Though he has a busy speaking schedule, Professor Muchogusto was kind enough to take a break from his tour so that I could interview him. I met him in a coffee shop
ME: For those who have not yet heard of your work, please introduce yourself.
MUCHOGUSTO: I am a musicologist and folklorist with a special interest not only in explaining folk songs to the American public but also in exploring the ways that certain lullabies and nursery rhymes do harm to American children. As you know I am from Spain and, as an outsider, can free myself from American prejudices and inclinations when it comes to such folk phenomena.
ME: Your work is quite controversial in this country. Why is that?
MUCHOGUSTO: It is because these harmful child rearing practices are so widespread.
ME: Can you give us an example.
MUCHOGUSTO: Take for example the lullaby Rock-A-Bye Baby. Why is it not shocking for Americans that they sing this song to babies and young children. To me it is incomprehensible. On needs merely to listen to the lyrics.
Rock-a-bye baby in the tree top. In the tree top! Someone has put a baby high up in a tree. I assure you the baby did not climb up there by itself. When the wind blows, the cradle---the cradle!—this sadist, whoever he or she is—not only climbed the tree with the baby but also with the cradle, suggesting this was not the first time. Such a feat requires practice. Most people cannot even climb trees properly, not to mention weighted down like this. When the wind blows the cradle will rock. We begin to see the horror of it. The wind must be quite forceful to rock a cradle, and as we will hear, it is perhaps even of hurricane strength. When the bow bends . . . This is what I am talking about. It is a fierce wind that bends a tree’s bow. So some son-of-a-bitch climbed a tree in a hurricane with a baby in a cradle. What derangement! What savagery! And then left it there. . . . the cradle will fall. I should probably stop here, don’t you think.
ME: No. Please, professor, continue.
MUCHOGUSTO: You’re not enjoying his are you?
ME: Of course not.
MUCHOGUSTO: When the bow bends the cradle will fall and down will come baby cradle and all. And all? What else has this monster put up in the tree. The baby’s rattle? Its bottle? This song is being sung to a baby or young child. Surely at a certain age the child understands what is being said, how dangerous the world must be. This is what you Americans sing to your children.
ME: I really never thought about it this way.
MUCHOGUSTO: And if we think further there are copycats out there who may find it amusing to see if they, too, can carry a baby and a cradle into a tree as in the song, thinking, “ Oh, I won’t leave it there. It’s just to see if I can do it.” But some of them may get a text message while up in the tree and put the cradle down for a minute and some may lose track of what they’re doing. Some of these babies do, in fact, fall, suffering head injuries that make the concussions of the NFL look like scrapes on the knee.
To be continued.