Saturday, July 07, 2007

SNARK: If music has charms to soothe a savage beast, then some musicians need a dose of their own medicine

[ Image: Courtesy of Lion Taming - ]

"Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast"
- From The Mourning Bride (1697) by William Congreve

The popular idiom, "music hath charms to soothe the savage beast," (and variations thereof) misquote and give new meaning to a famous line. The original phrase in William Congreve's 1697 play, The Mourning Bride, actually reads: "Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast."

Phrase Finder recently found "there are twice as many hist [sic] for the incorrect version of the phrase as for the correct one." Although inaccurate, mauled, and mangled, the variant phrases aptly describe researchers' findings: music can pacify both two- and four-legged beasts.

Ironically, media coverage, image makers, and court records portray many singers, musicians and industry insiders as wild. Some even end up being penned up. And many who aren't, don't seem any less stressed, angry, violent, predatory or otherwise dysfunctional than other cats.

That observation was most recently reiterated by a horn player (let's call her Dinah) who is a lion(ess) in more ways than one (see Merriam-Webster definitions of lion 1a, 2a and 2b). Dinah is a talented, respected instrumentalist with a fiery mane, ferocious temper, and King Queen of the Jungle territorial, power and control issues. Watching her in action inspired an epiphany: some musicians need a hefty dose of their own medicine, and those interacting with them may need to wield a whip and chair. (Dinah may also need an old banjo. Just sayin'.)