I was considering featuring Neil Young's "A Man Needs a Maid" as today's depressing song. I was listening to it while hanging the ornaments on the Christmas tree last December, and all the while was pondering loneliness, death and suicide. But no... there's another piece of music I want to mention.
Today's depressing song is an oddity in that there are no lyrics. So I can't even explain why it depresses me! It's the theme to the 1960 Otto Preminger film "Exodus." My parents had the soundtrack when I was four or five (the Saul Bass burning hands design was another cause for puzzlement for my young mind), and whenever they played the damn thing I'd burst into tears; I have no idea why and didn't know why then, either. When my mother asked I just described it as a "sad song." I recall hearing it on the console stereo at home, on TV, on the radio in the car, on jukeboxes... it seemed we couldn't get away from it. And every time, after that big orchestral build up prior to the main theme, my eyes would well up in tears and I'd sob uncontrollably, poor little boy.
I'm not even Jewish.
I said it had no lyrics - that's not quite true. In fact, Pat Boone (Pat Boone!) wrote some for it along the lines of, "This land is mine/God gave this land to me..." in keeping with the Israeli theme of the story. But the lyrics never affected me. In fact, they somewhat stripped away the emotional bite of the piece.
I recall that the Luther Burbank Junior High School band "played" it at my 9th grade graduation ceremony. Needless to say, their musical gifts made it sound even more forlorn.
It's funny... even grown up as I am, I still get a mild panic attack when I hear those opening chords... what is it with that music, anyway?!?
By the way, my friend Bob, a perceptive reader, notes that none of the depressing tunes I've cited this week are what might be called "broken heart" songs. That is true. I am avoiding that theme altogether. These songs are lachrymose for other reasons.
Tomorrow: The song I think is the A number one all-time most depressing. It's such a bummer my wife can't stand it, either.
I'm at the Middle Ages part in my clock book ("Revolution in Time" by David S. Landes) that describes how clocks were simply automated bells - no dials. What is a clock but a bell? In fact our English word clock is akin to the the German word for bell, glocke, and the French word for bell, cloche.
I also learned that the foliot is so named due to its "mad" movement. The maddest clock movement to me, however, is the Harrison H1, which I saw in the Greenwich Observatory in London last year. Those rods, with the brass balls on top, crazily wig and wag towards and away from each other in a mesmerizing way. Truly unique. On Bond Street in London earlier this year I saw a Harrison-style clock for sale with the same goofy mechanism. I would love to have one, or a Jaeger-LeCoutre "Atmos" clock, which is powered by mere temperature differentials.
Yes, you can have too many clocks in a house. We are perilously near that. There's my cool old 1912 Ithaca grandfather clock in the dining room, a mantel clock over the fireplace in the living room and a pendulum wall clock in the kitchen. Since the three rooms are close together when they're all ticking it sounds like a clock shop.
But my wife once wrote that a ticking clock is one of the three things which make a house a home, and she's right.
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