Monday, October 6, 2008

Hushabye Mountain

When I was young Christmas was delightful. A period of enchantment and mystic rapture. This was no less real just because I couldn’t conceptualise my luscious intimations.

Who needs words to access certain experiences? We need them only to communicate them, if we need to communicate them; and when we try we deal in shadows, not substance. Knowing this, that our words might sully, we can choose to remain silent in honour of the experience.

You may remember, but it seemed that every year at Christmas in the early seventies Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, starring the magical Dick van Dyke, was shown on TV. Watching it again now, I have become entranced by ‘Hushabye Mountain’ by Robert and Richard Sherman. The transcendent delicacy of emotion disorders my world in very agreeable ways. And I am moved to note that what we find here, despite the emotional richness, is the opposite of sentimentality. While some may baulk at the ‘sweetness’ on display, there is no forced or affected posturing, no mere simulation of feelings indulged in because one thinks one should, as it were, at one step removed from the real thing. Instead, the artistry is not artifice, but skillful mastery of evocation, technique deployed successfully in the generation of authentic response.

Well, in me anyway.

Alas, I can’t find an extract of the actual scene (except in Italian!?), but here Van Dyke sings it, against a series of portraits. While, as with all art, I can neither expect nor ask that you like it, there is a chance that you may, even as much as I; or that you might never even have heard it before.

Take note of the lyrics, as much as the music and the voice. Sometimes, with songs I love I find it sufficient to get carried away by the melody. I can find words superfluous, or even a distraction. But here they add to the experience, being exquisitely chosen.

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