a Cycle of Flower Songs (3 – Parios)

Here is a great challenge for the sociology of music:  What gives a pop song cultural currency and social authority?  In other words, what might Adorno learn from Abba?

This challenge becomes particularly pronounced in the case of songs to which, against our better judgment, we find ourselves addicted.  “Red Carnation” (lyrics & music by Nikos Ignatiadis, 1985)  is a song part of me detests.  It’s a slow cha cha with the most safe modulations and banal symbolism — the piece of music that one can tell immediately how well it was manufactured for the voices of two performers long identified with love songs.  Yet there is another part of me that finds it irresistible, and I wonder why.  What can turn poor taste into pure feeling?  When do we stop caring about emotional authenticity and we indulge in sentimental (self-)authentification? And when do we desire music that ceases to promise unique expression and celebrates codified signification?

I can think of a few reasons.  When Pantelis Polychronidis performs this song, he breathes pauses and resists the easy flow.  Also, he stresses consonants, making the meaning slightly percussive and not just melodic.  His piano alludes to Liszt more than Mimis Plessas.  And he turns the piece from a saccharine Barbara Streisand-Neil Diamond duet to a Schubertian lied sung by a young man wearing his love on his chest.  Most importantly, my “other self” has shared publicly and privately his passion for this song with many who love him and he loves; it is the sharing of love that makes people identify this silly, solemn song with Parios, makes seductive women identify it with Parsifal, and makes me identify it with Pantelis.

May 14, 2015

Για να με γνωρίσεις μες στο πλήθος
φόρεσα γαρύφαλλο στο στήθος
από μια γιορτή που μόλις τέλειωσε
μια γιορτή που δίστασες να πας

Κόκκινο γαρύφαλλο, κόκκινο γαρύφαλλο
πάνω στο πουκάμισο, στο μέρος της καρδιάς
Κόκκινο γαρύφαλλο, κόκκινο γαρύφαλλο
πάρ’ το από το στήθος μου, ελπίδες να κρατάς

Ρώτησα χαμένη μες στο πλήθος
ποιός φοράει γαρύφαλλο στο στήθος
κι ήρθα να το πάρω με τα χέρια μου
είναι αυτά τα χέρια που αγαπάς

In order for you to recognize me in the crowd
I wore a carnation on my chest
(taken) from a feast that had just finished,
a feast you hesitated to go to

Red carnation, red carnation
pinned to my shirt, over my heart
Red carnation, red carnation
take it from my chest so that you may keep hopes (alive)

Lost in the crowd, I asked
“Who’s wearing a carnation on his chest?”
(because) I came to take it with my own hands
these are the hands you love


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