Archive for February 3rd, 2013
The little House books are deeply affecting, especially when read as a set all at once.
I began the project of reading all the books out of a desire to extract the songs, to learn and study them. But I found myself greedily consuming the books for the stories, to find out what would happen next and to absorb them as a chronicle of one of the iron-willed, strong-shouldered, long-suffering, tough-as-nails families that endured the pioneer hardships and agonies of homesteading and settling the American West. They made a success of it through grit and hard work. These people (including the Ingalls and Wilder families) expanded our civilization, created communities and industries and they did so starting with nothing but the muscle in their arms and a few tools they brought along with them in their covered wagons. They had vision and faith. They survived and they created something from nothing. I was enthralled by the descriptions of the cooking of food, home building, town founding, crop planting and harvesting, animal raising and the thought and work that went into sewing dresses, shirts, sheets and curtains.
On top of all of that is the music. Music in threads of lyrics, instrumental song titles, Pa’s fiddle, church singing, and descriptive language about the music of the land and its creatures is woven all through the books.
This all goes to my mission in undertaking this project. I wish I’d been able to refer to and hear the music while reading the books, at the moments the music was mentioned: because the music changes everything. I’ve read the books and marveled at their ability to survive in harsh and harrowing circumstances, but to hear the music is to get a real hint of what gave them the will to go on. The music is jubilation. The music is the spirit taken wing. The music is an expression of emotional love of life and family and what it is to survive and be alive.
In the Ingalls family, most of this music came right on out of Pa’s fiddle. He may not have known it, but his act of playing those songs not only illuminated the dark days and festooned the happy times, but his fiddle songs planted seeds in his daughter who scattered them further into this present day so we can know and understand the fulfillment of our nations’s promise of life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness…and the cultivation and preservation of our culture and history.
I look forward now to going through the books again and fitting the sounds of the music to the scenes in which Laura describes them.
PS: There are moments of racist expression in the books (towards Native Americans and the description of the black-face minstrel show). These moments made my heart heavy. But, as my dad says, “it is what it is.” I can be disappointed, but without the expression of these thoughts, we would not have a true representation of the lives people led and the opinions people held at that time. I must take in and digest the good with the bad and be glad that our country has (to whatever degree it is) advanced socially since then.
LITTLE HOUSE SONGS: LAURA INGALLS WILDER – SONGS OF THE LITTLE HOUSE BOOKS
Songs of the “Little House” books by Laura Ingalls Wilder
FOURTH OF JULY AND OTHER HOLIDAYS CELEBRATING THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND HER CITIZENS AND HISTORY
A list of Patriotic Singable Picture Books
GREAT AMERICAN SONGBOOK
Singable Picture Books of the Great American Songbook and Michael Feinstein’s Foundation for the Preservation of the Great American Songbook
WHEN I FIRST CAME TO THIS LAND, A SINGABLE PICTURE BOOK