Jul 22, 2008

Learning from the radio

Since I'm home, I'm indulging in listening to daytime radio. Radio's always educational, and so far today I have learned that the reason for low doorways on older farms was to be able to knock an intruder on the head as he entered. Having lived in such an old farmhouse myself, I instantly thought a lot of Norwegians must have been pretty tall in the old days, too. My grandpa was 5'9" and cleared the door by a good inch.

Something else I have learned is that Norway has not kept up with other nations in regards to copyright expiration for music. In Norway, the expiration is after 50 years, at which point a song becomes public domain. Arne Bendiksen, a cheerful native of Bergen who has spent his life sharing both thoughtful and funny songs, is now working hard to change Norway's copyright law. Bendiksen is now 81 and songs he wrote at age 30 are already in the public domain. He no longer has the right to royalties from his own earliest work. He said in an interview today that Norway has simply ignored that newer technology has made it possible to keep music longer and for people to make their own recordings. He mentioned a youthful hobby of mine (and many others): Taping favorites off the radio with our cassette recorders.

Listening to Bendiksen's older songs on the show today made me think of something else. As Bendiksen described playing for people his own age in nursing homes, it occurred to me that I'm a bit lost musically. One of the things that bonds people, is sharing common music, especially the music of our youth. Lullabies are our first taste of musical tradition that bonds us as a people. Later on, evergreens and popular music give us a common memory. My musical memories are quite choppy. Although I share teen memories and habits with Norwegians my age, I share few children's songs. The ones I learned in school are forgotten. I also didn't have parents who listened to Norwegian evergreens so there are songs in that category I am not familiar with. Me, I'd feel more at home with Lawrence Welk and Burl Ives.

I can only hope that if I end up in a nursing home here, they'll play Chicago.

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