Songs after Swedish poems

Song of Blondel

[] This text was originally a paper in musicology, written in Swedish in 1996-97 and now found at [] The Music Library of Sweden

(Summary of: Blondels sång: ”Sök troget, så finner du”. Del 2. Berättelser om fångna själar och befriande musik 1190-1990, by Maria Ljungdahl. Department of Musicology, Göteborg University, Sweden, 1997.)

The Song of Blondel: ”Suche treu, so findest du”. Tales of imprisoned souls and liberating music.

1. A journey in time, through philosophies of music …stimmt sein Spiel zu sanfter Weise… …denn ein Ahnen sagt ihm leise…

1.1 Meta music and myths

Just like there are many novels written about writers writing novels, there are lots of music written about music and music-making. I am using the term meta music for that kind of music within music; which also is music meant to tell us things about the history and conditions of music itself. In some cases these musical stories describe how a songwriter (composer) struggles to express his (her) feelings for the adored person, and how he (she) wishes to send the result as music to her (him) alone, or, in cases of mild to severe megalomania, distribute it to the world as a whole.

Another meta musical category is songs that speak about the power of music: to signal, to call up memories and arouse emotions, to unite a group of people, to liberate from prison, and to heal from disease. Here we can find examples ranking between the simplest come-together-and-be-happy tunes for pre-school children, to utmost musical sophistication. Remember the many beautiful constructions that are composed around the myth of Orpheus — that musician, who persuaded the guardians in Hell with his moving music, only to fail in his quest because he couldn’t imagine the wife was following him. Roland Barthes interprets this myth like it speaks of the birth of Musicology itself: Orpheus, with his re-view of (his look back at) the ”object” Eurydice, is the first music critic in history! Thus, he learns his lesson, sacrifices the Queen, makes for his ascension to a better place — and serve Apollo for the rest of his afterlife, rich in experience and knowledge [Engh 1995:69f, in Solie (ed) 1995].

Among the Biblical myths about the powerful and beautiful art of music, are some stories of walls falling down by the effect of organised sound, like the city of Jericho, and one prison where Paul was suffering on his travels.

Many such myths have inspired to musical interpretations. A Grimm fairy tale, with possible musical settings (which I have not tried to track down), is Rapunzel. The girl with that name was put in a tower without a door, only windows, by a witch who took the baby girl from her parents in exchange for some leaves of the special rapunzel salad (a kind of lettuce), since the father had stolen those tempting vegetables from the witch’s garden to give to his pregnant wife. The girl grew up alone in the tower, singing for herself far from other people’s attention. When the witch wanted to visit her protégé, Rapunzel had to toss her braide of hair down for the visitor to use as a ladder. The inevitable prince (this is a fairy tale, for heaven’s sake!) enters in the same manner, after his interest is aroused by the singing. The witch interrupts the happy couple, and throws them out of the tower. First the prince, right out of the window. He falls in a thorn bush and hurts his eyes badly. Rapunzel is led away in another direction, where she goes on singing her song, until the prince finally re-arrives and recognises the song. His blindness is cured by Rapunzel’s tears of joy.

This tale is a nice story about how music can be of help when finding and rescuing prisoners from mystical towers. A more common situation in poetry, romantic pictures and music-dramatical works has for a long period in Western art history been the serenade. A man sings outside a tower or a house to make himself known, and entertain the adored one with sweet music. In Blondels Lied, the person inside the prison is a king, Richard Coeur-de-Lion, and the person singing to the imprisoned one is also a man, the king’s legendary minstrel Blondel de Nesle.

1.2 My two studies, their questions and methods

In my first study (Ljungdahl 1996) about Robert Schumann’s song Blondels Lied (Op. 53:1) I tried, among other things, to find the answers to my initial question, which was simply: what is this song about? My voice teacher in 1992, Hans Linden at Sankt Sigfrids Folkhögskola in Växjö, gave me the song and the challenge to do research for interpretational ideas. The lied is not among the well-known Schumann songs, like Dichterliebe, or Frauenliebe und -leben, so a source of information or a recording was not the easiest to find. (Since then, after 1997, the fine Hyperion Records’ issues of Schumann’s songs, with the pianist Graham Johnson’s interesting and extensive booklet comments, have changed this situation.)

My general aim with the second study (Ljungdahl 1997) then changed to be a research of the points where the Blondel legend focuses three time periods’ mutual relations and their ideologically coloured interpretations of the unhistorical story of Blondel and Richard. For example, Schumann’s ”Blondel” was created in 1840 in a tradition and milieu having very little common with on the one hand trouvère songs from the Middle Ages, on the other hand matiné movies from the 1950-ies — but both these latter examples are today natural references to the Blondel & Richard story. Works on the Blondel theme from different periods stand — with a few exceptions — practically isolated from each other, both stylistically and in their emphasis on different parts of the story. The meta music, the song used as signal between the protagonists, can’t be tracked from any tradition but varies just as much as the rest.

