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CLASSICAL  February 2008

CLASSICAL February 2008

Subject:

A Note Concerning Nothing At All

From:

Steve Schwartz <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 13 Feb 2008 11:42:08 -0800

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (50 lines)

I've been reading Ira Gershwin's Lyrics on Several Occasions, lyrics
to his songs both well-known and completely forgotten, with commentary.
The commentary is wonderful, delightfully erudite and funny.  Here's
part of his remarks on the little-known "The Jolly Tar and the Milkmaid."

   Additional Uttered Nonsense.  I have just spent the afternoon
   leafing through the thousand or so songs in D'Urfey's
   six-volume collection, Pills to Purge Melancholy (published
   1719-20), to see how frequently various meaningless but
   singable phrases occurred in that period.  Well, most of
   the songs use the short refrain, but most of these are
   meaningful (far too much so - unless one is an Erotica
   buff).  Fixing upon only the innocuous, I find that the
   Elizabethan "hey nonny" and such were by then on the wane.
   The most favored refrain in the collection - some twenty
   songs use it - seems to have been "with a fa la la . . ."
   (incid., "fal la la" was a favorite refrain with Gilbert
   and Sullivan).  Other of the innocent burthens in D'Urfey
   are: "with a hey ding, hoe ding, derry, derry, ding," "with
   a fadariddle la . . .," "fa la la, lanky downdilly," "hey
   troly loly lo," and "with a humbledum grumbledum hey."  Not
   forgetting an exuberant "huggle duggle, ha! ha! ha!"

   The use of easily assimilable nonsense phrase in song is
   of course not limited to the British, Irish, and Scottish.
   Hundreds of examp;les can be found in nineteenth- and
   twentieth-century American song.  Offhand: "doodah, doodah,"
   "yip i addy i ay," "ja da, ja da, jing, jing, jing," all
   the variants of "ho do ho" and "hi de hi," &c., &c.  These
   are not necessarily all used as refrains - they may be
   titles, interjections, responses, or whatever.  A longish
   example of the phrase-for-sound-alone's-sake is "It Ain't
   Necessarily So"'s "Wadoo! Zim bam boddle-oo!  Hoodle a da
   wah da!  Scatty-wah!"

   Dramatist Thomas D'Urfey (1653-1723) included a number of
   his own songs in Pills to Purge Melancholy.  And I cannot
   take leave of the collection without quoting the charmingly
   informative heading to one of them: "Advice to the City, a
   famous Song, set to a tune of Signior Opdar, so remarkable,
   that I had the Honour to Sing it with King Charles at
   Windsor; He holding one part of the Paper with Me."

Schwartzo

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