So I was on Google looking up a chemical reaction (the Belousov–Zhabotinsky reaction) that makes one of the kinds of natural patterns in that book* I bought in Fairfax and was referred to another chemical reaction that makes a liquid oscillate between two colors (the Briggs–Rauscher oscillating reaction). I wondered “How come I never saw that flashy oscillation back when Mr. Cornelius, our high school chemistry teacher, was taking a carload of us from Long Beach to Cal Tech for the every-other-Friday-night science demonstrations? Was it not discovered yet?” I read on and no, according to Wikipedia it wasn't discovered till six years later in 1958, and by a couple of science teachers at Galileo High School in San Francisco. Which would be the local angle, except I guess you don’t have local angles in cyberspace.
I came home from Marin to an email from Eleanor Walden asking me to be a judge for a contest to write a song about Pete Seeger. I don’t need another activity, but I said yes anyway. Then I went to the office to get copies of a couple of obscure Malvina songs, “El Cortito (The Short-Handled Hoe)” and “The Field Workers’ Song” for Ted Warmbrand and accidentally found a song my mother had written about Pete. Since folks around the country are celebrating Pete’s ninetieth birthday by getting together and singing, here’s that song. You would think a song about somebody whose forte is getting everybody to sing along would have a chorus, but this doesn’t.
Twice-copied typewriter doesn’t read too well on the net, so here are the lyrics:
Come gather round, you singing folk,
And listen to my tale,
About this long, lean banjo man
Who loved to sing and frail.
When many songs were lost and gone
Or hidden out of sight,
He found that frabjous music
And he sang with all his might.
He sang with all his might, my boys,
And people gathered round,
They followed him where’er he went
To hear the joyful sound.
The girls and boys who followed him
They loved his singing way,
They picked up flutes and strung up lutes
And learned to sing and play.
And all the world is singing now
That never sang before,
The treasury of hearty song
Made richer by the store.
And who would take this singing man
Who purely loved to frail,
And wrest him from the world of life
And muffle him in jail?
And who is so afraid of song
And truth that’s bravely said,
And who so fears the singing kind
To wish their singing dead?
They hailed his banjo into court
And stood it at the bar,
Because it would not tune its strings
To cruelty and war.
Oh, gather round, you singing folk,
And sing along with me,
A song to ring around the world
And set that banjo free.
Oh, gather round, you singing folk,
And clearly sing along
A song of truth and liberty
That will not suffer wrong—
And Pete will lead the song.
Now I’m just back from Los Angeles, where I visited my cousin the physicist. Turns out he had gone to the lectures at Cal Tech too, a bit later because he’s two years younger than I, and neither of us had realized we’d both been regulars there. He ended up going to Cal Tech, was the editor of the school paper, another instance of science and art combining in the family, like my daughter doing computer animation. And my musician mother surprising me when I found her undergraduate records in the files and saw that she, like me, had aced the five-unit Chemistry 1A class at UC Berkeley.
If you live in the San Francisco bay area, check this out:
A guy in Maine named Matt Loosigian asked if he could record my Earthworm Dance rap with a tune he had written. I got his CD today, and my rap sounds just fine as a high-energy song with his simple tune. The whole CD is good, and simply but attractively packaged, no jewel case! It’s called Hungry for the Sun: Songs in Tune with the Earth. Mostly Matt sings his own songs; I like the title number best. It’s in the voice of an oak tree, older than the wistful little sapling of “Song of the Young Tree” on Billy B Sings About Trees, but still growing, still hungry for the sun. Feel that way myself after all that rain a few weeks ago.
*Li: Dynamic Form in Nature
©2009 by Nancy Schimmel
The title song on this album is by Malvina, as are The Faucets Are Dripping, Cement Octopus, 70 Miles, From Way Up Here, There’ll Come a Time
Thursday, April 16, 2009