Wednesday, March 21, 2007

In the Mind of Nursery Rhyme

My favorite bartender is highly amused when I read my nursery rhyme book while drinking a glass of good wine. He'll pour me another and tease that I must know how to read them for their double (naughty) meaning. I have to laugh at that one. More seriously, though, I like studying these nursery rhymes and children's fables because my current musical projects (er, compositions) demand it. (Projects seem to go where they will, all of their own accord, and I simply follow them them around, trying to guide them into a shape that others will enjoy, too.) The following sentiments (from the preface to The Oxford Nursery Rhyme Book) sum up much of what I am trying to accomplish in the music (and video, too):
The nursery rhyme comes at the transitional stage between the picture book pure and simple, and the first story book. ... The child probably has not previously given the verses any meaning. Now, he looks at the pictures in the book in relation to the words being read and begins to identify...and understand.

These are fancies and frolics, of lunacy and yet logic.

The poetic view of life is maintained in the riddle. Common objects are to be found dressed in the apparel of other objects. Ostensibly they have been so dressed for puzzlement, but the choice of costume has been the poet's.

In the nursery rhyme, a story is told more quickly, and arouses more laughter in less words than ever is possible in prose.

An illustration for a child need not be large, nor should it attempt to out-do the text; in fact it is an advantage if it is a simple statement matching the verse. There is, in fact, a particular pleasure in examining and re-examining the precise miniature world of a small engraving.

I particularly agree with the idea that some songs and rhymes are "beyond precise visual interpretation." When I play with video, for example, one of my foremost mantras is: do not "stunt the imagination [of the audience] with some exact interpretation."

Ultimately, I must condense and whittle away on these ideas, turning text into lovely program notes and concepts into fun pieces. Yes, it's just a matter of getting those pieces made! Alex agrees. Barfly, barfly, fly away home!


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