No lemony dissonance

I read all sorts of things; I read book reviews because I love books, I read theatre and film reviews because I used to go to the theatre and cinema fairly frequently, but I also read reviews of opera which I have no real interest in, but it is interesting to read about the performances, and I read classical music reviews for the same reason.

I was reading a review of a concert from the Royal Albert Hall, and I couldn’t help but goggle at some of the language the reviewer used, and wonder what it meant. I know nothing about music, actually, but even so… I mean, what is ‘lemony dissonance’? In what way was the melodic line ‘touched in… with insinuating slyness’? Insinuating what? Apparently the piece ended up with ‘big band sassiness’ – yes, I can get that, but apparently the big band ‘drives out Grecian coolness.’ … I look back and the piece was inspired by something Plato had written, so maybe I can grasp the Grecian coolness.

The other piece of music in the review included ‘wheezy fairground waltzes, crazily intense fugues, dry little musical mechanisms’… Maybe if I knew the pieces I would understand better, but maybe I wouldn’t… Maybe I am too simple when it comes to musical appreciation, but even if I wasn’t, would I know what lemony dissonance was?

This isn’t a review, it’s an appreciation of a much more simple piece of music, a short song, not a violin concerto or a symphony, just a simple song with a clever twist.

I wrote this when I first heard it, five years ago:

Clichés and well-worn phrases lurk in wait for the unwary writer; like many writers I really try to avoid hackneyed and corny expressions, and yet when I’m editing I find my work is littered with them, as if someone else has sneaked along and quickly written a few lines when I was making a cup of tea or doing the ironing, or having dinner. With so many millions of books out there, it’s hard not to fall into the trap of the weary phrase or the worn out simile. Writing songs must be even more difficult, how can you write in an original way about love? How can you write a romantic ballad which hasn’t been written many times before?

Somehow, Raul Malo always manages it and while listening to his songs on the Mavericks stunning new album, ‘In Time’, I thought how effortlessly his lyrics match his melodies. I was listening to a song which is so sweet, so romantic, but also so clever. It is quite short, and in a way quite simple… But Raul has given it a bitter-sweet twist by a single word change. The song is of lost love and it is entitled ‘In another’s arms’… How easy it would have been to have written ‘In each other’s arms’, but how much more poignant to have the lovers apart, in another’s arms.


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