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Friday, September 23, 2011

It's Friday! Thought for the day...

Funny, before I had a child I never realized that Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and The Alphabet Song (is that the real title?  Does it even have a title?) both had the same tune...

This doesn't sound like it would be problem, BUT IT IS!  In fact I just heard from the other room:

"ABCDEFGHIJKL (bear with me here...) MNOPQRSTUVWXYZ... Now I wonder what you are...."

Who ever thought that one up was either too lazy to think of their own tune or totally trying to screw with the little people.  Slow clap anonymous song writer, slow clap.


  1. Ok, it was bugging me, so now I had to go and 'look it up'. The melody is from a French song: "Ah! vous dirai-je, Maman" AND just to add another 'layer' of complexity into the mix... 'Baa Baa Black Sheep' also uses the same melody. Seriously. Look it up.

    Can we now have a slow clap (a sincere one this time) for Wikipedia???

  2. Ha! Now this is a post I can relate to!

    At least in this case it actually IS the same tune. I'm famous for unintentionally gluing parts of totally unrelated songs together.

    Eons ago I played fiddle in a bluegrass band. BTW - if you're gonna start a bluegrass band, at least one person in the group should know something about bluegrass. But I digress.

    So in bluegrass they play a lot of fiddle tunes, which are basically instrumental numbers with the fiddle playing the melody. The thing is they're all in the same keys and they all sound very much alike. Fiddle tunes have an A part and a B part, sort of like a verse and chorus, and I would always start off playing the A part of one tune and inadvertently end up playing the B part of a totally different one. It drove my poor band mates crazy!

    Recently I was in the kitchen making potatoes, and suddenly I'm humming what I thought was the old Mr. Potato Head commercial from the 1980's. Apparently I was actually humming "Waltzing Matilda" because what came out of my mouth was "Mr. Potato Head, Mr. Potato Head, You'll come a waltzing Potato Head with me."

    Oh My!

  3. OK... I fear you are going to regret having gotten my started on this whole topic, so I apologize in advance for all of this long-winded and pedantic comment. But since I did spend the majority of my adult life studying this topic, I sort of can't stop once I get going.

    So... the whole process of putting new lyrics to a traditional melody is actually quite common in the world of folk/traditional music. In fact, throughout most of history the concept of song authorship did not exist. Songs were not "written" per se, they simply evolved through many years of people doing the equivalent of humming Mr. Potato Head in their kitchens, if you know what I mean.

    For example, if you study the traditional ballads of the British Isles (often called Child Ballads, not because they are for children, but because the fellow who cataloged them all was named Child) you'll find infinite variations on the same tunes and lyrics. I mean, if you think about it, in a world that has no method of recording music this all makes complete and prefect sense. It's sort of like an endless musical version of the game "telephone" (where a message is passed around the room by one person whispering in the next person's ear and very soon the message bears little resemblance to the original.)

    Many people in the traditional music world feel that the advent of the musical recording totally killed the entire "folk process" and what we call "folk music" today is really NOT "folk music" in the academic sense... it's just songs written to sound like folk music.

    In fact, Garrison Keillor (of Prairie Home Companion) did a fascinating study on this topic a few years back. He decided to see if there were and "real" folk songs left today. So he asked his readers to send in "folk songs" using the traditional definition of the genre. Sp there were 2 rules for submitting a song: it had to be a song you had learned from someone else (as opposed to hearing a recording of it) and had to be a song "to which you remember the words mostly." His conclusion was that the folk process is alive and well and living in summer camps and school yards throughout the continent. He published a book based on the whole thing and it's hysterical - with a zillion versions of "Comet - it makes your mouth turn green" and "Six green globs of greasy grimy gopher guts".

    OK... SOOOO in keeping with this whole folk tradition, many of Woody Guthrie's songs were actually based on traditional melodies, rather than original musical compositions. So the song "Union Maid" was actually based on the melody for the fiddle tune "Red Wing".

    Which brings me to the point (yes there WAS a point somewhere in this rambling comment.) For some reason the ice cream trucks in this neighborhood (maybe everywhere... I dunno) all play the melody from the tune Red Wing. So every time one comes down the street, I find myself humming "Union Maid" - "Oh they can't scare me I'm stickin' to the union, I'm stickin' to the union, I'm stickin' to the union..." I often wonder if that's just a coincidence, or if the person who chose that tune was trying to make some political statement about ice cream truck drivers rights to unionize.

    OK... I apologize once again for this long meandering comment... now you see what it's like to live inside of my crazed little brain!

  4. @ ECL: Um, you just put Wikipedia to SHAME on this topic! Touche! Thanks for the feedback - it is obvious that this is something that you know a TON about!!!

  5. The anonymous song writer was the famous Mozart