Sunday, April 01, 2007

I wrote about Marc Blitzstein's "The Airborne Symphony" last summer and won't go into it again (except to say: Listen to it!). Playing the vinyl this afternoon, though, I extracted the libretto that was included and I can't resist printing the lyrics to at least one of the songs. This kind of 40s American dialect impudently referencing classical mythology is just so choice.

Ballad of History and Mythology

Etana jumped on the back of an eagle,
In Mesopotamia.
Tried to fly in forty-five hundred B.C.--
But he got dizzy; got dizzy and tumbled off.
Got dizzy, tumbled off, and fell and died.
Old Etana had wings on the brain.

To be Airborne.

There was Phaeton, son of the sun Apollo;
And he stole his sun wagon.
But he didn't know how to steer that wagon.
When it rose up, we froze.
When it dropped on down, we sizzled.
Going up and down,
We froze and sizzled by turns.
That was Phaeton had wings on the brain.

Wings on the brain, wings on the brain.
Mad for to fly and walk the sky.
For they had wings on the brain.
Archytas of Tarentum tried a wooden pigeon
But it wouldn't pigeon [!! - BO]
Leonardo designed a fine propeller model
Never sweller model
Oh they tell of strings and springs and rubbers
And vertical revolving screws.
Tell of aerial steamers, multiple gliders.

There was Henson's aerostat, Cayley's model,
Langley's drome and Penaud's bird,
And Octave Chanute and Lilienthal and gliding Pilcher--
And safety valves, movable sides--
Oh yes--
Fore and Aft rudders, Water tube boilers--
Oh! Yes--


And later, from 'The Enemy':

Connect two facts:
The record hop to California by fliers from Russia;
And one other fact:
The rich and well-placed Italian
Stating that the bombs from his plane over Spain
Exploded on people,
Opened like a rose,
And proved great sport.


Unknown said...

Is there a libretto available for the entire Airborne? I have the CD and there was nothing inside. You referenced a libretto available with your recording. Was that with the CD media?

Brian Olewnick said...

There was in the LP (1975, Columbia)

mmgood said...

I love this symphony too. Very American. Thanks for bringing it up twice. Boy, I want the libretto. Might have to type ot all in myself. :P

Dr. Maren Leyla Cooke said...

And what about

To the young man Icarus spoke his father
"By the sky we will essay to go"
But Icarus attached his wings with tallow
And he flew near the sun
And the tallow melted down
And the wings fell off and Icarus plummeted down to the sea and died...
That was Icarus had wings on the brain!

(transcribed from memory of my late father's many many playings of the Airborne during my youth)