Friday, May 09, 2008

Geography in Songs: Dust Bowl and Dust Storms

My brother once remarked how depressing the song “Big Rock Candy Mountain” was. The song described one hobo’s view of the utopia he was searching for. Looking past the lyrics we were able to understand that simple comforts were not available in the 1930s for many. People were forced to leave their homes in search of livable conditions.

Those who lived in the Great Plains and other interior areas had their own reason to long for paradise: The Dust Bowl. Huge massive storms of dust caused by bad farming practices, drought, and made worse by depression. These dust storms continue today but fortunately not in the same frequency or strength.

The storms have left their mark on the geographic region known as the Interior Plains of the United States. One of these marks is on the music of the region. The single podcast “The Dust Bowl’s Musical Legacy” provides a musical journey into understanding the phenomenon’s impact on people and music. To download the podcast go to Texas Tech’s iTunes website, click on "Texas Tech on iTunes", then "Performing Arts."

During the time of the storms songs focused on despair, God’s wrath, and thoughts of moving away in search of a better life. After The Dust Bowl, some songs become lighter in spirit while others focus on those who stayed. The new song writers take pride in staying and battling out the elements; all the while remembering how powerless people are compared to the storms. One interesting thing is that the songs are almost always told from the perspective of farmers or ranchers. The rural culture is alive in well in the music of the region.

Listen to the podcast and enjoy forty minutes of musical geography!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As a child of dust bowl I related to this article. Songs such as 'ain't got a barrel of money, clothes all ragged and funny' were sung by these people long after poverty was gone.