I am in desperate need of caffeine, so I am faking enthusiasm and energy for the moment until I can go find myself a dose of caffeine. So anyway, now you can see why my headline looks like that. Yeah! Go! Go!
Crazy Princess began a 30-day blogging ‘assignment’ and I was inspired enough to go do it myself, too. It sounds fun. If you don’t know from reading her blog, it involves some writing prompts for 30 days. Pretty simple stuff, and the kind of topics everyone can write about to some degree. If you would like a list of the topics for your own reference or use, here ya go:
Day 1 – your favorite song
Day 2 – your favorite movie
Day 3 – your favorite television program
Day 4 – your favorite book
Day 5 – your favorite quote
Day 6 – 20 of your favorite things
Day 7 – a photo that makes you happy
Day 8 – a photo that makes you angry/sad
Day 9 – a photo you took
Day 10 – a photo taken over 10 years ago of you
Day 11 – a photo of you recently
Day 12 – something you are OCD about
Day 13 – a fictional book
Day 14 – a non-fictional book
Day 15 – your dream house
Day 16 – a song that makes you cry (or nearly)
Day 17 – an art piece (drawing, sculpture, painting, etc)
Day 18 – your wedding/future wedding/past wedding
Day 19 – a talent of yours
Day 20 – a hobby of yours
Day 21 – a recipe
Day 22 – a website
Day 23 – a YouTube video
Day 24 – where you live
Day 25 – your day, in great detail (Ummm, I might not be able to do these very well because I already write too long as it is… so I might come up with alternate topics for these two days.)
Day 26 – your week, in great detail
Day 27 – your worst habit
Day 28 – what’s in your handbag/purse
Day 29 – hopes, dreams and plans for the next 365 days
Day 30 – a dream for the future
On to DAY ONE: MY FAVORITE SONG.
Like Crazy Princess, I don’t know that I have a single favorite song. I have a few, though, that are timeless for me and I always seem to love hearing them if they appear on my iPod, which I always keep on shuffle mode.
Well, wait a second… I guess I do have a single-favorite song, if I think about it. There are just a couple of close runners-up that confused me at first when I stopped to think about this prompt.
My favorite song is definitely Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens.
I know, it’s not technically a SONG, per se… it is a classical PIECE, right? But I love it. I love it, I love it! I have something like 5 different versions of this piece done by various orchestras, and yes, there are differences between the recordings. One is a slightly-slower tempo and is good for nights at home, when I am mellow. Another is crisper, sharper– this is my favorite of the recordings. Great for blasting in the car! And yet another version is the first version I ever owned, which I bought on cassette after hearing the song in 8th grade during a music class. And this brings me to my story regarding this song:
In the 8th grade, we had a variety of 4 different semester/marking-period long classes to fill out one of our class periods for the year. For me, my first marking period class like this was Music. It might have been called Music Appreciation or something, because that’s what it was, really: The teacher exposed us to a ton of classical music. And Broadway music, too. I heard Phantom of the Opera for the first time in that classroom, and I was HOOKED so strongly I pestered my Mom to take me to the store that same night to get the cassette tapes (it ended up being a 2-tape set). I don’t think she took me that very night, but it was very soon after. I simply had to own that damn score/soundtrack! (By the way, the teacher played the title song, “Phantom of the Opera” and the bass and pounding intensity just killed me. I can still remember the chills I felt when I first listened to it. And when i finally saw the show on Broadway a year later, I was overcome with emotion when the show began and the music blasted after the line, “Perhaps we may frighten away the ghosts of so many years ago with a little illumination! Gentleman!” and BOOM, boom boom boom boom BOOM the chandelier lifts off the stage, sparking to life and rising over the audience.)
Where was I again? Oh, yeah. Danse Macabre!
As it turns out, it wasn’t the first time I heard that piece. I’d heard it in music class in 5th grade, too, when we saw a short black and white animated film set to the song. It was charcoal drawings of a graveyard coming to life at night. The imagery from that film stayed in my head, though, and up until the 8th grade class, I never really knew the name of that song even though it absolutely stuck with me.
