Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thinking of der Lenny*

Millions of words have been written on Leonard Bernstein's magic, and the mythology doesn't need my addition to the bulk. But I remembered today an LP record my parents bought for me when I was in grade school, Leonard Bernstein and What is Jazz?

In two sides of one LP, Bernstein used the text from several of his broadcasts. I particularly recall his explanation that the blues used iambic pentameter. First he played Bessie Smith singing,
"I woke up this mornin' with an awful achin' head.
Oh, I woke up this mornin' with an aaaawful achin' head.
My new man had left me just a rooooom and an empty bed."

He appended some lines from Macbeth, singing
"I will not be afraid of death nor bane.
I said, I will not be afraaiid of death nor bane.
'Til Birnam Forest cooomes to Dunsinane."

It worked! And it must have been a good lesson for me to remember it all these years.

*As the adoring Viennese called him.

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