Tuesday, December 8, 2009

ABC Twinkle Twinkle

Brightly painted wooden ABC letters on a shelf
Did you ever wonder why the ABC song has the same tune as "Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star"? I did recently, and it was a case of the Wikipedia to the rescue:

The song was first copyrighted in 1835 by the Boston-based music publisher Charles Bradlee, and given the title "The A.B.C., a German air with variations for the flute with an easy accompaniment for the piano forte". The musical arrangement was attributed to Louis Le Maire (sometimes Lemaire), an 18th century composer. This was "Entered according to act of Congress, in the year 1835, by C. Bradlee, in the clerk's office of the District Court of Massachusetts", according to the Newberry Library [in Chicago], which also says, "The theme is that used by Mozart for his piano variations, Ah, vous dirai-je, maman." This tune is more commonly recognizable as "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star".
Mozart's version dates from 1781, but is based on a French folk song whose earliest published date is 1761.

So where did the "Twinkle Twinkle" lyrics come from? Asked and answered by the Wikipedia once again:
The lyrics are from an early nineteenth-century English poem, "The Star" by Jane Taylor. The poem, which is in couplet form, was first published in 1806 in Rhymes for the Nursery, a collection of poems by Taylor and her sister Ann.
It has five verses, did you know that? But no mention is made of how it came to be sung to the existing French tune.

While Louis Le Maire (or Lemaire) is a bit of a dead end (no info on the interweb about him!), and it's not entirely clear how Jane Taylor's poem became a song in the first place, or if she knew the tune when she wrote it, I feel better having some idea when and how this historical confluence happened.

I wonder what it would have taken to figure out this much 10 years ago? I guess that means it's time to make a donation to the Wikipedia.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.