May 2nd, 2008


Speaking of "What's it say?"...

I'm a sucker for melancholy. John Dowland, Chris Isaak, Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis, Barber's Adagio for Strings, Dead Can Dance's "Sanvean"... you name it. There's something cathartic about it, not to mention that it's reassuring to be reminded that people can rise above it creatively.

In that category also, for me at least, is some of the music of Clannad.... but there I'm sure I'm reacting to a lot of it totally inappropriately, because I and Irish are like the dog in the Beggin' Strips commercials and writing. I let the Magical Ring version of "Coinleach Ghlas An Fhómair" wash over me in all its bittersweet jazzy Bm/D glory, and for all I know, Máire Ní Bhraonáin could be nagging someone to take out the trash or going over her grocery list. Ditto for the ominous-sounding "Na Laethe Bhí" on Banba. Thank goodness there are web sites with lyrics and translations.

I will tackle the language, though. I have to, for Susan McKeown. One year at the Salisbury House Renfair I bought a T-shirt with beautiful Irish semiuncial text on it that I did happen to know the meaning of: "Tír gan teanga, tír gan anam": [a] land without [a] language [is a] land without [a] soul. I switched back to mundane clothing to head to a church where Ms. McKeown and her band at the time performed--and performed magnificently; if you ever have the chance to hear her, take advantage of it without any hesitation--and as part of the switch, put on the T-shirt I'd just bought.

After the amazing concert, I made a point of buying CDs, and shyly stood in line for an autograph. She saw my T-shirt, and asked: "Do you know what that means?" I did, and gave the translation. She asked if I minded if she autographed the CD insert in Irish, and I said no, so she did. It was a very nice end to a wonderful day.

I keep trying, and my head keeps spinning when I read about broad and slender vowels, and how they have to be surrounded by a bodyguard of consonants to keep them from associating with the other kind, so I never get very far. Someday, though...
  • Current Music
    "Snakes," Susan McKeown