Time: like it or not one of the pillars of our lives. Either we don’t have enough of, or we would like it to fly away, maybe carrying some pain with it or bringing us closer to a moment we’ve longed for since quite a lot.
In my opinion, there’s a strong connection among time, music and life. Music walks along with us quite frequently, both during happy moments and in sad ones. It’s a shelter, a relief, a friend. “Tempo” in musicology, gives an idea of the pace, the rate. It’s easy then to characterize the emotional features of a piece, starting from its tempo. And it’s easy as well to have this piece as a background of our experiences, of our main “Momentum”. To keep it short and be clear: if I want to have a party, I won’t choose an “adagio”, but an “andante” or an “allegretto”. And notice that, we’re in one of those areas still untouched by the anglophone invasion, where the words used have remained the original ones, lo and behold, in Italian!
Upon hearing the word Adagio, Albinoni’s Adagio peeps overbearingly into my head, in a way that is perhaps also very obvious. Heart-breaking at times, painful and lacerating. But so intense!
And continuing to mention time in the context of classical music, how can we not think of Vivaldi and his Four Seasons? Of course, this is not just about musical time, Vivaldi takes us through a year, accompanying us with different melodies according to the season. A composition in which sounds and emotions merge into one and lead us to relive sensations linked to the seasons: the joy of summer, the crispness of spring and so on.
In more modern times, time also enters overbearingly into the lyrics.
The first one that comes to mind is Loredana Bertè’s ‘Sei bellissima’:
“If I catch someone who one day said that time is a great doctor, I tie him to a narrow stone and then throw him to the bottom of the sea.” – “ se penso a chi un giorno ha detto il tempo è un gran dottore, lo lego a un sasso stretto stretto e lo getto in fondo al mare”
It expresses the bitterness of one who trusted in the passing of time to soothe a pain, which instead remained imprinted, as did the bond whose rupture triggered it.
And then ‘Time after time’ by Cindy Lauper, opens with a verse in which every word is a reference to time, its measure and its passing:
“Lying in my bed, I hear the clock tick and think of you Caught up in circles Confusion is nothing new Flashback, warm nights Almost left behind Suitcase of memories Time after time”
“Suitcase of memories”, an expression that perfectly renders how cumbersome these can sometimes be. Then another verse and the refrain, in which time becomes a promise. ‘You will find me, I will wait for you, I will keep an eye on you, heedless of the passing of time’. In this case, time is neutral, it does not influence the bond, the promise or the will. It cannot hinder it.
The soundtrack to the film ‘Kate and Leopold’ even has an adverb of time ‘until’ as its title. And the melody itself, with the ticking of the triangle, recalls the passing of time, the sand running through the hourglass. Until. Before the end comes. Before our dance ends. The most wonderful things could happen, but they would be nothing without the love that binds the protagonists of the song. And everything will be possible and complete, at least until the dance ends.
Then there are the ‘stock of life’ songs, as I call them. Two of them, ‘Good riddance- times of your life’ by Green Day and ‘I lived’ by One Republic, are more of an invitation, a spur to live each moment to the full. To treasure everything that life offers us. Because it’s something you can’t predict, but that’s ok. The important thing is to have lived. The important thing is not to be afraid of emptiness when we find ourselves jumping. Because we will not leave any emptiness if we have truly lived, if we have given everything and made every second that this world has given us our own. There you have it, the power of the lyrics of these songs.
I dare bothering them as well, the Queen, who wrote about ‘living forever’ in an exemplary way. Their way. Questioning who wants to live forever, who dares to love forever, in ‘Who wants to live forever’ they give a stark and realistic answer: ‘there is no hope for us’. But they also offer a truthful solution: let us treasure the little things, touch my tears with your lips, touch my world with your fingers and we will have our own forever.
I close with one last song, although there would be one for an infinite time (indeed!). ‘Ovunque proteggi’, by Vinicio Capossela. Which first gets lost in anticipation, and then contemplates the possibility that the best may have already passed without realising it. How often do we lose ourselves in what we apparently do not have and consider fundamental, without instead valuing what we already have? To what makes our lives already full and precious?
And he closes with an almost biblical quotation, an invitation to those who can, to protect their hearts wherever and however they can:
|“But still protect the grace of my heart. Now and for when the time returns The time to leave The time to stay The time to leave The time to embrace In wealth and in fortune In sorrow and in poverty In joy and in clamour In mourning and in pain In cold and in sunshine In sleep and in love Wherever you protect the grace of my heart”
|“Ma ancora proteggi la grazia del mio cuore Adesso e per quando tornerà il tempo Il tempo per partire Il tempo di restare Il tempo di lasciare Il tempo di abbracciare In ricchezza e in fortuna In pena e in povertà Nella gioia e nel clamore Nel lutto e nel dolore Nel freddo e nel sole Nel sonno e nell’amore Ovunque proteggi la grazia del mio cuore”
In short, what does man want from time? Why is it so present? Why do we feel the need to fight it, overcome it, chase it, talk about it all the time?
I do not know.
Although I lost my faith some time ago, when times get tough and time becomes intrusive, I take refuge in part of a Bible passage from the book of Ecclesiastes:
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
If we lived the time with more awareness, perhaps expectations, anger and anxieties would subside. Of course I hope we will never stop singing about it.