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April 17, 2013

Not the movie. If that’s what you wanted, look away now.

Listening to, and writing about, Pluto the other day, set me thinking about the Moon.

Now let me stop you before you stop me: there is a world – make that a solar system – of difference between Pluto and the Moon. But my mind, operating at something like C, made the whole Pluto-Planet-Space-Moon connection before you could blink. And of course, in musical terms, once you reach the moon the sky’s the limit.

Right, let that be an end of astronomical punning, unless the temptation becomes irresistible. Let’s get to where I was going, which was, in the first place, The Waterboys The Whole of the Moon. This is a great, great song, saying so much that I can’t say about imagination. If you check out a certain online encyclopaedia, you will see various mutually contradictory claims as to what it is actually about, but for me it is a celebration of the places you can visit in your head, and the heights your mind can reach: “I wandered out in the world for years: you just stayed in your room. I saw the crescent: you saw the whole of the moon.” Rather like Helen Reddy’s creepy Angie Baby – I picture a person whose reality is internal rather than external, but has more emotional experience than they could acquire by living in the real world. Seeing the whole of the moon is only a physical impossibility; imagination doesn’t have that limitation.

Next stop: Moonlight Shadow by Mike Oldfield. I’ve always liked this, but have not the slightest idea what it means: the connection between the title and the lyrics is at best obscure. It contains the inexcusably tautologous line “4 a.m. in the morning” which I find disproportionately annoying, even to the extent that if I am singing along I miss that line out. But it does feature Maggie Reilly on lead vocals, which is an adornment to any song (including Rain & Dole & Tea, a track on Fire and Water by Dave Greenfield and J J Burnel, in an out-of-Stranglers excursion).

Moonlight Shadow, although incomprehensible, still feels more aligned with the romantic, mysterious view of matters lunar that has provided cheap evocative fodder for poets and musicians for as long as poets and musicians have needed something to evoke. Take Debussy’s endlessly popular Au Clair de la Lune, for example, haunting and restful at the same time,  which both creates an ambience and then goes further and allows you to paint your own picture inside it.

Perhaps less moving but nevertheless pretty is the Victorian parlour song – The Moon hath raised her Lamp above sung on this link by Peter Dawson and Ernest Pike. This recording was made sometime before 1936 – an unremarkable deduction, given the year of Pike’s death. A few years, at least, before Glenn Miller recorded Moonlight Serenade, the obligatory soundtrack to any wartime film dance scenes (ideally the instrumental version). the mooonBut if you wish to touch the heart of that someone special, I recommend Moonlight Becomes You, and if you can replicate Bing Crosby’s style so much the better. Ok, so the opening couplet is a little forced: Moonlight becomes you, it goes with your hair/You certainly know the right things to wear. Stick to that, though, and avoid my Dad’s adaptation which replaced hair/wear with feet/eat, somehow failing to impress Mum in the process. Personally, if I’m trying to get on the right side of Mrs simonsometimessays, I am more likely to propose a short walk Under the Moon of Love accompanied (not literally) by Showaddywaddy.

I’m not sure how well this fits, but I’ll mention it anyway: Haydn’s comic opera – Il Mondo della Luna – about an elaborate trick which depends on the innocence of a simpleton as to the nature of the moon, based on a story by Goldoni (whose huge success with The Servant of Two Masters is recreated in the modern adaptation – One Man, Two Guvnors). Haydn apparently wrote 15 or more operas, which is a fairly healthy output, especially when you consider it alongside over 100 symphonies and numerous other works. The operatic output is of the quality that Haydn consistently achieved, but he inevitably suffers by comparison with his contemporary, Mozart. The music is good but not truly memorable, where 30 years later it might have been differently positioned for posterity. Nevertheless, the Overture to Il Mondo della Luna is worth a listen, and demonstrates the skill in orchestral composition in which Haydn is an acknowledged master. But to suggest that he can hold a candle to Mozart is, as Bruno Mars might say, mere Moonshine.

I think I’ll leave it there. I want to get this posted before sunset.


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  1. Paul Shonk permalink

    I prefer a “Bad Moon Rising” myself!

  2. Being able to move from Mozart to Bruno Mars without breaking a string is testimony to your skill! And does Mr Mars lead into further planetary exploration in your next post?!

  3. Thank you very much!
    Well, someone has to cross the astronomy/music boundaries now that Patrick Moore is no longer with us.

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