Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Taking the scenic route

Writing the novel I am in the midst of describing the slow birth of a love affair but that can be just as demanding as being clear about the passage of time, or tapping out details of a room where the disposition of the chairs helps propel the plot. What is different is my involvement in the emotions and the need to break away from time to time and stop panting.

I mentioned acquiring an electronic keyboard. It sits inches away from my left elbow and the voice is set to Grand Piano. But what tune when Jana’s dilemmas become too piercing? Here’s a song where simple words and heartbreakingly simple notes combine.

Did you not see my lady (A tight cluster of notes, one for each syllable)
Go down the garden singing (That lovely lower note on “Go”)

And in no time at all words and music create the image of a woman whose grace is implicit (“my lady”) singing, not for an audience, but for the sheer pleasure of the thing. It is surely her very unselfconsciousness that sets the alleys ringing.

Another verse followed by true genius, the middle eight which starts.

Though I am nothing to her,
Though she would rarely look at me,


The musical pattern is similar but moves up the scale. A transition into what sounds almost like a minor key captures the restrained yearning of the admirer. How clumsy I’m making it sound. How much better that you pick it out on your own (or blow it on a tin whistle) reciting the words in your mind. The tune, I have just discovered, is by Handel. I should have known that years ago.

9 comments:

Avus said...

Your musical musings are too deep for me, BB, but "Did you not see my Lady" is a great favourite of mine.

Barrett Bonden said...

Avus: Quite depressed about that. Didn't think I was capable of depth since my technical knowledge of music is sketchy at best and my aim was to talk as non-technically as possible about very simple music. The usual problem: one likes a piece of music, should one at least try to say why? Or if not, hymn the personal pleasure (ie, with no one in earshot) of picking out a tune on some instrument or other with a single finger or its equivalent. Must try harder.

Rouchswalwe said...

Your musical tastes have inspired me over the years, BB. I have recently re-discovered the Canadian soprano, Isabel Bayrakdarian [ http://www.bayrakdarian.com/ ]. Do you know her work? I'll have to look up if she's sung Handel ...

Avus said...

Not meant as a criticism, BB. Merely remarking that, whilst enjoying music, I am absolutely illiterate when it comes to the technicalities

Barrett Bonden said...

RW (zS): Will try her and report back.

Avus: Didn't see it as criticism. A failure on my part to pass on the emotion.

herhimnbryn said...

Music has such power, doesn't it?

While gazing out of the studio window yesterday, to rest my eyes, I found myself humming part of Rutter's Requiem. It provided a welcome break and brought tears too, that particular part always does for me. However, my eyes felt better for it.

Barrett Bonden said...

HHB: Oh HHB I am infinitely grateful to you. The above post was written (somewhat inadequately it seems to have turned out) with my throat tight and lachrymose as I pondered and re-pondered the words and tinkled away on the keyboard. Perhaps I tried to be too clever when I should have taken the example of the song itself and kept things simple. Whatever. Struck by your admission of tears (with which I willingly concur) and knowing what lay ahead I switched Google to Videos and slotted in Did You Not See My Lady.

The first thing I discovered is that the opening line is Did You Not Hear My Lady which of course makes more sense. Also that the song is known as Silent Worship. Listening then to a version by a man with a comparatively modest voice (never found out his name) I discovered that the two-line solo piano introduction has a gorgeous little variant on the second line which smote my heart. And finally Thomas Allen with orchestral accompaniment, possibly at a Proms some years ago. Yet another discovery: the tempo is brisk, neither singer lingered.

But the main thing is your reference to tears. I Googled knowing they would happen and they did. Nothing to be ashamed of. In fact a glorious affirmation of what music can do. Thank you again.

herhimnbryn said...

I listened to 'Did you not hear my lady' (I believe the version I heard was sung by Aled Jones). A new song to me, but I liked it's sweet purity.

I leave you with the 'bit' of Rutter's Requiem I found myself humming....Pie Jesu

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evVeuhUtxd8&feature=related

Barrett Bonden said...

RW (zS): Finally tracked down the lady with the degree in biomedical engineering singing something I could judge her on. Two things in fact: an unidentified Handel aria (there are a lot of them) where her technique was well up to all the twiddly bits, and as Zerlina in Don Giovanni singing La Ci Darem la Mano with a guy called Hampson. She can't act for toffee but her soprano voice truly bounced along. In a recording of a Canadian radio show she mentioned singing Susanna (Mozart: Figaro) which would have given me the widest scope possible for judgement but I couldn't find any tracks. I liked her tango stuff but it may have been a bit too smooth; to be authentic it has to be rougher, sort of spat out. But what would I know?

HHB: I may be wrong but I think Rutter figured a lot in that series about church music Simon Russell Beale (great actor) did with Harry Christophers and the Sixteen did on BBC2. I was entranced by the Pie Jesu, not least because the score - such wonderfully simple writing - unreeled before my eyes, proving that you can pare good music right down to the bone and still have the power to move people. Which it did. Thanks for that HHB.