Old Tunes

When we went to write a science song on a particular topic, we usually chose a melody first, then fit the information to the meter of that melody. The three criteria we had for the choice of a tune were that it would be easy to learn, easy to remember, and that the melody was in the public domain so we didn’t have to get permission or pay royalties to the writer. So we looked at songs of Americana, such as traditional, folk, patriotic, and camp songs, mostly from the 1800s. One of the benefits we hoped for in using those melodies for our science lyrics was that these classic tunes would become familiar to younger generations. Many of these melodies that were so well known to our parents and grandparents we still think are being lost and forgotten.


Dorry was a little girl in the mid-1960s when the centennial of the American Civil War took place. Songs she remembered from an album of Songs of the Union and Songs of the Confederacy led to an interest in the Civil War, which was later renewed when our boys were in elementary school. So we took a family vacation to visit Civil War battlefields and museums in Virginia, where we found cassette tapes of Bobby Horton with some of those same songs! After I’d written the songs for what became our first volume of Lyrical Life Science, and when we decided to have someone produce the songs professionally, we thought of Bobby Horton because we liked what he’d done with the Civil War songs. Bobby is both an amazing musician and producer—he plays all the instruments and does all the voices and audio engineering himself—as well as a song historian. He, too, feels it’s important to preserve the heritage of American melodies.


An amusing experience I’ve had in teaching students some of my life science songs was to hear that they thought that I wrote the melody! For example, when they were learning “Go Tell Aunt Rhody” from their piano or violin teacher, they would try to correct their teacher by telling them that the real title is “Algae, Fungi, and Non-vascular Plants” which Mr. Eldon wrote!

Post navigation

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *