When I look back on my younger days there are certain things that I can point to and say, yes that changed me. One of those things came in the form of a magazine and cassette (yes a cassette!) which my parents used to buy me in the local Sainsburys to keep me quiet and happy. The magazine was The Magical Music Box. It was published by Marshall Cavendish between 1993-1997 to introduce and instill a love of classical music in the children of 90’s pop, grunge, dance and R&B.
The formula for the magazine was simple. It followed the adventures of Jamie and Sarah, siblings who seemed to be magnets for danger. The stories had no sense of realism and were pure, escapist fun. My trusty companion once noted that they seemed to be running around having adventures with no money, food or supervision. When I pointed out that they had also judged a music competition on the moon and escaped from a troll king he conceded the point. It is pure fantasy which was fuel for my youthful, excitable imagination.
But what made these stories really special was that they were inspired by the music. The music was used to construct the narrative and to drive it on through the adventure and to its conclusion. That is why the magazine came with a tape or CD so you could listen to the story and the music. I loved it as a child as it seemed to add an extra element to the atmosphere and it really made the story come alive. Even though the point of the story was to introduce you to the music, the publishers did not neglect the magazine. They were beautifully illustrated in many different, colourful art styles, which created a diverse experience for any reader/listener.
The series also had a strong educational element. After each story, the narrator introduced the listener to each part of the music that had been played and explained which instruments were used. The B side of the tape was used for “free” mode, where the music played without interruption and I could let my imagination run wild or be lulled to sleep. In the magazine the series explained the history behind the music, the composer and the instruments so Mum and Dad could be happy that I was learning something as well as being entertained!
This series of magazines undoubtedly instilled in me a love of classical music – so much so that I joined the school choir, studied music in school until I left for university, and went to singing and flute lessons.
All this time I wished I had kept my copies of The Magical Music Box. I had to leave most of them behind when my family emigrated and sadly the publishers have stopped selling back issues. However this is the age of the internet and it has indeed come through for me this time! There is a tumblr account which you can visit and check out the original stories. I cannot describe to you how happy I was to find this. I have now can access all 52 stories and am listening to one a night before bed. Yes they are as wonderful as I remember and I would highly recommend them to any teacher, parent or music enthusiast! If you also loved this series or are discovering it now please feel free to add your thoughts below.
Big thanks to MMB on the Magical Music Box Tumblr for use of the pictures and for gathering all the information together!