Monday, May 17, 2010

Art Of The Song

So.

There I was, in my backyard, minding my own business, tying up my tomato plants with twine, when I was blindsided. A Prairie Home Companion was on the radio; it was a compilation show, and one segment was someone, I forget who, singing Randy Newman's "When She Loved Me" (also often called "When Somebody Loved Me").

I sort of collapsed to my knees, and made my way over to my plastic lawn chair and listened to the rest of the song, sobbing. (Technically not a dangling participle, but yeah, I know.)

I don't know much about anything, but I know a lot about music. I'm even a self-acknowledged music snob, for better or worse. So believe me when I say that "When She Loved Me" is 3 minutes of beautifully, perfectly crafted art song genius. And I think it's high time we put Randy up there in the American art song legions of Ned Rorem, Hugo Weisgall and David Noon. (Full disclosure: I studied with all 3, and Noon is a good friend, and would easily concur.)

I'll try to steer clear of cliche-ville, but obviously as we get older we hear and see things through the prisms of our losses. When I listened and cried, little mini-movies of my mom and dad flashed passed me at an unmanageable pace, and I was overwhelmed, I guess. And it haunted me all night and through much of today. My whole body aches with it.

Sorry about the cheesy video, but the audio is better than the Toy Story 2 clip, which, by the way, I find to be 3 of the saddest minutes in movie history.

Most people live their lives unaware of the power of music to elate us with joy and paralyze us with grief. Hope may have been a dangerous thing in Shawshank (note Randy's brother, Thomas), but, right now, it's all I have. Which is to say, unless I can somehow convince myself that my best days are not behind me, and then back it up with some some actual proof and deeds, then all that's left for me is pain, sorrow and ruin. I have bad days and worse days, and when I come out of those funks, I hope I'm a little stronger and, yes, a little less hopeful-less. (Not a word.)

28 comments:

Keifus said...

Wonder if it's got anything to do with all the soundtracks he's done. Do film scores get good critical reviews for music?

(People seem to really like Randy Newman, though. As with a million other things, wich I had time to explore.)

Keifus said...

(Sorry, meant to write "as music," but you get the idea.)

switters said...

The Natural, Avalon, and all those Pixar scores spring to mind. Most "serious" composers, such as they are, don't take movie music seriously. That's because most of them are self-important asses. Movie music is more operatic than most modern operas. Irony noted.

Randy's sense of melody is ridiculous, but what kills me, especially in "When She Loved Me", is his great care with voicings and counterpoint. He's not afraid to be popular, or whatever, but he makes you work to appreciate his boundless subtleties.

Cindy said...

I, too, have felt the power of a single song, known well, and heard at a moment when all the gates were open.

Seismic.

switters said...

Here of late, to have left those gates open has been most... unpleasant. Leaves me looking for reprise, if that's the right word.

switters said...

i hate utube; new link; please re-listen.

LoganO_Kellam1 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
twif said...

pixar is sneaky with the heart-wrenching scenes stuck in otherwise light-hearted adventures. see also: the first 10 minutes of UP.

switters said...

Critics went nuts over the marriage montage, saying that they summed up an entire life together in 3 minutes without 1 word of dialogue or voice-over. Needless to say I was a pile of mush after those 10 minutes, twif.

Schmutzie said...

As Randy sings in the opening tune from Monk, "It's a jungle out there."

I can't hear a Petula Clark tune without losing it.

A worthwhile read on the subject.

switters said...

Thanks, that was a great read. I really needed that.

twif said...

@switters: heck, i can barely think about that without getting sniffly.

bright said...

I love that song. I hate that Disney/Pixar kills off mothers. My daughter was 7 years old before she ever saw the first 4 minutes of Finding Nemo.

Schmutzie said...

Switters...

Do me a favor okay?

If you haven't already, introduce Jesse to Dick Proenneke....

Seriously, these guys have got to meet.

Isonomist said...

Like movie stars and mountains, love always looks better from its good side.
*sigh*

switters said...

bright, are you suggesting that the good folks a Pixar are emotionally manipulative sociopaths? Read Smutty's link, if you haven't already. It's quite well done.

Smutt, believe it or not, Al, not Jess, was all over Proenneke years ago. He's "that way". But I've definitely hipped Jess to him.

Iso? Amen, I guess. What's the saying? Time hounds all wheels?

Schmutzie said...

I now watch tennis on TV. I'm actually aware of the fact that Nadal is better than Federer on clay.

It's all your fault.

switters said...

That's not my fault. Rafa's strength on clay is precisely his weakness on hard surfaces.

2 wood burners, north and south, follow the seasons.

Archaeopteryx said...

I don't know what you're talking about. I'm pretty sure Newman was singing about this girl I knew.
(Thanks for the kind words on BOTF the other day. Meant a lot coming from you.)

Schmutzie said...

Nice. Sounds toasty.

Almost makes you wish it was winter already doesn't it?

No, I guess not.

韋于倫成 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
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rundeep said...

This was a beautiful read, switters. Sorry I'm still catching up on your blog. This song really rocks me, and always has. There's a cabaret singer I met once at a dinner, Karen Oberlin. Afterwards, I bought her beautiful and sad CD called "My Standards." She does a glorious version of this song. If I could link you to the ilike version I would. Keep it up Negro. I like this new you -- feels....organic.

switters said...

karen's been on Companion before. it was probably her that day. a not so bad sub, minus a bridge.

rundeep said...

Ya know, it has been years since I thought about her. That dinner was a decade ago. She got famous in the interim it would seem. Good for her -- she and I were seated next to each other and really hit it off. I actually thought about emailing her right afterwards. Now I'm sorry I didn't. Then again, Sarah MacLachlan's voice? Ethereal. Forgot about how beautiful that is. Her song "Full of Grace" is my go-to when I want to wallow in emotion. (That, and the second movement of the Bach Concerto for Two Violins). Everyone needs a song to cry to now and then.

switters said...

The last song that my mom heard before she died was Answer. She'd discovered her through a friend and had the CD in her car. It was late Monday afternoon, February 9, 2009. My brother Al and I were in her hospice room and we played it for her. At this point she was unresponsive, but we knew she could hear it, and it broke Al's heart. I'd never seen him cry like that before, and he's 47. She died about an hour later, at about 5 minutes before 6pm. I don't think I can ever repay Sarah for that.

Bach's Double Fiddle Concerto knows no equal in its genius and perfection, and it never will.

I'm delighted you've found me, and I hope you can stay for awhile. If you're still blogging, I can't find your site.

rundeep said...

Lovely. I so admire and envy your fully realized family -- ultimately in support and love of the others. It's what I'm going for in my own immediate life. I stopped blogging because it was becoming just another thing I felt guilty about not doing. Failing to moisturize, wear sunscreen, spend enough time with my daughter, the dogs, my husband, failing to practice the piano or work hard enough at tennis or at work, failing to dust, vacuum or read was about all I could handle. I do that evil social networking site just to see pics of people's kids and some limited interaction. The Fray is essentially dead to me. I'll stop by....

rundeep said...

by the way, I'm sure your mother heard. And if she didn't, you and Al did, and that's enough. For her and for you.