Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Encounter with Little Drummer Boy

Call me Martian, but it's true that I heard the song Little Drummer Boy for the first time right about two weeks ago. The first two times from the lips of little school children, the third time by the Irish group The Priests. I liked it instantly and perceived instinctively that this was no mere children's song, and there was something grave and romantic about it. The melody hauntingly reminds me of music of the North-West regions of China, where the Uighur minority resides, evoking a time and space far and away.

Out of curiosity, I looked up the song on Wikipedia, and read this:
The story is somewhat similar to an 12th century legend retold by Anatole France as Le Jongleur de Notre Dame (French: Our Lady's Juggler), which was adapted into an opera in 1902 by Jules Massenet. In the French legend, however, a juggler juggles before the statue of the Virgin Mary, and the statue, according to which version of the legend one reads, either smiles at him or throws him a rose (or both, as in the 1984 television film, The Juggler of Notre Dame.)

There! It all made sense! That legend about the Juggler of Notre Dame is one of my all-time favorite stories. That juggling alone suffices to please the Lady, that joy was the single requisite inside Eden, that play may be a vocation...The legend is pertinent to an artist as well: does art have to attach itself to some utilitarian purpose, find its reason for existence outside of itself? When asked what justified his profession as a painter, Willem de Kooning pointed at an acrobat standing on his head on backstage, replied,"Who asked him to stand on his head?"

And the poor drummer boy played his best for the new born King, and Mary nodded.

1 comment:

  1. -- didn't know about the story behind the song - glad I do now. :)


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