes you kids smarter” myth, but these videos were a godsend for exhausted parents, allowing us to have a few minutes of sanity while the kid was transfixed by the colors and sounds. (I’ll admit, the fact that it was classical music instead Dora asking questions to an awkwardly silent fourth wall made us feel a tiny bit better.)
The Telemann came from the Baby Neptune DVD, one that focused on water, and though it was more than 15 years ago I remember that one being my second oldest kids’ favorite, particularly when we had to hold him still to sit through asthma treatments.
Megan, as a timbre scholar you’ll likely appreciate this: I am 100% positive that if you had played the original orchestral version for me, I would vaguely recognize it but not be able to place it. But upon hearing the synth arrangement programmed into the toy, I was instantly transported to my sofa in Greeley, holding a squirmy 2-year-old in one hand and a hissing nebulizer in the other!
(And thanks for the “super dad” compliment… high praise indeed!)
To be fair I don’t really know much about your parenting, but you seem pretty cool over the internet, and you have somehow managed six kids while I am up all night with anxiety over one baby, so I just assume you have superpowers.
You are a hero! Love this!
This is great!!! My husband got this toy for our second baby, but the older one loves it (he’s 4). He has watched some of the Baby Einstein videos on Amazon or Youtube when he was little and he still loves them. He has a favorite song on this toy, so I was trying to figure out the composer and title to play it for him, so thanks for doing this! I used to play the violin so I’ve learned to appreciate classical/baroque music, and I’m glad my son is taking an interest, too. I don’t know about the whole myth of ‘listening to classical music will make your baby smarter’, but I do know that when I was in orchestra, I was more creative and my brain was wired to think a little more differently (I was good at solving riddles). A few years after I quit playing, I felt like I got the dumbs. LOL…but in all, I think music of any kind is good for people and for fueling imagination and creativity.
you are ALL my heroes! I am a new grandma and do “grandma nanny” two days a week; love the toy as does my 6 mos old grandson. I love knowing the actual music and composers!! (and Nerds Rock).
We have this toy, and I am literally searching the house to find it bc I think they have different melodies on some of them, or else I’ve forgotten which ones are on it… I swear one of them in Le Nozze di Figaro on ours, but somehow this toy always goes missing when it’s most needed for internet rabbit holes…
I’m so glad I found this post. My child got this toy and I only recognized 2 of the songs and was prompted to search online. I have no music knowledge (really, NONE) so I suppose I would never figure all 10 songs.
Reading your quest to find it out was super fun. I’m glad someone took this challenge before me 😛
Thank you – been playing this with grandson and only recognized 3 pieces. Tried Shazam to find out what they were and it did no good. It was driving me crazy.
Wow, this is actually one of the thousands of articles that I’ve read online that is the most dedicated, informative and helpful about its topic a big thank you for finding what names are the songs of the Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes, such a big help to me! Btw I loved the spotify playlist listening to it right not!
Thank you so much for doing the research on this! Our baby loves the toy, but I really wanted to play the pieces in their entirety to make the connection between the short synth clips and the full pieces.
Great analysis. Wish you would do this for the Baby Einstein Curiosity Table too. That one I even got out the ol’ hard copy music melody dictionary but to no avail.
I was wondering the same thing after my daughter started playing with this toy. What a nice surprise that a fellow musicologist was the one who figured it all out! I can add one small refinement as a Beethoven scholar: the piano arrangement of the contredanse actually conflates No. 6 and No. 10 (also in C major). The mode mixture your friend described as Dvořák-esque was also an added flourish by the arranger, Isidor Seiss.