Cracked.Com Doesn’t Get It Totally Right
February 15, 2011 Leave a comment
Now, we all love Cracked.com for providing brilliant lists, often in the form of ‘5 things you didn’t know about…’ fare, which present truths of which the masses are generally unfamiliar. I blame the schools for why there is such a need for cracked.com, a simple concept which has become an internet phenomenon.
It is so frustrating, then, to see cracked.com make a boo-boo when so many people rely on it. The subject in question is on six pieces of music that mean the opposite of what you think. The ubiquitous ‘O Fortuna’ is at #4.
I’ve been listening to and am still enthralled by the Carmina Burana, of which O Fortuna is a part, since high school, when I really listened to the thing and garnered the real meaning of its famous finale. Then proceeding, of course, to bug people about it. I would especially recommend the Deutsche Grammophon version of 1968, featuring Eugen Jochum with the choir and orchestra of the Deutsche Oper Berlin.
O Fortuna, the lyrics of which are essentially a song about uncontrollable fate and the divine ‘Wheel of Fortune’, is played at the beginning and end of a suite of 25 songs. The final four are the key to the puzzle. For you see, cracked.com is correct in pointing out that the Camina Burana is based on a set of 200 Medieval poems, set to music by Carl Orff in the 1930s. All of the poems and (later) songs are on secular subjects. O Fortuna has nothing to do with ‘The Devil’ – it is part of a work that mocks the Medieval Church and Christian beliefs. The songs are about gambling, drinking and sex. We will now focus on sex.
Cracked.com is all right so far, but it stops much too soon. They quote Off correctly as wanting to celebrate “the triumph of the human spirit through sexual and holistic balance”. They do not know how true this statement is. Carmina Burana is divided into five sections, called ‘In the Meadow’ and ‘in the Tavern’ (celebrating nature and drinking, respectively) and so on. Then there is ‘The Court of Love’, and this is where Orff gets really cheeky.
The only way to appreciate this is to listen to the final songs themselves, starting with No.22 ‘Tempus Est Iocondum‘. An unusual and unique recording, under the direction of Bennita Hoffman, with a Moorish flair can be heard here. Meaning ‘This is the Joyful Time’, it includes a baritone and boys’ choir trying to seduce a soprano:
”It is the time of joy, O maidens, now enjoy yourselves together, O young men.
Oh, oh, I am all aflower, now with my first love I am all afire, a new love it is of which I am dying”.
The baritone’s overture (I believe he represents a Count) is successful. This song is followed by ‘Dulcissieme‘, a very short piece in which the soprano solely proclaims:
‘Sweetest One – ah! – I accept you totally’.
Now we are getting to the main course. The listener is treated to a triumphant chorus: ‘Ave Formosissima‘, a powerful ode hailing the soprano as the ‘Pride of all Virgins‘. I particularly love the use of the drum percussion near the end.
So, we have:
1. a romantic overture;
2. an acceptance;
3. a choir celebrating the chastity of our soprano.
What immediately follows is superbly clever, and the strength of transition from Ave Formosissima to O Fortuna separates a good performance from the bad.
I don’t need to show you what the O Fortuna sounds like – even X Factor viewers know it by now. Listen to the steady rhythm, the sudden holding back and then gushing forth of the choir. Needless to say, a song which is about change, after one celebrating virginity, is strategically placed:
like the moon
you are changeable,
and then easy
deceive a sharp mind;
it melts them like ice”.
It shouldn’t take the geniuses that are the contributors to cracked.com long to realize that the song signifies a young virgin and our noble baritone fornicating, and an orgasm of epic proportions.
And to think THIS song was controversial in its time: