About Me

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Lake Mathews (Perris), CA, United States
I am a native of Illinois and grew up in Wilmette, a northern suburb of Chicago. I have one sibling, an older brother. After dropping out of college, I moved to California in 1973 with my first husband. I married my present husband, Butch, in 1977 and got 4 children in the deal. They have gone on to make me a grandmother 25 times over and a great-grandmother of 19. Three years after I married Butch I returned to school. I got my bachelors and masters degrees in speech communication and was a professor in that field for 13 years. I retired in 2001 to return to school and get my doctorate in folklore. Now I meld my two interests - folklore and genealogy - and add my teaching background, resulting in my current profession: speaker/entertainer of genealogically-related topics. I play a number of folk instruments, but my preference is guitar, which I have been playing since 1963. I work in partnership with Gena Philibert-Ortega with Genealogy Journeys where we focus on educating folks about Social History. More about that can be found at http://genaandjean.blogspot.com and more about my own business projects is on my Circlemending website.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Music boxes, nickelodeons, & House on the Rock

We toured House on the Rock yesterday (had planned to go, changed plans, then changed them again . . . didn't want to miss this amazing place where one can listen to the songs and music machines of a bygone era). House on the Rock is located in Spring Green, Wisconsin, not far from Madison. It was built by Alex Jordan and added onto over the decades (reminded me of Sarah Winchester, only her house was a continuous building project due to superstitions, and where her many staircases lead nowhere, Mr. Jordan's keep leading to something more amazing than the last exhibit).

One of my favorite aspects of the museum/house/arboretum is the abundance of music throughout the entire property. Visitors are given tokens (and can purchase more, if they run out) in order to control the playing of the many music machines that are placed in various rooms. While the second tour (there are three, total, and we did "the whole experience") contains the "Music of Yesterday" display, all the tours have some music involved.

Many of the objects on display are genuine antiques, but there are a great many of objects that Jordan created from his own imagination, identifying them as replicas or imitations. To view photos of the various music apparati, check out the Sanjaal Gallery: The Facets of Originality.
This photographer has captured House on the Rock in 160 files (each containing approx. 20 photos). The photo at the beginning of this post is one from that gallery; here is another one of my favorites (I love the mandolins):

It is clear that some of the music makers - nickelodeons; player pianos; and animated, computer-driven orchestras - are products of a recent era (when one listens to the theme from The Godfather, "Seventy-Six Trombones," or "Tennessee Waltz," all played at various locations on the tours, it is a give-away that these are not authentic antiques!). But the imagination of the creator is unique and so clearly "out of the (music) box" that it makes one forget these are not the same machines our ancestors played in their honky-tonks.

To get the full flavor of the music makers - both the appearance and the sound - check out this website by Galen R. Frysinger, who has detailed 2 of the most popular musical extravaganzas at the attraction - the Carousel and the Mikado - plus has provided a magnificent look at the Interior of the unique location. His photo of one of the organs gives one a sense of the majesty of some of the instruments in the collection (my father would have loved this one!):

Check the website of Douglas H. Henkle to learn more about the music and the machines of this unusual tourist attraction. And, if you happen to be in Madison, Wisconsin, and time allows, drive up to Spring Green to check out the House on the Rock for yourself: it will give a whole new meaning to the term "Rock Star." And I'll bet you'll find yourself humming along at least once on your tour!

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