Friday, March 14, 2008

Tracking Down the Music

After my friend Pat read Tangled Strands, she started asking me about the music. She wanted to know the melody that went with the words. I had never had or seen music for it, but the melody was clearly in my mind and I could sit down and play it by ear on the piano. However, since I live in middle Tennessee and Pat was in South Dakota, that didn’t do her any good.

Pat searched the Internet with no success. I asked my sister to go through our mother’s old song books, many of them from the 1950s. Nothing. So I posted on the boarding-school discussion group asking if anyone remembered the song—and bingo! Corky not only remembered it, he remembered the trio that sang it. One of the trio members is active in the current group, and we have her e-mail, so I wrote her. A prompt response from her husband. told me Mary Jean was in another state with a daughter waiting to deliver a baby. So I had to wait for her to get home.

Meanwhile, the question had come up about copyright issues. If the song was still under copyright, there was no way I could quote from it in my story. Ouch. My mind started churning with how I could possibly communicate the message of the song without quoting the words.

After Mary Jean got home, she searched her trio books—and she found it! She also found that the title of the song was not “Tangled Strands.” Its actual title was the first word in the chorus—“Transformed.” We had a school reunion coming up in a few months, so we waited until I saw Mary Jean then. That’s when I got the music to my song – and Pat got it, too.

Getting the music gave me, for the first time, the name of the author—a Mrs. F.G. Burroughs, and it gave me a copyright date, 1920. Even though the copyright was renewed in 1948 by a music company, both those dates were old enough that it had a good chance of being in the public domain. A fellow member of my local writers’ group works in music copyright, and she could not find it. Recently I learned on an Internet site that anything older than 1922 is in the public domain.


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