Quips and summaries from experiencing and appreciating music in a city that is as foreign and familiar as they come - New York. So here is to music anywhere and everywhere. Starting from concert one on week one after the move in 2009.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Music and The Scarlet Letter

Did I ever tell you my favorite story about music and education?
It has to do with Fiona Apple, Hester Prynne, A midterm test, A ponytailed teacher that was the product of a northeastern liberal arts college, and me getting a big, fat f***ing A. I didn't think so.
I was dropped kicked into the deep end of English literature like most sophomore high school students. It was painful at times, mostly because of the weight of the Norton Anthology of American Literature I had to carry around all year or maybe because I had a huge crush on a guy in my class at the same time I was battling a little acne, had to get glasses, and at 5'9 couldn't fit in anywhere. 
We spent the better part of the first semester reading through and dissecting Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter (1850). I loved the book and so did my teacher Mr. Cze...(I have never been able to spell his name correctly, it is not to protect his privacy, consider that a bonus for him). Now I will save you from my summary of the plot and characters and get to the music part of it . That said, here is a link to Sparknotes if you want to brush up - I am looking at you the entire back row of baseball players that only perked up when they heard Hester Prynne spelunked the minister - http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/scarlet
After that much time on the book everyone knew the bulk of the midterm, a few short essays and one long essay, was going to be about The Scarlet Letter. None of us were prepared for the actual question of the long essay.
The question, though a little muddled by my own hard living memory was:
Below are the lyrics to the modern song 'Criminal' by Fiona Apple. Argue how the lyrics do or do not explain the main plot in 'The Scarlett Letter'. Cite specific examples and character references.
by Fiona Apple 
I've been a bad bad girl I've been careless With a delicate man And it's a sad sad world When a girl will break a boy Just because she can Don't you tell me to deny it I've done wrong and I want to Suffer for my sins I've come to you 'Cause I need Guidance to be true And I just don't know Where I can begin
What I need is A good defense 'Cause I'm feelin' Like a criminal And I need To be redeemed To the one I've sinned against Because he's all I ever knew of love Heaven help me For the way I am Save me from These evil deeds Before I get them done I know tomorrow brings The consequence at hand But I keep livin' this day like The next will never come Oh help me but Don't tell me to deny it I've got to cleanse myself Of all these lies till I'm good enough for him I've got a lot to lose And I'm bettin' high So I'm beggin' you Before it ends Just tell me where to begin What I need Is a good defense 'Cause I'm feelin' Like a criminal And I need To be redeemed To the one I've sinned against Because he's all I ever knew of love Let me know the way Before there's hell to pay Give me room to lay The law and let me go I've got to make a play To make my lover stay So what would an angel say The devil wants to know...
Now I think part of the reason why I got so excited for this question and still reference it as one of my coolest stories while being edudimacated as well as the teacher that left a profound impression of me is that I knew the song by heart already - I wholly subscribed to the Fiona Apple vibe, it blended in nicely with the Sarah McLachlan and Tori Amos in my repertoire. Like I am always saying, OWN IT - own what you like.
I knew that song, I sang that song in a car both with friends and solo, the video of the song by Mark Romanek is still one of the coolest and was on MTV all the time (videos on MTV, the novelty). That said, I didn't ever combine my music tastes and pastime favorite as a source of true education, at least in the traditional sense I knew education to date. As a result of combining the two, I think Mr. Cze... not only got proof that I had read AND comprehended the book but how I could relate to it, he got me to be a little bit more personal with my formal private school writing. That was just the beginning of making music a key subject in life, a source of my continuous education.
P.S. - Fiona Apple IS Hester Prynne, only without the red meat, cream, potatoes, and seamstress abilities.
Lillian Gish as Hester Prynne
Fiona Apple in the 'Criminal' Video, Demi as Hester!
Note to self - it was fun writing that and you should NOT have put it off for over a month. Writing is fun, not work, at least for now.... Stay Tuned!

1 comment:

  1. ... its fun to read when its fun to write. cool post, thanks! canyon