Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Of Tales, Tunes, and Times.

It’s nice when the art of teaching weaves its magic in surprising ways. The piece was the first of Schumann’s Marchenbilder (Fairy Tale Pictures), and for all my efforts online and in CD program notes, I couldn’t find out what specific fairy tales he was referring to, inclining mua to the opinion that it is for the performer to find the images for himself.

The music is clear enough, and not too far into Impressionism to have to know the specific images it is based on, and it there were quite a few moments of discovery for me in finding my own relevant references to make the music make sense to the student. Somehow in teaching, some pictures were made clearer to me that I didn’t quite notice when I prepared it for a recital: what’s-her-name spinning gold with Rumplestiltskin, Hansel and Gretel’s bat-eyed witch poking to see whether the kid was ready for the microwave, the crazy flying monkeys from The Wizard of Oz (realizing then that Ding Dong, This Witch is in a Movie, Not a Fairy Tale, Dumbass), and the suspense of pregnant pauses that make fairy tales an oral story-telling tradition.

Time to go back to Mother Goose, or perhaps Salman Rushdie:

In the end, stories are what’s left of us, we are no more than the few tales that persist. And in the best of the old yarns, the ones we ask for over’n’over, there are lovers, it’s true, but the parts we go for are the bits where shadows fall across the lovers’ path. Poisoned apple, bewitched spindle, Black Queen, wicked with, baby-stealing goblins, that’s the stuff.

from The Moor’s Last Sigh

...which is in no way as scary as reminders from older times that even great minds can be bigots, such as Robert Louis Stevenson in fairy tales of his own:

You have curious things to eat,
I am fed on proper meat;
You must dwell beyond the foam,
But I am safe and live at home.

Little Indian, Sioux or Crow,
Little frosty Eskimo,
Little Turk or Japanee,
O! don't you wish that you were me?

from A Child's Garden of Verses

There is a wide spectrum of reasons we search for fairy tale pictures of our own - sometimes because they aren't there to begin with, sometimes because we can make them our own, and sometimes because we can make them as much about fairy tales as being fair ones too.

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