Monday, August 21, 2017

Eclipses on Music Monday

What journalists have been calling "The Great American Eclipse" will occur today. In Oklahoma we're not in the direct track of the solar eclipse - we're a little too far south, but I think it'll be happening in full sight, at the nearest point to us, at around 1PM.

Eclipses of the Sun are dramatic events, fertile ground for imaginative writers, they have featured in a few novels and movies - Wikipedia has a list. I do recall "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court": Bing Crosby (playing a time traveller to the past) convinced adversaries of his power by using knowledge of an imminent solar eclipse.

There's another story involving an eclipse of the Sun in Borodin's opera "Prince Igor", set in Russia. The synopsis goes something like this:

The Prince is mobilizing his army against the Polovtsians (a nomadic people) who have been attacking and raiding the Russians' territory and carrying away their people into slavery. There is an eclipse of the Sun, the sky grows dark.

The people see this as a bad omen and plead with Prince Igor to abandon his mission. Igor sees it as an omen - but whether good or bad is yet to be seen. His wife, Yaroslavna, begs him to stay home but he is not persuaded. He must defend his and Russia's honor. Things go badly, Igor's brother plans to depose him in his absence, Igor and his son are taken captive by the Polovtsians. In the end though, Igor escapes and returns to his wife and to defend his city. There's a sub-plot involving his son's love affair with the daughter of the Polovtsian leader.

So....there was bad news, and there was good news, after that eclipse. I understand that Igor's story is based on historical events. See HERE -
"There was apparently opposition to this campaign among members of Igor's retinue. On May 1, 1185, there was an eclipse of the sun, which the Nikonovskaya Chronicle describes: "A Portent. That same year, in the month of May, on the fist day, there was a portent in the sun; it was very dark, and this was for more than an hour, so that the stars could be seen, and to men's eyes it was green, and the sun became as the [crescent] moon, and from its horns flaming fire was emitted; and it was a portent terrible to see and full of horror." Although the Russians interpreted this phenomenon as an evil omen, Igor insisted that the campaign continue, saying, "No one knows the mysteries of God. God is the maker of this sign and of the whole world. And whether that which God does to us is for good or for ill, this too we shall see."

Regarding outcome of the current eclipse, for good, for ill or SNAFU: "this too we shall see".

It's Music Monday, music from Borodin's Prince Igor fits the bill today. First the original, then a slightly more modern variation of part of the piece, as used in the 1953 movie Kismet to form the song Stranger in Paradise.

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