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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Musical Art, Happiness And Go Thou

This is one of those days we've been doing our shopping and walking among languages. I wish I understood more of them. On my profile page, years ago, I listed Joe Dassin as a favorite musician.  He was an American, a polyglot, a Frenchman, a doctor of ethnology, a poet and singer. He was a citizen of the world. He was on a tragically tight schedule,  had a bad heart, but left the world with one of the happiest songs I ever heard: The song is about walking on a street, in this case a very famous street and having life jump out at you, cataloguing its wonders in the form of possibilities. Here: Joe Dassin, Les Champs Elysees;
Tu m'as dit : "J'ai rendez-vous
Dans un sous-sol avec des fous
Qui vivent la guitare à la main
Du soir au matin."

My translation: "You told me: 'I have an appointment in a basement of fools who live guitar-in-hand all night."

I like to think the basement was full of guitars because they couldn't fit a piano in it, and the fools combined themselves into the range of notes required for pieces written for heavier artillery. One of my favorite piano pieces is"Farewell To Stromness",, by Peter Maxwell Davies. The Los Angeles Guitar Quartet couldn't do a better job of it even if they were in a basement:
I suppose my western upbringing left me with a fondness for guitars --the preferred instrument of the American cowboy. So I will close with a dance by Oliver Hardy, an American, and Stan Laurel, an Englishman, to a guitar and yodeling version of "Commence To Dancing":
There is a relaxed, happy feel about this dance that finds proof in its imperfections. In fact, none of my three examples of happiness is entirely perfect. They all took some work. Their artists did not accept the archetype of happiness as a force of nature. They approached it with skills and ideas that were artistically limited. Sometimes it is necessary to be masterful and not nervous about details. Go thou and do likewise.


  1. Delores-- I believe we have a dance.

  2. Thanks once again, Geo.! Each (and all) of these three were more pleasing and artistic than anything in the 'musical moments' of tonight's 85th Oscars Awards show. Just another sign of America's sink into its late empire period, like all empires before. The trajectory of popular (and most other) culture trends for such is treasure-trend-trash. IMO.we are solidly in the last in most cases!

  3. Just what I needed! There is little in the world that a Laurel and Hardy dance can't make better! And you speak perfect French, far as I see. We need more people with guitars in basements, obviously.

  4. Willie-- And yet, and yet, our national budget deficit has dropped 40% in the past 4 years or so. I'll yodel to that --you're the better dancer.

  5. Austan-- Thanks! Basements should be top priority right now.

  6. It's been a long time since I heard anything about Joe Dassin, so it was a delight to see him perform. And thanks for the translation.

    The guitar has always been one of my favorite instruments, for it's exquisite beauty and romantic intrigue. I never knew that L.A. had a guitar quartet.

    The third video made me want to dance, in a delightfully imperfect way.

  7. Thanks Jon. Joe's great heart gave out a year after that 1979 performance. Such a loss. Laurel and Hardy had a chemistry that defied chemistry in a distillate of joy.

  8. My late papaw used to wax poetic about Laurel and Hardy. An efortless chemistry.

  9. I love "Farewell to Stromness"! Never heard it before. Thank you for sharing.

  10. 'I like to think the basement was full of guitars because they couldn't fit a piano in it,'

    That filled me with an unexpected glee.

  11. Keith-- Laurel and Hardy mastered the situational poetry of a gentler humor, perhaps a gentler time, and became timeless themselves.

    Arleen-- It can be a better world again, let's yodel!

    Armchair Squid-- Davies composed that gentle tune in protest to projected uranium mining in the port city of Stromness. His side won. There is strength in gentleness.

    Suze-- As the artists I've referenced honor the whole human voyage, I'm happy to add some measure of glee. Thank you.

  12. Delightful, dude.

    As a teenager, I often attended a basement full of guitars. Plus a banjo, tambourine, and bongos. The music we created may not have been as good as the guitarists in your video, but we sure made a joyous noise.

  13. Susan-- Ah! The hootenanny years. Guys named Dude went to hootenannies. I sure did!

  14. Almost the best is the very beginning of the happy feet with all the sproingy joy yet to come. Anticipation! Thanks.


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