Thursday, February 27, 2014

Polychromic Plumes: The Peacock's Song

About twelve years ago, I wrote the book, lyrics and music for Chantecler, a musical that was based loosely on the 1910 play by Edmond Rostand. The story is set in and around a barnyard, and the cast consists entirely of animals. Rostand's verse play is a tragicomedy that champions romanticism and traditional French nationalism in opposition to modernity. But in my musical version, the story basically becomes a satirical comedy about what happens to values when they are caught between, on the one hand, deluded traditionalism, and, on the other, cynicism and pretentiousness masquerading as sophistication. How does one find one's way through to something authentic? It seems to me that it is worth producing again, and on a larger scale than I did back in 2002. So O've been revisiting it recently, revising the text, and reworking and rewriting some of the music, and one of the pieces I enjoyed revisiting most was this one, a patter song. It struck me that it works fairly well independently from the rest of the musical, so I thought I would post it here. The Peacock is a sort of celebrated critic in the barnyard, whose opinion is increasingly sought on all aesthetic matters.

CROWD: Ma-as-ster!
Master Peacock bless us here!
With your insightful eyes and never failing ear!
Tell us all your tail does see!
Reveal your critical dexterity!

PEACOCK: My friends you’ve been so gracious
To suggest I’m perspicacious
And I can’t call your assessment
Disproportionately grand.
I deplore the great disparity,
But multi-ocularity
Bestows a rare sagacity
Beyond other birds’ command!
And if I may be provocative,
A wiser, more evocative
Derrida or Foucault
In my dazzling derrière looms:
Neo-Nietzsch-e-an proponents,
Exegetical exponents—
Yes I’m poli-perspectival
In my polychromic plumes!

CROWD: He’s poli-perspectival
In his polychromic plumes!

PEACOCK: It’s true that my proclivity
Is interdiscursivity;
Toujour the polysemious
The linear jamais.
Yes, all matters hermeneutical
Are to me pharmaceutical;
The thrill of Deconstruction’s
What I privilege today.
Sure, of all the dazzling fashions
That could e’er excite your passions,
This doyen of the haute couture
Will make the others pale!
Taj Mahal’s a paltry palace
And Aurora Borealis
Makes a petty, pallid show
Next to my iridescent tail!

CROWD: The Northern Light’s a sorry sight
Next to his shiny sparkly tail!

Master Peacock, won’t you, please,
Tell us everything that your tail sees!
Master Peacock won’t you say:
Are we in the style of today!

PLUMP HEN: Does my dress reveal my figure?

PEACOCK: Why, I’d call it “lard-o-scribular!”

DUCK: My quack?

PEACOCK: It goes...?

DUCK: Just “quack.”

PEACOCK: “Aphoristical,” I’d say.

OTHER HENS: And our clucking?

PEACOCK: “Ornithological”

GUINEA HEN: He speaks so—

PEACOCK: “Heteroglossical.”

TURKEY: And, Master, do please tell us
If our farm is a-okay!

PEACOCK: Well, the sunflowers are van Gogh-esque;
And quite Edgar Allen Poe-esque
Are the bells, bells, bells, bells, bells
I hear ringing in my ears!
The garden smells too peat-ish
But the apples are Magritte-ish
Your allusions are both rural
And post-modernist, my dears!

CROWD: Our allusions are both rural
And post-modernist, my dears...!

Then the song shifts, as a parade of grotesque show roosters arrives to be assessed by the Peacock.

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