Thursday, May 10, 2012

Of ghosts and goodbyes

Who is knocking at my door?

German folk poetry is very haunted and weird. That is one reason the songs in "Des Knaben Wunderhorn" make such good songs.

Mahler's "Where the Beautiful Trumpets Sound" is one of the best. It is about a soldier who comes back from war but he is dead, he is a ghost.

German poetry was full of this kind of thing, with all their wars. That is why I am here! I had a great-grandfather in the Franco-Prussian War. My ancestors left Germany in the middle of the 19th century because of all the wars.

I love Mahler's song because he is so subtle about it. He does not hit you over the head that the soldier is a ghost. You have to pick it up when you hear the ghost's sing-songy song. It starts at 1:30. You know what, the first time I heard this, I was in the car, sitting at a stoplight. The voice of the ghost came on and I just started to cry. That was how directly it hit me. I did not even have the text to follow. You just knew it was something supernatural.

There is this song by Steeleye Span that I also think about, "The Wife of Usher's Well." The sons come back and they are dead.

Three sons came home to Usher's Well, their hats were made of bark....

These folk songs, there are so many ghosts in them and so many goodbyes.

We should return to this subject in November, when the nights are long.

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