“Music” a Post from Jesse Byrd

This week my violin teacher asked me to write a story that follows along with one of the songs I am learning. The song is titled “Stephen Foster melody” and is attributed to Stephen Foster.

On first listening, I am reminded of a river boat drifting lazily down the Mississippi. There is a wizened old deck-hand lounging beneath a shady eave while watching the water pass beneath the bough. I imagine that the pipe he is smoking sends out little tufts of smoke, just like the pipes of the river boat, which billow out in a trail as the boat moves down the river. Though the boat may be bustling with activity inside, from the outside only this languid afternoon reverie can be seen. As the man watches the water pass beneath the bow, he contemplates this sometimes lonely life on the river and wonders if he might have followed another course. But these thoughts are lost on the wind as the boat, and the boatman drift slowly, inexorably out of sight toward the sea.

Funnily enough, after picturing this scene, I researched Stephen Foster. PBS calls him “America’s first great songwriter.” http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/foster/filmmore/fd.html Although I have never heard his name I am familiar with his songs. Do you recognize any of these:?

Old Folks at Home (Swanee River)
Jeanie With the Light Brown Hair
Oh! Susanna

Is it any wonder that the notes on the page in my little song book should evoke images of boats lazily traveling down the Mississippi? Have these American songs become so deeply ingrained in our culture that I have come to associate these particular sounds with a southern scene (though Foster was a Northerner)?

Suddenly, I see this song as being achingly beautiful, despite its two simple lines. And, though I am only a beginner, and not very good, I can still derive a great deal of pleasure from practicing a child’s song.

Do you have a similar hobby that inspires you? When you listen to, or play, your favorite songs, what stories do you imagine? Please feel free to share your thoughts.

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