Monday, March 26, 2012

Music Monday

My new favorite song.

Monday, March 19, 2012

"...and if you do, you will not be the same."

I've never really explained why Music Mondays came to be. It wasn't a desire to make an alliterative blog post; that was a coincidence. It was, partially, a disciplinary exercise - even if I wouldn't blog on a consistent basis, I would have to do at least one a week. And there are always examples of music that I've heard and think my few readers should hear (or hear again, in some cases).

Music is, has, and will continue to be a major part of my life. Mom and Dad both have said that in my case, singing came before talking. For most of my life, music, whether sung or not, has been a way to express what I've been feeling, even if I couldn't find the words to say it. To this day, I find myself turning up the radio when a particular song comes on and encouraging whoever is riding with me to "listen!". Usually I end up disappointed, because he or she doesn't hear what I'm hearing, or starts talking halfway through, or clearly is uninterested. Music is another world to me - another form of communication. It says the things we cannot. So that's really why all of you must endure these weekly posts. Thank you for humoring me! :)

Words in music have meaning. I believe they can have even more meaning in music. Bear with me here. One of my favorite moments illustrating this happened my senior year in high school. My AP English teacher played a recording of Loreena McKennit's "The Highwayman". It was amazing! I had read the poem before, and heard it spoken plainly (any of you who have watched Anne of Green Gables know what I'm talking about), but never set to music. The harmony of words woven through song made a powerful impression on me.

Which brings me to today. This really came up yesterday, when I and two other writer friends were meeting together. The first purpose of the meeting was to write. Duh. What ended up happening was L seemed keen on talking about another friend's book launch, J's computer was having issues, and I've been surprisingly disciplined lately when it comes to writing, so I felt I could take a break. So we talked. About lots of things - our friend CG's new book, horrible self-published books, the St. Louis Cardinals (me and L), Star Trek (J and L), the new movie coming this weekend, etc.

Talking about the movie reminded me of another coming out this December. I've been looking forward to seeing J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit brought to the screen ever since The Lord of the Rings came out a decade ago. (Yes, it really has been that long.) The Hobbit, for those who don't know, is the prequel to LOTR. It was first published in 1937, seventeen years before the epic fantasy. It is much more a children's book than LOTR, but has certain similar themes. Loyalty, friendship, and adventure are common in both works.

I never received a set of these works for Christmas growing up. My sister did. I can honestly say I had never heard of them before then. A couple of months into the new year, I had either exhausted all the books given as gifts, or was bored. I don't remember. I also don't remember if I asked first or just walked into her room and saw them sitting on her desk. What I do remember is borrowing the prequel book. After all, I assumed, if I was going to read about hobbits (whatever they were) and a ring, I'd better begin at the beginning. So I did.

I was not impressed. In fact, a few pages into it, I was thinking "I don't think this is for me." After sifting through some of the later pages without understanding any of it, I thought at some point it would get better. So I flipped back to the page where I had started skipping and continued on.
And what a surprise it was.

Bilbo the hobbit lives a very quiet, peaceful life in his hobbit hole. He's mainly concerned with eating and smoking and avoiding his very unpleasant relatives the Sackville-Bagginses. One morning Gandalf the wizard drops by and asks Bilbo if he would like to go on an adventure. After frightening the hobbit with his tales of far away lands, Gandalf leaves. Bilbo promptly forgets all about it, until the next day. Fourteen dwarves come to his hole for tea unannounced. They eat almost all his food, and talk so much about their plans to get their gold back, that Bilbo is thoroughly annoyed and can't wait until they all leave after dinner. Then the dwarves start to sing.

Reading a poem that is meant to be a song is a tricky thing. Everyone has their own version of what the song sounds like. I've always thought it must feel similar to be deaf and wonder why everyone has a reaction to something you can't hear. This is the first stanza of the dwarves' song, from The Hobbit:

Far over the misty mountains cold
To dungeons deep and caverns old
We must away ere break of day
To seek the pale enchanted gold.

As a child, reading these words for the first time in the quiet of her bedroom, it had a profound impact on me. To such an extent I can hardly say, but this: that to this day, just reading them takes me somewhere else. To a different world. Like music. Tolkien described Bilbo's reaction this way:

"As they sang the hobbit felt the love of beautiful things made by hands and by cunning and by magic moving through him, a fierce and jealous love, the desire of the hearts of the dwarves. Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick." (p. 15)

It is a wondrous thing, really, a miracle that words have the power to do such things. The only thing in my opinion that could have a greater impact would be to set those words to music. And that, through the medium of film, is what has been done with The Hobbit. The stanza of the dwarves' song sung in the movie trailer goes like this:

The pines were roaring on the height,
The winds were moaning in the night.
The fire was red, it flaming spread;
The trees like torches blazed with light.

It is fitting that in the trailer Bilbo asks Gandalf, "Can you promise that I will come back?". It is a question that Tolkien fans (and really anyone who has ever read a really good book) will ask. The answer to Bilbo, and us, is the same. "No...and if you do, you will not be the same."

Music and the power of words took me away a long time ago. I have come back, but I will never be the same.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Music Monday

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, this Saturday. I LOVE these guys. I will never get over being impressed with this song. I cannot figure out how they breathe. Who wants to be Irish??

Monday, March 5, 2012

Music Monday