Let well weighed Considerations, not stiff and peremptory Assumptions, guide thy discourses, Pen, and Actions. — Sir Thomas Browne
It is very true that the commonly held opinions of man are often changing. Man is a very fickle creature, and today’s fads will surely fade into obscurity tomorrow. It is, or should be, more surprising that some fads do not fade. That is, we ought to wonder at the strange fact that although the modern theory denies human nature, it is human nature and all the glory that comes with it — love, virtue, justice — that has always remained. I do not want to merely state the obvious here, but I find myself this morning in a state of grave guilt regarding an opinion I had held on to very tightly. I used to hold with an iron fist that the musical was the lowest of dramatic genres because the music was constantly interrupting the story. But more than that, I was generally annoyed that it took the singer three or four times as long to say the same thing that could have been said in three or four sentences. What I failed to recognize, and have since come to embrace, is that perhaps our silly modern ways stifle the music that should pour out of our spirit at random intervals. If the musical has anything to say to us today, it is not so much that we do not sing as it is that we do not sincerely believe there is anything worthy of song.
This past week I experienced my first live musical in quite some time. I must say, it was so well done from a musical perspective that one almost got annoyed that the dialogue interrupted the song. Indeed, Sweeney Todd, is a powerful story, but it would not have been half as powerful if everything was not put into song. It’s one thing to confer with Mrs. Lovett that you will make your victims into meat pies; it’s another thing to sing about it for five minutes using puns. Perhaps it is a juvenile lesson to be learned from such a play, but it remains a lesson. Perhaps I speak from complete ignorance on the matter when I say that (despite our modern worship of communication) the number one problem with the modern marriage is communication. Perhaps it is a silly thought that our communication troubles might be helped if we spoke in parables and puns, if we regarded every speech as a musical interlude. Better, perhaps, if spouses did away with the pedantic insistence on clear prose in the kitchen and spoke in poetry set to music. Perhaps Lewis was on to something when he had Aslan sing creation into being. It is true that our Lord chose to speak to us in parables.
Now one might say that my marriage advice is founded on wishful thinking , and I tend to agree. I can no more think up a song on a whim than I can set it to music. But it still holds that our mindset toward those seemingly modern tasks of asking the husband to take out the trash could be approached musically:
I’ve asked you three times now!
If you forget again, I’ll have a cow!
If you forget again, throw yourself in the can,
And make good friends with our garbage man!
This would naturally lead into a back and forth sing-off between husband and wife with a chorus that mused on the philosophical aspects of taking out the trash in a marriage:
Husband: Trash! Trash! Why are wives so rash!
Wife: Men! Men! Their heads I want to smash!
Husband: The bags are O’ so heavy! They smell like moldy jelly!
Wife: The smell’s no worse than you and your beer belly!
Together: And your beer belly!
As the song progresses, neighbors would obviously join in and the final chorus would be sung by multiple men and women. As should be noted, nothing is really resolved here, and in fact the lines probably encourage frustration with taking out the trash. But more importantly neither will ever consider taking out the trash the same again.
Perhaps a better example could be taken from the world of work. Too often does work place communication occur that is straightforward and to the point. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: if we are to perpetually live in this new age of communication where we are constantly and forever communicating with people we ought to, in the very least, do so poetically. Thirty years ago, before the morbid age of emails, secretaries would have to type up memos and print them off for important information like a call to clean the microwave. Now we have email, and the secretary can supposedly get more done by sending off a quick letter through the ether. This has at least three terrible drawbacks: (1) It does nothing for efficiency; (2) The secretary can come across as annoyed; and (3) No one would reads the email. But I say that if we are going to insist on that horrid email as the means of communicating such an important piece of information, we should at least train secretaries to use the time they normally would spent printing off the document and conduct the email in poetry:
You all have noticed the microwave,
It looks like a man who’s never shaved,
The food he eats sticks to his beard,
The excess on his lips is smeared,
And when he’s done, he belches out loud,
The stink allows him to weave through crowds.
So when you’re done using the microwave,
Don’t be like this man who never shaves,
Cover your food so it doesn’t splatter,
Or we’ll beat you till your bones shatter.
But if it splatters, wipe with a rag,
Or else on your head we’ll place a bag,
And on your desk hang a banner-
“This Man Wasn’t Taught Common Manners”
That might just do the trick, and it’s probable that the emails would not only be read but looked forward to. Nevertheless, would it be even superior if the workplace consisted of bosses bursting out in song to relay common information?
Boss: The quarterly numbers are in, my man!
It seems that you will surely be canned!
Employee: But I’m a harder worker than lazy Rick!
Not only that, he’s a huge prick!
Boss: I know that’s true but I caught you today!
You heated your food, but wiped not the tray!
Employee Chorus: I have been fired, O’ what a fate!
Had I been careful to clean my plate!
Everyone: Had he been careful to clean his plate!
The qualities that music possesses will never go out of style or lose their rhetorical significance. A song gets the same message across and takes four or five times as long. More importantly, there are a good amount of very pointless details that add to the message that mere prose cannot convey. I once had a dear friend who told me that what was missing in his life was a soundtrack for every moment. Well, I agree, but now that I think about it, that man does have a soundtrack to his life: his musical soul. If we all trained ourselves to speak in metered rhyme, using as many puns and unnecessary illustrations as possible, the world would be a better place. It is true that less would get done, but then that which did get done would get done correctly. It is too common for mothers to say they are “only mothers” or for plumbers to say they are “only plumbers.” I say, it is far better to be a mother who sings to her children or a plumber who uses his windpipes to sing about sink pipes than another hurried modern who is far too busy to speak in rhyme.
Sam Snow, theficklefarce.com
Composed at Thee Ole Midshipman,
November 16, 2014
Transcribed by Adam the Scribe II
At Kansas State University,
November 18, 2014
Painting: “A Musical Jester”
By British (English) School,
Oil on canvas, n.d.