Another snippet from the new opera, The Boats: You’ll Never See The Like Of Me Again. Hurricanes and waterfront property. Recitatives vs. Arias. Genesis. It. Wagner. Choosing the proper length of time for an performance is half the battle.
Roger CortonA new snippet!
JCHForget that. Inquiring minds wanna know: how’d the hurricanes treat ya?
RCWhere we live it was OK. But I went with a group to help out south of here. And it was unbelievable. Whole towns will have to be rebuilt for hundreds of miles.
JCHSo much for (ahem) ‘the myth of global warming’.
RCWell regardless of politics and beliefs I’m sure people are thinking differently about building near the shore.
JCHMaybe. We have this Irish expression which I will translate freely, “The Good Lord provides sweet forgetfulness after childbirth. Otherwise, we’d never have more than one child.”
RCWhat is that supposed to mean?
JCHIt means that we seem to have a unique ability to remember only the joy and forget the pain of certain key events and that enables us to repeat them over and over. Or, put another way, Never underestimate the ability to forget–especially when it comes to choice waterfront property, pal. (laughs)
RCMoving on. Another Snippet. It seems like you’re gathering a head of steam! This reminds me a little bit of Tears For Fears or Talk Talk. You know, ‘prog-power-pop’. Something else…
RCWait I’ve got it. The end of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway.
JCHThat’s the name of the song.
RCOh, right. I knew that. I thought you were doing some sort of “Who’s On First” thing.
RCOk, so what’s it about?
JCHThe title is a very famous phrase, actually I guess you could call it a ‘meme’ from Irish literature, because it comes up over and over again in different books and plays and songs. It always goes the same way: a city slicker who represents some sort of ‘progress’ sees an old guy from the country and the old guy says, “Look well on me,sonny. You’ll never see the like of me again.”
So this the old captain telling his wife and sons that he realizes that it’s the end of an era. Their ‘trad’ way of life is ending. He gets it. He’s trying to tell them that they don’t. And they better start groking the new reality. They’ve lived their entire lives expecting things would go a certain way.
RCLike farmers. I’ll work the land, then buy the land from the old man, etc., etc.
JCHRight. They think they’re tough because they do tough work. But they’re not tough because they’ve never had to deal with an uncertain future. Finding your own path is tough! Does that make sense?
RCSure. I remember people I went to college with who went in so determined that they were going to be one thing and then were just lost when something happened and they had to face that it wasn’t going to be that way. It’s devastating. Or guys who get out of the army and then go ‘now what?’.
JCHBut nobody can tell you. When you’re that age you won’t listen.
RCNobody can tell you, Dorothy. You have to find it out for yourself.
JCHAnd that’s Ciarán’s frustration. Like all parents he wants to save his kids from pain. But of course, you never can.
RCAnd it’s always weird to see a tough guy wearing his heart on his sleeve.
RCOK. Back to the music. I never would’ve any of what we’ve been talking about from listening to the song. It sounds melancholy and all but it doesn’t say any of the plot you’re describing.
JCHWell, if you remember way, way back I said that most traditional operas are ‘numbers pieces’, ie. there are recitatives–bits where the characters do the ‘exposition’
JCHRight. And then there are the arias (songs) and that’s where the actors describe their feelings. So these songs are kinda abstract because the actor isn’t saying something like, (sings in operatic voice) “I’m going to the store to get some smokes!” In an aria she might sing (sings in operatic voice) “Dread comes upon me as I head on out the door!” Get it?
JCHAll the juicy bits are in the arias–at least in traditional operas. The recitatives? They were just something that had to be gotten through. You see that in movies today. Directors try to get the ‘set up’ and ‘exposition’ done as quickly as possible so they can get on to the fun shit: the fight scenes or the love scenes.
RCWe’ve discussed that before. And I’m one of those people who like the exposition. That’s what attracts me to spy novels–all the details.
JCHOh I feel ya, man. I’m the same way. But when composers started breaking down the divide between recitatives and arias, that’s when audiences started checking out. Wagner did that. There really are no recitatives or arias in his ‘Ring’ operas. It’s just wall to wall action for four hours. And it was really hard to take for listeners at the time.
RCFour hours of anything is still hard to take.
JCHYou know it. That’s something I kept in mind with The Boats. It’s a pretty simple story and I wanted to keep it a length that matched that. My teacher in college said that he’d decided that about 80 minutes was the right length of time for a concert. I dunno where he got that number but he insisted that you could get up after a concert of that length and feel refreshed. Anything longer was like a meal that’s too heavy. Just sits in the gut and makes ya tired.
RCI think there may be a lot of truth to that.
JCHMe too. The older I get the more I notice the length of performances. What is the appropriate length. I’ve come to think that getting the length right, be it in a song or a speech or a dance or even a book is half the battle. I get -so- annoyed now when I read an article that should’ve been half as long.
RCWell on that note, I think this is exactly the correct length for today’s rant.
JCHWell played, sir.