The teacher asked us to do some cool stuff in the 8th grade class. She would play the music, and then ask us to write what we were thinking as we listened to the songs. Most of the class groaned and hated this, but it made me almost giddy. I wrote whole stories as the songs played, my pen really flying over the looseleaf paper, trying to keep up with my thoughts and struggling to accurately capture everything I saw in my head. I actually had a few people staring at me in class, like, “what the hell is HER deal?” because I was writing so crazy. It made me proud, though. I liked this interesting attention; I liked being the one who felt the music so strongly it drove me to intense scribblings!
So, the day she played Danse Macabre for us was like that. It was a day in October. I remember this because the wind was blowing outside that morning, and the skies were dark because it was going to rain. Perfect weather for that song. I was charged, already, just by virtue of it being October, my favorite month, and the weather being so… alive.
The song begins, and I start writing. I described the cemetary from the film strip to begin with, but only initially. Soon I was describing the cemetary at the All Saints Memorial Church, better known as the “stone church” in Navesink, which my family attended when I was younger.
It’s a super-old church, built in the mid 19th century, and yes, it’s stone. It’s beautiful as hell. It looks like something that should be in a countryside in England, to me. The cemetary is terraced and graves are situated in graduated tiers separated by stone ‘steps’ between the levels. And of course, some of the graves are ancient — many of them date back to the 1700s, when colonial settlers were fighting the Revolutionary War. (The church itself, as it stands now, was built in 1864, though.) Hand-carved, weather-beaten stone. (Later, a hobby of mine was doing grave-rubbings to get images of the words and designs on old graves around town, and that was definitely the best cemetary to do that.)
As Danse Macabre played, I made up a loose story of a celebration in the graveyard. As the night wore on and more spirits awoke to dance and revel in the moonlight, the center of the party was the cemetary caretaker, who had just been buried that very day. The spirits were so excited he was finally among them as a spirit, after so many years of caring for them all as a member of the living. So as the music crescendoed and became twisting melodies of violins and strings, the caretaker was shedding whatever was left of his mortal inhibitions and even began a passionate, fast dance with a beautiful woman-spirit. There is a small part of the music where it’s a high-pitched tip-tip, tip-tip kind of sound, and I imagined the “camera” in my mind’s eye setting on a couple of ghost children, even a baby or two, dancing on their own, emulating the older spirits.
And then of course, there is the crow of the rooster. Dawn is approaching. Within seconds, all the spirits are flying back towards their graves. But as the song winds down, the caretaker is slower to go back to his grave, trying to catch a glimpse of the sun as it appears over the horizon. He doesn’t know that once it rises, he immediately has to go back to the grave. So the final exciting notes are him jumping into his grave, the dirt ‘peeling’ back over the coffin and the daylight falling on his tombstone. (But of course, the party would begin again at night, for all time.)
So that’s a summary of what I wrote. I don’t have it anymore, sadly… but I can never forget it. It’s so visceral and so real in my mind. Every time I listen to that song, the whole ‘film’ of it plays out and I have a frickin’ great time.
Therefore, Danse Macabre? My very favorite “song” of all time. It’s too rich with the kind of fun, dark imagery I like the most. I have always skewed towards the darker stuff and death, even as a little, little kid. I don’t think it’s weird. It’s just who I am, for whatever reason. I could identify with the Goth crowd, I guess, but I sort-of don’t. I never bought into the whole wear-only-black thing and listening only to Goth music, all that kind of stuff. So I just do my own thing, but I truly and passionately do LOVE so many things that are dark, emotional, weird and twisted in some way. Danse Macabre embodies what I am drawn to, as a person and especially as a writer, very well.
Here’s a lovely recording with a cute (albeit poor quality) video someone made! (Featuring, among others, scenes from Legend, Labyrinth, silent films and of course some cartoon stuff… the awesome dancing Disney skeletons! Yay!)