Over on More about the song Rachel responded to Totalfeckineejit’s Monday challenge to write a poem about a song that means a lot to you. She chose Crystal Gayle singing ‘Don’t it make your brown eyes green’ (which I like too). I said I didn’t think I could write a poem about a song, but that the music which means most to me is probably Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Like the anti-hero in Anthony Burgess’ novel A Clockwork Orange, I’m obsessed by it (I’ve never seen the film though, fearing it wouldn’t live up to the book). I really do think it’s the finest piece of music ever written. I’ll even listen to bad versions. At one point I thought about asking for the last movement to be played at my funeral, but that was just a bit too pretentious, even for moi. So here’s the first draft of the poem, dashed off rather hastily last night.
The magnificent Ninth
Mostly, the band gets it right;
sometimes it goes better;
you notice passages overlooked
in other versions.
I’ve got four or five, all different,
listened to many more.
The technical side aside,
now I’m tuned to nuance.
Maybe a phrase gets stretched,
or softened, emphasised; maybe
it’s ensemble playing, or the strength
of a lusty choir.
But I don’t know I really like it
until the soloists come in.
I hate wobbly tenors
where vibrato chokes the tune.
I’ve heard too many sopranos
lose control in canyon cleavages,
and we all know how wayward
waffly bearded basses sound.
Sometimes though – just sometimes –
it all sounds good and right, and I’m moved,
without knowing how, to tears
of unbearable joy. Freude! Freude!