Showing posts with label Aboreal Subjects. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Aboreal Subjects. Show all posts

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Arbor Day

In Douglas Sirk’s grand melodrama Written on the Wind (1956), the river represents a sort of lost innocence, a past happiness (however illusory). When in the film the river is finally shown, the actual location associated with this long lost innocence is at the base of a giant old tree (a sycamore?) perched along the bank of the river. The sanctity of the place by the river is like that of a sacred grove. Trees have figured prominently in world mythology, largely figuratively, as in the image of the “tree of life,” for instance, or as a metaphor for family relationships, as in “family tree.” Forbidden fruit is associated with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but in The Hanging Tree (1959), the titular tree is a multivalent symbol, an emblem of death (crucifixion) as well as life. The lyrics to Marty Robbins’ song, “The Hanging Tree” makes this linkage explicit: the tree of death becomes the tree of life, associated with the moment in the story when the hero is saved by the power of love. Cast in structuralist terms, the hanging tree is an excessive signifier. In The Melodramatic Imagination, Peter Brooks argues the melodramatic form creates an asymmetrical relationship between the signifier and the signified, specifically, a signified in excess of the signifier. This asymmetry “in turn produces an excessive signifier, making large and insubstantial claims on meaning.” Songwriters love trees because their conventional symbolism allows the songwriter to invoke a certain emotion or value—the oak with steadfast endurance, the (weeping) willow with melancholy, the palm tree with the erotic pleasures of paradise, and so on. The yew tree represents the mourning for a lost loved one, and is associated with death. Hence the yew tree is often found near churches and cemeteries as a reminder to the bereaved of the spirit’s ultimate victory over death. Likewise, in the sublime “Bristlecone Pine,” the tree (several thousand years old) is an image of eternal life. The reference to the sycamore tree in “Mama” Cass Elliott’s “Dream A Little Dream Of Me” (first recorded by Ozzie Nelson and His Orchestra in 1931) is not entirely capricious given that the song is a love song. Given their longevity, there is a long tradition of sycamore trees being planted by the door of the homes of newlyweds. My remarks are intended only to suggest the richness of the subject of the mythology of trees, and are therefore hardly definitive. What follows is a short playlist of songs with arboreal references.

Songs From The Wood:
The Ames Brothers – Tammy
The Andrews Sisters – Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree (With Anyone Else But Me)
Joan Armatrading – Willow
The Band – Whispering Pines
The Beach Boys – California Girls
The Beatles – Matchbox
The Brothers Four – Yellow Bird
Mama Cass Elliott – Dream A Little Dream Of Me
James Darren – Under the Yum Yum Tree
Dawn with Tony Orlando – Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree
Dino Fitzgerald – Apple on a Cherry Tree
Ella Fitzgerald – St. Louis Blues (Fitzgerald’s version only)
Fleetwood Mac – Bare Trees
Dick Gaughan – The Yew Tree
Johnny Horton – Whispering Pines
Alan Jackson – Tall, Tall Trees
Jethro Tull – Songs From the Wood
Tom Jones – Green, Green Grass of Home
Lynyrd Skynyrd – That Smell
Peter, Paul and Mary – Lemon Tree
The Platters – Trees
Radiohead – Fake Plastic Trees
Marty Robbins – The Hanging Tree
Rush – The Trees
Jim Salestrom – Bristlecone Pine
Frank Sinatra – Willow Weep For Me
The Steve Miller Band – The Joker
U2 – One Tree Hill
Stevie Wonder – Tree