Dunnett Musical Whimsy

A little festive musical whimsy for you all.

A couple of days ago I received my copy of the Dorothy Dunnett Society’s Whispering Gallery Magazine – yet another superb edition under Suzanne McNeil’s editorship.

Very worthy of mention is an excellent article in it entitled Bektashi Ritual, Marthe and Lymond by Elizabeth Orr, which fills in some vital background information about Bektashi philosophy and spiritualism and connects to both the burning bed scene when Sybilla brings Lymond back from edge of death, and the later scene between Lymond and Marth where he is forced to reject her appeal for further contact. As any of you who have read my talk on Marthe, and the subsequent discussion here, will know, there is much disagreement about what she is actually requesting of him. I’m now more than ever convinced that it was his mentorship and tuition she hoped for rather than any intimate or sexual relationship.

I was thinking about that and pondering how I could frame a new article updating that talk with this new layer of information – without it feeling like I was simply lifting Elizabeth’s work wholesale. My thoughts inevitably drifted through scenes from Checkmate. Then I came across the Correspondance section of WG where the theme this time was music and how readers associated different pieces with passages from the books. These two facets started to intertwine.

Musical associations

Now music has been a large part of my life – as some of you may know I was a sound engineer for some years working with bands of various genres and with theatre. But curiously I seldom hear music in my head as I read – unless there is music in the scene and even then it’s quite difficult because with Lymond particularly his playing is described in a modern manner with skills that were beyond the capabilities of the instruments or the musical theory of the time, so I find I’m torn between the likely reality and the described virtuosity. Nor do I usually listen to music while reading – not Dunnett anyway. I become so engrossed in her words that the music drops into the background and I suddenly find the track selection or the CD is over with no real recollection of hearing it.

For that reason I wouldn’t associate any of my favourites in the classical repertoire with Dorothy’s work – Beethoven, Neilsen, Rachmaninov, Mendelssohn, they all deserve to be listened to with complete concentration. But I have wide musical tastes – the only genre I really can’t get on with is “good ‘ol country music”; so naturally the fates sent me a girlfriend who plays it all the time!

So, I was musing on this and wondering if anything more modern from rock or folk or soul or blues could be connected in a way that made sense to me. Mentally running through some of the bands, singers, and songs that I’ve enjoyed over the years it struck me – just as the existence of certain names like Scott had inspired my little Star Trek crossover fanfic – and the name Crawford appeared in my head.

But not Francis. Randy Crawford, she of the magnificent voice, sometimes soul sometimes jazz, and the perfectly phrased melodies that stick in your head for days every time you hear them. The lyrics of one song in particular, having been thus triggered, clamoured for attention in my mind, soaring on her wonderful vocals. I looked them up to make sure I had them right:

When somebody reaches for your heart
Open up and let them through
‘Cause everybody
Needs someone around
Things can tumble down on you

You discover when you look around
You don’t have to be alone
Just one lover Is all you need to know
When you’re feeling all alone

What else could be more appropriate advice for Lymond? The man who lives the lonely, solitary life of a leader, scared of what happens to anyone who gets close to him.

and then the last verse:

If there is fire stirring in your heart
And you’re sure it’s strong and right
Keep it burning through the cold and dark
It can warm a lonely night

Surely that too has a match:

In rebellion he made his preparations; and in rebellion composed himself, as the Shamans do, to reduce the shivering husk of the body to one spark of life, conserving what it has; feeling cold and hunger and thirst no more than a plant does, laid in its sap on an icefield.

… Philippa.

I now doubt if I’ll ever be able to read that passage, as I do often, without Randy’s glorious accompaniment. And I’ve no regrets about that ….. it’s just that my eyes may leak a little more often than usual.

Musical imaginations

Of course my by-now somewhat fevered imagination didn’t finish there (though it probably should have!).

We’d need a band to back our Crawford family’s newly rediscovered vocalist. Surely Steve Lukather’s guitar solo would be handled by the master lutenist’s fingers of Francis himself. Philippa can handle the keyboards – with furious aplomb. We can find a place on congas for Archie. And then there’s the backing singers – I give you those masters of rhythm and soul – Blacklock, Hislop, and Blyth.

And if that’s not a vision to haunt you through the New Year I don’t know what is. 😉

If you don’t know this song yet then here’s a link to a live performance on Youtube
The video quality isn’t the best but the sound is fine and the verve of the live performance more than makes up for it.
There are also plenty of other Randy Crawford tracks and videos. One Day I’ll Fly Away is another favourite.

Hope this raised a smile in another difficult festive season surrounded by Covid.

A Good New Year to you all, and stay safe.

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