The Corner

Simple and Immortal

Thanks to all who’ve written me about my Portugal-cruise journal. Among the e-mails are a good many about those horizontal pipes found on Spanish organs. (We took an excursion to Salamanca.) An esteemed musicologist wrote to me, “Those horizontal pipes are called ‘Trompetas Reales’ and are, in fact, in the words of E. Power Biggs, ‘the hallmark of Spanish organs.’”

May I just say that I find it interesting that esteemed musicologists are among NRO readers? When I was growing up, of course, I was taught that conservatism was for boobs, only. And years ago, as NR managing editor, I approached a well-known centerish author about contributing something to the magazine. She said, “Isn’t that for Corn Belt Republicans?” Yes, in fact, it is: and for everyone else, too, you . . .” (rhymes with rich, in the immortal words of Barbara Bush).

Anyway, here is a musical tidbit I left out of my journal. On the afternoon we were in Salamanca, there was a band playing in the Plaza Mayor — I mean a band band, a concert band, playing on a stage in a shell. One of their pieces was “In the Mood.” And I thought, “Man, that little piece is enduring — is played, heard, and loved in every corner of the earth, generation after generation.”

And then I thought what a simple little piece it is: broken chords, thoughtfully arranged, neatly embellished, unfolding in a stately, irresistible progression. Such a simple piece. Anybody could have written it! But we didn’t — Joe Garland and Andy Razaf did (and it was arranged by Glenn Miller).

I’ve told this story in Impromptus before, but maybe you haven’t heard it. In a Q&A with students, Irving Berlin is asked what is his favorite song, of all the ones he has written. He answers, “‘Always.’” The student then says — I can’t believe he had the temerity, but this is how the story goes — “But Mr. Berlin, that’s such a simple song. Anybody could have written it.” Berlin replies, “I know, but I did.”

He sure did.


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