The "Christmas Carol" musical motif

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The "Christmas Carol" musical motif

Post by alberich00 » Wed Dec 26, 2012 2:33 pm

Dear forum users of the holiday season:

I was re-reading Dickens's "A Christmas Carol" for the millionth time and found a passage which called to mind the Wagnerian "Wonder," the magic of his musical motifs:

"After tea, they had some music. For they [Scrooge's nephew] were a musical family, and knew what they were about, when they sung a glee or catch, I can assure you: especially Topper, who could growl away in the bass like a good one, and never swell the large veins in his forehead, or get red in the face over it.
Scrooge's niece played well upon the harp; and played, among other tunes, a simple little air (a mere nothing: you might learn to whistle it in two minutes) which had been familiar to the child who fetched Scrooge from the boarding-school, as he had been reminded by the Ghost of Christmas Past. When this strain of music sounded, all the things that Ghost had shown him came upon his mind; he softened more and more; and thought that if he could have listened to it often, years ago, he might have cultivated the kindness of life for his own happiness with his own hands, without resorting to the sexton's spade that buried Jacob Marley."

A magnificent, overlooked passage from this consummate short story. Long before I could read anything more sophisticated than a first grade Dick and Jane script, I saw the 1951 version of "A Christmas Carol" starring Alastair Sim in the title role on tv every Christmas (except during that unbearable stretch of years when, for god knows what miserable reason, some morons decided to pull it off the air. I was saved when it was recorded first as a vhs, and then as a dvd). But something struck me forcefully from my first acquaintance with this exquisite film. It introduced me to the tune (the best variant of) the old British ballad Barbara Allen which, as described in Dickens's original (though he doesn't specify the tune), is first heard in the film when little Fan, Scrooge's sister, comes to fetch him home from the boarding school, and is heard again being sung at Scrooge's Nephew's Christmas Day party just as Scrooge is about to - after all these years - accept his nephew's invitation to dinner for the first time. Just as this tune has always seemed to me in some strange way to distill all of the magic I associate with Britain, its heritage and atmosphere, so "A Christmas Carol" seems to distill some secret spiritual essence of my Britain. The film remains sacred to me, and not only because of its terribly moving scenario and masterful, iconic writing. There is something in the atmosphere of it which I've always associated with my most valuable dream states.

Dickens's wonderful description, above, of the capacity of this tune inscribed in Scrooge's heart during his early childhood, as a sort of last refuge of lost paradise, to influence one's destiny (or to be one's virtual identity), and to call up from the past a whole series of linked memories, is precisely what Wagner was at in his elaboration of his musical motifs which, for him, distill the essences of things and their relations to each other.

With best wishes for a glorious holiday season,

I remain,

your friend from Wagnerheim,

Paul alias Alberich00
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Re: The "Christmas Carol" musical motif

Post by feuerzauber » Wed Dec 26, 2012 6:44 pm

Is Scrooge's long-remembered tune Dickens's "Christmas Day Spell"? Seasons Greetings to you.
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