Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.

30.5.11

Song of the month (May), saccadic rhythms, and a persistent fly.

The font of all modern wisdom, the semi-readable* Wikipedia, tells me that this song has been recorded 2600 times. That’s not surprising. It was so beautiful that every singer with an ego had to do it.

But you never have heard this version, recorded by iconic 1960s British band the Zombies who, powered by psychedelia, mellotron and sheer musical ability, later made a concept album arguably superior to the vastly overrated Sergeant Peppers’ Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles and the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds. All that and a spelling error in its title.

Of course, I’m making a huge presumption that you have never heard it. The Zombies' take on Summertime might be your favourite recording of all time.
Listen and, as Christopher Lawrence sued to say, swoon.

It’s summertime,
And the livin' is easy

The fish are jumpin'
And the cotton is high


Your daddy's rich
And your mamma’s good lookin’

Won’t you hush pretty baby
Don't you cry



One of these mornings
You're going to wake up singing

Then you’re gonna spread your wings
And you'll take to the sky


But ‘til that morning
Ain’t nothin’, nothin’ gonna harm you

With your mummy and daddy there standin' by


Summertime (music George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin; lyrics DuBose Heyward)
From the album Begin Here
Decca, 1965

*

It was an aria. Then it was jazz and blues and roots. Hell, it’s a lullaby and as enchanting as you’ll find. I could have used it last night at three in the morning.

*

*Now this is interesting. As a frequent Wikipedia visitor, I find the site wearisome in the extreme thanks to the sheer length of its text lines. I asked Wikipedia what it had to say about readability. It reports:
The Readability of Print Unit at the Royal College of Art under Professor Herbert Spencer with Brian Coe and Linda Reynolds[21] did important work in this area and was one of the centres that revealed the importance of the saccadic rhythm of eye movement for readability—in particular, the ability to take in (i.e., recognise the meaning of groups of) around three words at once and the physiognomy of the eye, which means the eye tires if the line required more than 3 or 4 of these saccadic jumps. More than this is found to introduce strain and errors in reading (e.g. Doubling).
Indeed. Wikipedia’s lines run up to - and probably exceed - an eye-popping 28 words. Of course, the fly in my eye doesn't help:

My fly was a 'posterior vitreous detachment', and it was moving around inside my eye and the doctor said it would move around inside my eye for the rest of my life and not to worry about it. He said that I wouldn't even see it after six weeks, because my brain would get sick of pointing it out to me.

My brain has not tired of pointing it out to me, and that was more than three years ago.

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