You are the promised kiss of springtime
That makes the lonely winter seem long.
You are the breathless hush of evening
That trembles on the brink of a lovely song.
You are the angel glow that lights a star,
The dearest things I know are what you are.
(The great saxophonist/composer Charlie Parker thought this was the most beautiful passage ever written.)
Some day my happy arms will hold you,
And some day I’ll know that moment divine,
When all the things you are, are mine.
More from that Kitty Carlisle-hosted 1993 TV special: The most beautiful song ever written sung in the classiest concert in the world. (Well, it’s the NY Philharmonic, right?) Orchestration by Robert Russell Bennett. Milton Babbitt, that champion of musical theater and Stephen Sondheim’s teacher, wrote an analysis of this song having to do with tritones and inverted fifths which I was never able to understand, but I don’t think it’s important. You’re welcome to take a crack at it here.
The story so far: Cantara, ex-ASCAP solfeggist, ex-porn star and screenplay writer, has fallen hopelessly in love with John Wilson, conductor of an English classical/swing orchestra, and has vowed to create something beautiful for his sake. Accordingly, she has pulled out of a dusty drawer the novel-based libretto for a musical she’d written years ago to please a handsome composer she had been in love with at the time—who eventually died of AIDS—and is now attempting to write the music he might have written.
From the novel Inside Daisy Clover, the 13 year-old Daisy:
I like going down to the old pier at Venice, which is a rotting dump like every other place in this whole area, but has this booth for recording your voice. You’re supposed to use it for sending messages to loved ones overseas, but I pay my twenty-five cents—saved up from baby-sitting wages—and I go inside and face this old man with a nervous twitch who works the machine, and I SING!
There’s no orchestra or anything, of course, and sometimes it feels like a hopeless battle against the surf and people screaming on the Big Wheel and the old man’s twitching left eye—but I can sing songs I like and then go home and put the disk in my Oriental casket, which I paid a dollar for because it has a key and I like to lock these things up.
So far I have recorded: “I’ve Got Five Dollars“—”Isn’t It Romantic“—”They Can’t Take That Away from Me“—”Let’s Do It“—and “Love Is Sweeping the Country“. The only trouble is, I can hardly play them afterwards. We don’t have a phonograph. However, I occasionally baby-sit in a trailer with a phonograph—and then I get to play them very softly, without waking Baby. Also, I don’t want anyone to know about this whole thing. I can’t explain why, except that a person is entitled to privacy, and sometimes you just can’t let people in on a thing without them trying to take over.
The songs I sing are ones that I really and truly like. They make my palms sweat…
© 1963 Gavin Lambert
Is your figure less than Greek
Is your mouth a little weak
When you open it to speak
Are you smart?
But don’t change a hair for me
Not if you care for me
Stay, little valentine, stay!
Each day is Valentine’s Day.
He’s peaky, scrawny, blinky, his gray-green eyes lack luster; he’s got a facial tic, lousy posture, and hands like a hod carrier’s; his ears turn pink in the sun; his nose is an equilateral triangle; his famous cleft chin—supposedly his best feature—always looks to me to be slightly askew; his ultra-short mousy hair can’t conceal the fact he’s already going gray; he sweats like a stevedore on the podium; for the past few years he’s taken to wearing nerd glasses; and to top it all off, his lofty pronouncements on The Great American Songbook make me want to smack the back of his head like the whippersnapper he is and send him home with a note.
So tell me, how is it that this man has hit my heart with a bolt of lightning?
Is it his humanness that brings me to the music—or is it the music that brings me to his humanness?
(By the way, Herr Doktor Wilson: You say you like songs so much, but the words aren’t important? Don’t insult Larry Hart like that again.)