In my essay I wanted to show that the interpretation of a 19th century song can be grounded in three time aspects, here concentrated around 1190 (the time of the story), the first half of the 19th century (the time of the composer), and the second half of the 20th century (the time of the interpretation). I have studied what we today can know about the legend’s origin; I have searched for other works on the same theme, which could have been inspirations to the text and music in Blondels Lied; and I have given examples of how the same protagonists are presented in works from our own time.

The content, meaning and moral of the story varies with different periods and works. The 13th century (fictional) cronicle focuses on history and tries to rise the status of the musician. In the 1780-ies the story is used in an opera with pre-revolutionary aristocratic liberal ideas. In Schumann’s time, 1840, German heroic poems tell tales of English Medieval kings and minstrels. In the 1950-ies, during the Cold War, the movies present Anglo-Saxon folk heroes like Robin Hood and Ivanhoe. In the 1970-ies the musical movements seeks roots in folk music, troubadours, and Early music. Lately, in the 1990-ies, the focus is on myths and cultural studies.

© Maria Ljungdahl (Sweden) 2005


Engh, Barbara: Loving It: Music and Criticism in Roland Barthes. In: Solie, Ruth (ed): Musicology and Difference. Gender and sexuality in music scholarship. University of California Press 1995

Inspirerad av bilder på blommande fruktträd

Blommande fruktträd

Den sötaste frukten på jorden
Högt i kronan på äppelträdet där
Satt rodnande skön och åtråvärd
I gungande gren och sommarlust.
Den sötaste frukten på jorden.

Det vackraste äpplet i Norden
Från en blomma i odlingsmödans värld
Blev mognande frukt och kärnfullt lärd
I sjungande stormbrus och bitande frost.
Det vackraste äpplet i Norden.

Den godaste frukten i korgen
Finns i lådor i källarbergets valv
Är gratis att få, väl utan tack
Från vardagsbuffén mellan hus och sjö.
Den godaste frukten i korgen.

Det bittraste äpplet på torget
Från en blomma på paradisets träd
Säljs endast till lyst, en prydnad är
På högtidsbuffén i palatsets sal.
Det bittraste äpplet på torget.

Den suraste frukten i landet
Från en blomma på paradisets träd
Låg väntande, glömd och inget värd
Bland fladdrande löv, i regn och snö.
Den suraste frukten i landet.

Den sötaste frukten i världen
Högt i kronan på äppelträdet där
Föll frostblek och klar till marken när
Allt doftade mull och cidermust.
Den sötaste frukten i världen.

Maria E. Ljungdahl 2018-05-21

(Uppdatering 22 maj 11:33! Kanske blir det en helt annan version av dikten senare, så att den passar ihop med en ännu inte färdigkomponerad melodi som jag just insåg skulle kunna vara rätt för den här äppeltexten.)

So long, so long ago, Izabella

Baz Booth
(musik och originalrefräng)
So Long Ago Izabella
Några verser om en förlegad kvinnosyn,
riktade till dess fiktiva personifikation, Izabella, av
Maria E. Ljungdahl
Engelsk originalversion 2007
Svensk tolkning 2017

So Long Ago (Izabella)

In the eyes of Izabella,
any man was good as gold.
That precisely meant a fellow
could be sized for lies he told.
Shiny, sticky, stiff and old.
Always right and often cold.
Bye, so long, so long ago!

In the days of Izabella,
girls believed what they were told.
Women’s ways were not Cruella’s.
Ladies shouldn’t be so bold.
Fluffy, feeble, fair and old.
Always wrong, but seldom cold.
Bye, so long, so long ago!

Hey, nonny, nonny.
Hey, nonny, nonny no.
Fol de rol, and fol de roodle.
Wotcher cock and howdy doodle.
There lived a lass, and also lackaday.
Men were deceivers, or so they say.

In the days of Izabella,
girls believed what they were told.
Women’s ways were not Cruella’s.
Ladies shouldn’t be so bold.
Fluffy, feeble, fair and old.
Always wrong, but seldom cold.
Bye, so long, so long ago!

text: Maria Ljungdahl & Barry Booth, music: Barry Booth, copyright 2007
Rights holders associations: STIM (Sweden) and PRS (UK).

