Monday, February 09, 2009

Music Monday - Lewis Carroll

Lest you think I have my Mondays and Fridays confused, let me tell you that today I was reminded of a set of songs for solo voice and piano with texts by Lewis Carroll (1832-1898). The one that came to mind (and often does, epecially when I'm driving impatiently behind someone who isn't going as fast as I think they should be) is "The Lobster Quadrille":

"Will you walk a little faster?" said a whiting to a snail,
"There's a porpoise close behind us, and he's treading on my tail.
See how eagerly the lobsters and the turtles all advance!
They are waiting on the shingle - will you come and join the dance?
Will you, won't you, will you, won't you,
will you join the dance?
Will you, won't you, will you, won't you,
won't you join the dance?"

"You can really have no notion how delightful it would be
When they take us up and throw us, with the lobsters out to sea!"
But the snail replied "Too far, too far!", and gave a look askance -
Said he thanked the whiting kindly, but he would not join the dance.
Would not, could not, would not, could not, would not join the dance.
Would not, could not, would not, could not, could not join the dance.

"What matters it how far we go?" his scaly friend replied.
"There is another shore, you know, upon the other side.
The farther off from England the nearer is to France -
Then turn not pale, beloved snail, but come and join the dance.
Will you, won't you, will you, won't you,
will you join the dance?
Will you, won't you, will you, won't you,
won't you join the dance?"


I'm pretty sure that the tune going through my head is the one written by American composer, John Duke (1899-1984), but I (sigh) couldn't find a recording of it anywhere. But I serendipitously found another musical version of the poem, so, instead, here is a fun version by Hungarian composer, György Ligeti (1923-2006), as sung by The King's Singers:



György Ligeti was an adventurer in form and expression and a great visionary of contemporary music. His richly varied output takes a special position in its musical quality and uncompromising individuality. Ligeti moved far away from aesthetic trends and methods all his life. He was characterized by fresh and unorthodox ideas, any form of dogmatism was foreign to his nature, his entire oeuvre is marked by radical turning points. Admired and hugely influential in the profession, the sensual accessibility of his music has won the hearts of audiences everywhere.

Read more well-chosen words at Schott Music's Ligeti page. The New Yorker music critic, Alex Ross, also has an article about Ligeti here at his blog, The Rest is Noise.

For you movie lovers out there--some of Ligeti's music can be heard on the soundtracks of 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining, and Eyes Wide Shut.

2 comments:

LB said...

Oooh - a two-fer!

Is that Ligeti piece considered atonal? It bothered my poor little aesthetic sensibilities.

Barb said...

Oh, being so removed from Europe, I had no idea that he had died. In my days of science and culture radio journalist, I once accompanied a team of musicians going to schools to talk about music and perform. They used the films of Jacques Tati with some Ligeti pieces - mostly wind instruments if I remember correctly. With all the sound editing that followed, I still have that music in my ears many years later.