Sunday, June 27, 2010

Rising Moon

I had forgotten what a nice song "Rising Moon" (1985) is, written and sung by Hugh Blumenfeld.  With harmony vocal by Diane Chodkowski, it first appeared in an early issue of Fast Folk Musical Magazine.  (See Smithsonian Folkways for archival information on this magazine.)

   Rising Moon:
   Hugh Blumenfeld

Spare and heartfelt, "Rising Moon" conveys a mix of attraction, hesitation and restraint, that jumble of feelings at play in those totally smitten.

There is a delicious tension in this mix: we're not sure how this song-story will end.  The lyrics, feelings, and vocal timbre evoke this tension, and a mournful background cello provides timbre of its own.

We are drawn in to the story, pulling for the singer, hoping it all works out.

Here are the lyrics:

     Rainy nights in March, making you amazed
     Singing songs of angel flights and silver traveling days
     Making all my life sound like a lark
     Trying to sing my heart out
     Trying to make a start, now won't you

     Hang a rising moon on this sinking heart of mine
     And lead my willful sadness to its rest
     And roll me o'er an ocean where the days ride deep below me
     And something that was mine will be mine again

     Sitting here beside you till it's far too late to leave
     Pretending nothing's on my mind and nothing's up my sleeve
     But feeling I could very nearly touch you
     Should I take you without warning
     Stay until the morning comes, oh

     Hang a rising moon on this sinking heart of mine
     And lead my willful sadness to its rest
     And roll me o'er an ocean where the days ride deep below me
     And something that was mine will be mine again

     Talking's not so easy ... singing's just not fair
     It puts you in a woman's soul to wonder how you got there
     So I guess I'll just take all the time I need
     And I'll kiss you when I know you
     Find a way to show you, you can

     Hang a rising moon on this sinking heart of mine
     And lead my willful sadness to its rest  
     And roll me o'er an ocean where the days ride deep below me
     And something that was mine will be mine again

Early on we are told the singer's beloved has atmospheric magic, a kind of uplift power.  She can rise aloft and fly with angels amid "silver traveling days."  And she can save the singer from the gravitational pull of his sad, weighted history, roll him over "an ocean where the days ride deep below me."

The middle section is earthier, less abstract.  An ambivalent physicality grounds that "delicious tension," in a stanza worth repeating:

     Sitting here beside you till it's far too late to leave
     Pretending nothing's on my mind and nothing's up my sleeve
     But feeling I could very nearly touch you
     Should I take you without warning
     Stay until the morning comes ...

These lines feel true.  I imagine many people have known that tangle.

We then come to the third section of "Rising Moon."  The need for rescue in the first part, the muddled desire in the second –– both are thoughtfully resolved in the third.  As seen in these penetrating lines:

     Talking's not so easy ... singing's just not fair
     It puts you in a woman's soul to wonder how you got there

Talking versus singing, this is intriguing.  Each gets you inside someone's head and heart.  But where talking favors sharing and clarifying, singing bypasses that work and gets you there anyway ... as if somehow you got on the airplane without going through a customs inspection.

This singer says that's not fair, and that he says it is a thoughtful act. Not just in it to win it, he's in it for the long term, wanting something more binding than artistic mystique.  Choosing the "not so easy" route –– which is talking –– he implies that a binding connection can result only from the time it takes to know and be known.  Then he can kiss her, and then she can know who kissed her and upon whom she might hang "a rising moon."

"Rising Moon" is an interesting love song and Hugh Blumenfeld is an interesting man.  He holds a Master's Degree in English Literature and PhD in Poetics, and more recently became an MD specializing in family medicine.  These twin concerns perhaps trace to college at M.I.T., where he graduated with degrees in Biology and Humanities. (See Hugh Blumenfeld for biography.)

His song speaks to tensions inherent in the human condition, tensions which surface when biological appetite meets up with thoughtfulness and regard.


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