Saturday, November 23, 2013

SCORE . . . it pays to walk through a Half-Price Books . . .

I had taken a box of books to our local Half-Price Books.  I didn't want any money for them.  Just a box of books I had no interest in reading that were taking up space on the floor in our study.

So, after dropping off the books . . . just a very quick walk over to the music section . . . just a very quick scan because we had things to do and errands to run.

BAM!  Could it be . . . no way!

WAY!

A paperback copy (1975 - OUT OF PRINT) of The Folk Songs of North America by Alan Lomax.

Best $20 I've spent in a while.

If you are a collector of American Folk Music books and memorabilia, or a public or private school music teacher, or music historian or folklorist (perhaps a couple such people read this blog, one can hope) . . . you no doubt share in my joy!  Yes folk music collectors and teachers . . . there are some copies of this book still out there.

If you don't know anything about folk music history and folklore . . . then you are scratching your head wondering why I am happy about getting this book.

Simple explanation:  Alan Lomax continued the work of his father, John Lomax, in traveling our nation, and the world for that matter, collecting and recording folk songs in as many places as possible.  In the process, they often drove, walked, hiked, crawled to out-of-the-way locations in our country because they had heard about someone, here or there, who was a native folk singer.

Without the efforts of John and Alan Lomax, followed by Pete Seeger, and his sister Peggy and brother Mike, a lot of the folk music of our country, and perhaps of the world, would have been lost over time.

A lot of folk music has been lost over time, according to music historians who know such things.  But the Lomax's, Seeger's and others have done, in my humble opinion, a great service to all of us who are rediscovering the "ancient" songs of our individual nations and cultures.

This particular book is a collection of 300 of those songs, along with a little bit of history.

(Pardon me . . .  I need to take a moment to do a fist pump here . . .  Ahhhhh! That felt good!)

Some of you get it . . .  most don't  . . . either way . . .  it helps explain my love of acoustic guitar, ukulele, 4-string tenor banjo, and the Native American flute.   One of these days I'm going to learn to play at least one song on a lap dulcimer . . . again, one can hope.

There is something, to me at least, that happens when you sing and play an American folk song . . . or a folk song of another country or culture.

You feel the story of song, how it resonates the history of the struggle of a lone individual, the trials of a community, the many and varied struggles of a nation . . .

As you sing and play, you feel the ring of hammers on steel, the wind that comes across the water to fill the sails of mighty ships, the wind that dries out a land so badly or burns an area so badly that the lives of may people are ruined.

As you sing and play, you hear the cadence of the workers in the field, the driver calling out to his team of mules or oxen, the cry of the damsel mourning the death of her lover, the father singing words of comfort to his frightened child . . .

As you sing and play, you also hear the cries of injustice, of pain, of anguish . . . that call out, each in their own way, for justice, for fairness, for peace . . .

As you sing and play, you smell the dirt in the wind, the wood being cut, the ground being plowed, the corn being harvested, the fire burning, the meal cooking . . .

Folk music is a magical thing for me . . . I guess I should thank my elementary school music teachers at Bowie Elementary in Alamo, Texas, down in the Rio Grande Valley. Those ladies got me started singing folk songs.  I wish I had a copy of my 4th and 5th grade music book.  Maybe that's the next music book I try to find for my library.

But right now . . . The Folk Songs of North America is going to get a long perusal.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>


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