Ironically Poetic Sound of Music

The Sound of Music is a musical that portrays the impact music has on a family in Austria just before WWII. The opening theme, “Prelude / The Sound of Music,” is a poem ironically about music with musical augmentation.

Prelude / The Sound of Music” asserts that music inspires humans to enjoy life. The “speaker” of the song, Maria, is a nun who is not allowed to sing or participate in any music with others. The sounds that originate from the ageless environment around her act as inspiration for her to live.

In the first verse, Maria uses personification to highlight the way music can bring anything to life. She sings

The hills are alive with the sound of music

With songs they have sung for a thousand years

The hills fill my heart with the sound of music

My heart wants to sing every song it hears

Maria personifies her heart by claiming it is filled with the sound of music and that it wants to sing. She wants to capture the inspirational effect natural music has on a fundamental human organ and symbol of the soul, the heart.

In the next verse, Maria begins to describe the ways the is moved by the music of nature. She sings

My heart wants to beat like the wings of the birds

That rise from the lake to the trees

My heart wants to sigh like a chime that flies

From a church on a breeze

To laugh like a brook when it trips and falls over

Stones on its way

To sing through the night like a lark who is learning to pray

She continues to personify her heart in different ways and uses wordplay to convey her musical connections to the environment. For example, she claims her heart wants to “beat,” because hearts beat to pump blood through the body. But she compares her desire to the beating of the wings of birds. Maria utilizes the sound of her voice to add musical color to the poem as well. For example when she sings “chime that flies,” her voice goes up in pitch, like something that would fly. Maria also takes advantage of syntax. Each example entails a more complex experience supported by the music of nature. She begins the verse with the fundamental beating of a heart.  She transitions to laughing, a human quality that does not appear until after a few months of a baby’s life. She finally ends the verse with singing, a complex human talent.

Maria ends the song with opinions on other humans. She sings

I go to the hills when my heart is lonely

I know I will hear what I’ve heard before

My heart will be blessed with the sound of music

And I’ll sing once more

The first line of this verse is strategically placed immediately after the last line of the last verse. Singing inherently involves other people, while loneliness is the absence of other people. However, Maria is comforted by the natural sounds of music, and can continue enjoying life.

2 thoughts on “Ironically Poetic Sound of Music

  1. Cory Y

    It’s really interesting how even when reading the lyrics, the experience of wanting to sing and actually singing music is still conveyed fairly effectively. I think that speaks to the power that both the music and language contribute to the overall effect of the song.
    I think the tying of music to the environment with, “The hills are alive with the sound of music / With songs they have sung for a thousand years”, implying that music is inherently tied to life or even existence is particularly interesting. Similar to what Perrine says about poetry, music is implied to be an essential aspect of existence which makes us more alive.

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  2. FATIMA S

    I think this song is poetic in a very classic way. I remember the first time I watched The Sound of Music as a kid this song struck me because its tone is filled with so much longing for music and you can feel the joy when Maria sings. I see through your post that much of that tone is owed to the poetic lyrics filled with words you can’t help but imagine, like a heart that wants to “laugh like a brook when it trips and falls over”. Good choice.

    Like

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