Friday, March 13, 2009

9 Banjo-Strummed Notes, and I'm Seven Years Old Again

When I was at the library earlier in the week, I was browsing CDs, and I came across a compilation of Muppet music. It contains original music from The Muppet Show, as well as from The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, and The Muppets Take Manhattan. It goes without saying that I, of course, checked it out. It's great, with old classics like "Mahna Mahna" from The Muppet Show and The Great Muppet Caper's "Happiness Hotel," an awesome ensemble piece that melds music and comedy seamlessly, flawlessly, and peerlessly.

But I was most struck by about 20 seconds at the beginning of "Rainbow Connection," the famous introductory song from The Muppet Movie. The nine notes that Kermit strums on his banjo at the beginning of the song were like a time machine. I heard those notes and was instantly transported back into Jason Gregory's basement. Jason and his family lived across the street from us when I was growing up, and he had The Muppet Movie soundtrack (on vinyl). I remember sitting down in the basement playing board games and listening to the record.

Take a listen to the beginning of the song. (Again, I'm only posting a little bit, so I hope the lawyers, the FBI, and/or the Ghost of Jim Henson don't come after me.)

Those nine notes -- "STRUM ta-DUM ta-DUM ta-DUM ta-STRUM" -- are magic. And then even before they're played again, there's this exquisite hangtime. It's only a second or so, but there's so much potential, so much room for dreaming what could be, in that space. Only after offering that space are the notes then repeated: "STRUM ta-DUM ta-DUM ta-DUM ta-STRUM." And another bit of dreamspace, and then the song begins.

Of course, a dreamer like me is going to tell you that "Rainbow Connection" is a brilliantly composed piece of music. And that's exactly what I'm telling you. But it's not because of the words or the performance; rather, it's because of what lives in the space between the notes. I think that's what the Muppets and those who worked with them understood: leave room between the notes for comedy, for reflection, and for dreaming.

That's the gift they gave us.

If you can't see the audio player, click here:

1 comment:

K.T. said...

There are times when I break out in the "Movin Right Along" song.

Opportunity knocks once, let's reach out and grab it,
together we'll nab it,
We'll hitchhike, bus, or yellow cab it.

Thanks for adding this. I'm going to have to add this to my Netflix queue so that Trev and I can watch this movie sometime soon.