Tuesday, January 4, 2011

... and a happy new year

During the Christmas visit just past, our five-year-old granddaughter often exuberantly sang "... and a happy new year!" when something was over. This line could show up spontaneously at the end of anything -- unwrapping a present, reading a book, brushing her teeth, feeding the chickens -- and the more out of context it was, the more giggles it would provoke. She has learned early on that laughing at one's own jokes is a family tradition if not a necessity.

When I sought to prolong the musical experience by starting at the beginning of We Wish You a Merry Christmas, I was vehemently stopped. Our girl was wallowing in the joy of cadence (used in the sense of the musical term having to do with ends of phrases). Cadence is the "amen" at the end of a hymn, the "ta-dum DUM" after a joke, and the "shave and a haircut -- two bits" that can terminate almost anything, and, indeed, is so close to "... and a happy new year" in melody and rhythm.

Later I remembered how this child relished the ends of words when she was learning to talk. "Dark" and "book" were examples: their percussive final k's like small exclamation points.

Once again the ephemeral has intersected with the eternal. How tempting it is for Granny to blather on about a hereditary preoccupation with structure, or to make cadence the focal point of cessations, part 3. But, in the words of Alexander Pope: "Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?"*

... and a happy new year!

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Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot

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POSToccupations by Frances Talbott-White is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License