Izabella – Det är dags att sjunga ut

Har ni hört att Izabella
trodde alla män om gott?
I hennes ögon var de snälla
– både Adolf och Pol Pot.
Lögner, skällsord, svek och brott.
Fel blev rätt, med andra mått.
Bye, so long! Adjöss för gott!

I dina dagar, Izabella,
flickor följde detta bud:
inga kvinnfolk skulle gnälla,
eller våga sjunga ut.
Vaga, svaga, höll sin trut.
Alltid fel, och utan krut.
Det är dags att sånt tar slut!

Hej, lilla flicka!
Kom! Dansa i en ring.
Kom till dvärgar sju, och prinsen.
Säg goddag till två poliser.
Det fanns en Lasse, som var liten då.
Nu är han vuxen, och gråter ej.

Varför skulle Izabella
se varenda karl som Gud?
När han ljög som mest, nej, snälla,
varför putsa på hans skrud?
Välsmord, häftig, styv och ball.
Sällan sjuk, men ofta kall.
Bye, so long! Nu är det slut!
Det är dags att sjunga ut!

text: Maria Ljungdahl & Barry Booth, music: Barry Booth, copyright 2007/2017
Rights holders associations: STIM (Sweden) and PRS (UK).

Barry Booths notsida på Score Exchange

(url )

OBS! kom ihåg att STIM-rapportera eventuella framföranden av verket som “So Long Ago” och/eller “Izabella”!*

*text: Maria Ljungdahl & Barry Booth, music: Barry Ernest Booth, copyright 2007/2017
Rights holders associations: STIM (Sweden) & PRS (UK).

Kommentar angående sångtexten

Den engelska versionen från 2007 började med att jag (Maria Ljungdahl) skrev ett par verser på engelska om “Izabella”, en fantasifigur med anknytning till äldre tiders kvinnoideal. Mailade texten till Barry Booth* med en fråga om han hade några idéer om en tonsättning, eftersom jag inte kom någon vart alls själv med att skriva musik till verserna. Barry fick mailet när han kom hem från en spelning sent på natten, men satte sig direkt och komponerade en melodi, och skickade noter och en instrumental demo så att jag hade dem i inboxen nästa morgon. Han bidrog också med en refrängtext, späckad med Cockney-uttryck och Shakespeare-citat.
*(url )
Den svenska versionen av sången påbörjades något år efter originalet skrevs, men blev inte klar förrän i början nu i december 2017.

#visjungerut #närmusikentystnar #metoo


Komm, süsser Tod

(anonym översättning efter anonym originaltext på tyska, melodi av J. S. Bach)

Kom, sköna död. Kom, sälla frid.
Kom, led mig bort dit det blir stilla,
Ty här i världen är det illa.
Ack, kom, jag väntar dig.
Kom snart och hämta mig.
Nu vill jag sova. Det är tid.
Kom, sälla frid.

Kom, sköna död. Kom, sälla frid.
Jag vill till Jesus själv fara,
Och bland hans änglar vara.
Så blir mitt liv fullbordat.
Till er jag hälsar God natt,
Blundar och säger: Det är tid.
Kom, sälla frid.

Vogue la Galère (new song)

länk till noterna

E. G. Geijer: På nyårsdagen 1838

Ensam i bräcklig farkost vågar
seglaren sig på det vida hav;
stjärnvalvet över honom lågar,
nedanför brusar hemskt hans grav.
Framåt! — så är hans ödes bud;
och i djupet bor, som uti himlen, Gud.

Lonesome in brittle dory dares the
sailor set sail for the deep, wide waves;
boreal aurora-flaming stares the
night at his unseen, roaring grave.
Forward! his fate commands on-board;
and in the depths lives, like in the heavens, the Lord.

(översättning MaLj  2016-12-13)

Scarborough Fair

The ballad “Scarborough Fair” is one of the most well-known old folk songs that got popular in our time through recordings and performances in the folk and pop scene of the 1960-1970 period.

The text in “Scarborough Fair” is closely related to other old ballads, for example, “The Elfin Knight” and “The Cambric Shirt”.

The content has been explained as a list of impossible tasks that the distanced lovers ask each other to perform in order to prove their love and worthiness again. It can also be read as an exchange of subtle insults with references to their character and/or body parts. For example:

1) “Wash it in yonder dry well”, meaning perhaps a person with dry eyes, not easily moved to tears,

2) One of the lovers has got a sharp tongue, a “sickle of leather”,

3) “Sow some seeds from north of the dam” could mean that one of the lovers has got a snotty nose above his lips (“north of the dam”).

This is not a critical edition made in accord with scholarly expertise but a contemporary interpretation made with artistic license. ‘He’ and ‘she’ is alternating in this version. The demo is just a quick demo, not a good performance or production!

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