Now & Then

by Alex de Grassi

The songs and rhymes we learned as kids seemed to be everywhere. We learned them from books, parents, playmates, and in schoolrooms. I eventually came to think of them as traditional folk music with set lyrics, melodies, and rhythms. In rediscovering these songs years later, I have come to appreciate the maxim that folk music is a “living” tradition and that each generation will find relevance and a way to reinterpret these songs.

In that spirit, I have arranged traditional melodies to reflect the musical idioms and social climate of today’s multicultural landscape. Thus, the cowboy classic Streets of Laredo is transformed from a waltz to 4/4 time with an urban hip-hop beat, Oh Susanna becomes a slightly demented “banjoesque” samba, and the frontier lament Single Girl draws inspiration from the horn section of an R&B band. Here, then, is my attempt to tell a few American stories and weave a musical fabric whose threads reach through time to unite the present with the past—music for now and then.