A sonic curio, well worth its bargain price for crate-diggers looking for something most of their friends likely won’t have in their collections.
Long-time David Letterman fans may have fond memories of regular broadcast dives into his record collection, which would feature releases from such unlikely performers as Leonard Nimoy and news anchor Hugh Downs. Yet one of Letterman’s comic curios may indeed provide comfort in these distressing times—and it can still be found for just a few bucks. Dr. Hajime Murooka, a Japanese professor of gynecology, guarantees that the sounds of Lullaby from the Womb will stop your child from crying; will its organic charms soothe even the savage adult?
Lullaby from the Womb was first released in 1974, and it remarkably sprang out into the digital era with a CD reissued in 1989. The Japanese doctor went on to release further albums that consisted of womb recordings and light classics. Later versions amplified uterine sounds to the point where they resemble electronic music, such as on the German release Mama’s Muziek, (1975). The 1974 release offers three tracks of unaltered sounds of the womb, recorded with a small microphone placed near the head of an infant in a woman eight-months pregnant.
Points are awarded for a kind of authenticity, but the results don’t sound that organic. Two five-minute samples of the sounds of the mother’s main artery approximate industrial music, and not particularly gentle industrial music at that. Perhaps their most assuring aspect may be any surface noise, a balm to generations that grew up with the gentle hiss of worn vinyl. Otherwise, the rhythmic, regular chugging of blood through the artery suggests the fleshy rumble of a locomotive. “Sounds of the Main Artery and Veins of the Mother” adds blood vessels for a sound that may be less industrial but still sounds a bit unsettling, like a distant marching band or a bout with tinnitus. The combined track, “Sounds to Relax the Newborn Baby” sounds even more like tinnitus, and like all the organic tracks here, it drove my dog crazy.
In other words, despite a YouTube video that claims to provide evidence to the record’s effectiveness in preventing an infant’s mournful wails, the sounds of the uterus are not especially relaxing to the adult. The most fascinating tracks on the album may be the two selections that segue from the organic to the manmade. “Sounds of the Womb & Intermezzo from ‘Jewels of the Madonna’” gives you a few minutes of pure chugging womb action that are then blended with swooning music from an Italian opera that revolves around the controversial topic of incest. The track sounds like a radio transmission briefly caught between two very different stations. Another selection blends the sounds of the womb with an excerpt from Robert Schumann’s “Scenes from Childhood,” a more comforting passage for all ages.
For “babies of all ages,” Dr. Murooka provides melodies by such composers as Bach and Tchaikovsky on side B. It’s pleasant music that might offer serenity in a doctor’s waiting room, but for relaxation purposes the listener may prefer ambient Eno. Still, the first side of Lullaby from the Womb is a sonic curio, well worth its bargain price for crate-diggers looking for something most of their friends likely won’t have in their collections.