Monday, March 9, 2009

Last Song: Part 2

Not everyone believes The Last Song played such an innocent part, there are historians that believe the song itself was responsible for the language coming to a sudden halt, that perhaps, use of the language was dwindling at the songs debut, but by no means about to disappear. The world itself was rife with new nations and they were all anxious to claim thing, make them official, and defend them with their lives - official religions, official seals, official flowers, and of course, official languages. The song had gained a great deal of attention for the language and many a nation probably considered it.

The basis of this theory is that the song became more popular than the actual language and thus nobody could use words from the song without singing them, much like trying to say the alphabet without singing it to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. You think having a song stuck in your head is bad now, imagine starting every conversation with, "Never gonna...". To further support this theory it has been pointed out that as long as it was, it likely contained a significant portion of commonly used words and phrases in it. No respectable nation could hope to hold its own in negotiations with a foreign country using a sing-song language. The alternate was not much better, defaulting to a foreign tongue would undermine the country's legitimacy all together. Without comment the people of the world decided to avoid the song and the language completely, so as to keep their own sanity. It is believed that by the third generation no one could even remember the song's name, but they would have know of it and generously preserved it in written form in hopes of hearing for themselves this great song that had the power to kill a language.

What follows is a brief excerpt from a musical set in the middle of a great war between nations that had both adopted the language. Its original run in France was a serious drama that moved its audiences to tears nightly, and thought that was magnificent, I have always felt that it was done best in the short lived American comical adaptation called The Land of the LOST(!)...Language.
Day, Day two-oh-oh
Day two-oh-oh and the war still go on
We sit in our trench and shoot all day-a
Day two-oh-oh and the war still go on.
Yes, you might recognize the familiar cadence of the Banana Boat Song, but this time being used as the musical framework for a letter home from the front line in one of the more gripping points of the story where the letter writer's commander has come down will a rather severe tropical disease. The author is trying to come to terms with the possibility that he is witnessing the end of this great man, and with it any hope of victory or survival. Somehow the terror the character is trying to portray doesn't manage to transcend the upbeat tune even amidst the retching in the background as the commander dies on stage in what Orville Crack famously called, "the most inappropriate use of orange juice this fine Floridian has ever seen!" Granted that particular review seemed a bit skewed by local loyalties, but, having seen a video cassette tape of the show myself, I can assure you his comment was not entirely out of line. I'm not a huge OJ drinker myself, before seeing this scene it never really fell into the refreshing beverage category, after, it doesn't even come close.

Though there are many differences between the French and American versions the one that most people dwell on is the type of music. The original French version was completely original, the writer and director went out of their way to make the music truly fit the scenes, often going so far as to match the actors movements to particular instruments. It truly was a classy show, and many nights would end without a dry eye in the house. When it came overseas the producers wanted popular songs and plenty of them, as a result they wound up with an odd mix of songs that were both loved and hated equally. The kind of popular songs that would get stuck in your head if someone were to hum a few bars. This made for a monstrously packed opening week, but by the end of the second week, not so much, by then just the mention of it could pop these songs right back into your head, and by the third week it was never to be seen on a Resume again. Which is why I think it fits so much better with the story of The Last Song, while the French version may have brought a bit of the tragic beauty that remains hidden within to the masses, the American version epitomized the tragedy of The Last Song.

Was it the curse of The Last Song as the producer claimed? That the play, like the song, was so good that it killed itself off? Could a song, in fact, be so popular and so memorable that it would supplant the natural form of speaking within a language? People often argue yes to all three, but I'm certainly not one of them. I would like to add that musicals are still made, and that if someone can make one so good as to put an end to them you'll find me in the front row, with a tall glass of OJ and really big smile.

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