Westward Ho! Our Texas roots got the best of us in our new spring catalog, which should be arriving in your mailbox any day, if it hasn’t already. We have lots of interesting new materials in all categories, but I think you and your kids will especially enjoy the pioneering spirit of the Old West, with musicals, props, narrative song collections, country and square dance, and more. This hearty American mix includes bluegrass, cowboy, mariachi, Western trail tunes, a Lewis & Clark musical, railroad songs, Paul Bunyan, Copland’s Rodeo and Billy the Kid, and a wagon full of kid’s books with CDs like Home on the Range, The Old Chisholm Trail, and Baxter Barret Brown’s Cowboy Band. So have fun! And leave a comment on this blog, or Twitter or Facebook, or call tollfree at 1 800 445-0649 if you don’t get your catalog in the mail. Send your address and the Pony Express will get it to you in about a week. Or if you prefer to go green, just download the new catalog here.
HOW THE OLD WEST WAS WON: And Why We Care
1. CURIOSITY: What’s on the Other Side of the Mountain?
Long before Horace Greeley popularized the quote “Go West, young man,” folks always nourished a curiosity to see what is on the other side of the mountain. And some hearty ones actually had the guts to turn curiosity into action. The exploration genes of early American adventurers and pioneers (like their Old World forebears who first came to America) were strong enough to stir these restless souls to leave home and seek the unknown, abandoning most of their earthly possessions. They traveled with kith and kin by boat, horse, or foot to see just exactly what awaited them on the sunset side of the mountain. Those same pioneering genes eventually propelled us into space, to explore the dark side of the moon.
2. URGE FOR CHANGE: But packing our music in our saddlebags.
When pioneers left home for the unknown, one thing they never left behind was their music. The immigrant population of America had the “explorer” genes that multiplied in the New World, along with the music “genes” that transformed Old World tunes with new lyrics and homemade instruments like bones, limbertoys, and scrub boards. The bluegrass music of Appalachia is rife with Irish, Scotch, and English ballads, and many songs supposedly of the old South are interwoven with African rhythms and Jewish immigrant Tin Pan Alley melodies. Americans are nothing if not facile with their musical “borrowings,” so even the singing cowboys celebrated the cattle trail drives with tunes absconded from the Old World. So I guess if there was a Wanted Poster for musicians, rhythm “rustling” was a crime oft repeated on the wide-open plains of America.
3. LOVE OF ADVENTURE: Celebrating our history through music
History is rooted in our songs, dances, legends, and traditions. We have sought to uncover in Music in Motion’s latest catalog this fascinating history and music that capture the spirit of adventure of early American settlers, Native Americans, runaway slaves, explorers, adventurers, cowboys, outlaws, and legends of the railroad, range and forest from John Henry to Pecos Bill to Paul Bunyan. The good guys and the bad are all enshrined in American music. And classical composers such as Dvorak and Copland who captured the prairie and “wide open” Western plains of America along with elements of folk music, helped create a “New World” sound and American style of music, just as Gershwin did with the urban streets of New York and Tin Pan Alley and the black traditions of Catfish Row in Charleston.
4. WANDERLUST vs. HOMESICKNESS: Even Cowboys get the Blues
Even if many Americans supposedly have the “explorer” gene, some also have the urge to return home, or the “homing” gene. I once heard a fascinating NPR discussion on those two competing genes, so beautifully captured in the American classic The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy was restless and bored and couldn’t wait to follow the Yellow Brick Road. But after all was said and done, she decided “there was no place like home.” Dorothy’s odyssey, like the original Ulysses’ saga, is all about the universal conflict between the urge to leave home and the urge (and difficulty) of returning home. (Thomas Wolfe said it was virtually impossible in You Can’t Go Home Again). When singer Bobby McFerrin and exiled writer Salman Rushdie, both fans of The Wizard of Oz, were asked if they personally fell more into the “leave home” or “return home” camp their answers were intriguing. (If you want to guess their answers, then reply to this blog and I’ll send you their answers, along with a code for Free Shipping and 10% off your next online order from www.musicmotion.com). Personally, I think we all embody the conflicting “leave home” and “return home” genes and at different times of our lives one prevails over the other. And finally, isn’t that what classical tonal music is all about—leaving home and returning home? We love the sturm und drang explorations and transpositions of the development sections of our music and of our lives, but isn’t it psychologically comforting to return in the recap to the home key? So maybe the cowboys weren’t all that macho or different from the rest of us after all. They professed their tough-guy wanderlust of following the lonesome trail wherever it took them, but at night around the campfire they sang “Home on the Range” and probably shed a few tears too.