Earworm report

OK, right now I have running through my head a song we did in klezmer last night. I’ll follow the strategy Mark Train advocated in “Punch, Brothers, Punch” and try to get rid of the problem by talking it through. Since I don’t have an MP3 of it to post, there’s no real danger of your catching it (as opposed the Twain story. Sorry for the popup in that link).

It’s not strictly speaking a klezmer song, rather an Israeli dance song written by Naomi Shemer, “Od Lo Ahavti Dai”. If you have to have something running through your head, at least being by Shemer is a good thing. She’s most famous for “Yerushalayim shel Zahav”, “Jerusalem of Gold”, which came out just before the ’67 six day war which reunited Jerusalem and immediately thereafter became the anthem of the times in Israel. It’s a good song, a really good song, but without the fortuitous timing it probably wouldn’t be nearly as well known as it is. She wrote a zillion other songs, of which we did several in Koleinu a few years ago.

Anyway, I know this tune from folk dancing, but I hadn’t known the words before last night. We played it over and over, as we usually do when first learning a piece. It happens to be written in a very comfortable range for me to play on trumpet, so I could concentrate first on transposing and getting the right notes, which was pretty easy since I knew what it was supposed to sound like, and then on enjoying getting good tone and phrasing.

There were English words on the page, but Shemer’s are so much more to the point that I couldn’t be bothered with them. In Hebrew she says something like,

With these hands I have not yet built a town. I haven’t yet found water in the middle of the desert. (… I forget the next line …)
I haven’t yet loved the sun and wind on my face enough. I haven’t yet said enough. And if not, if not now, when?

It turns out I didn’t really understand the Hebrew. The first stanza sounds reasonable, like a young person saying he wasn’t ready to settle down yet, because he wanted to do some iconic idealistic Israeli pioneer things, like building a town in the desert. But judging from what he wants to do, each stanza he’s 20 years older! The next-to-last verse has him not being ready to settle down because he hasn’t built his dream house, nor written his memoirs! That wasn’t “I haven’t yet said enough”, but the woman he’s refused to commit to saying, “I haven’t yet said, ‘ENOUGH!’, and if I don’t now, when will I?”

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