A Voice and a Silence


First Sip:

One ought, every day at least,
to hear a little song, read a good poem,
see a fine picture,
and if it were possible,
to speak a few reasonable words.

– Goethe

The only thing better than singing
is more singing.

– Ella Fitzgerald

Ella in 1940

Slice of Cake:

You can endure almost anything
as long as you can sing about it.

– James Wright

In 1956, audiences saw film star Deborah Kerr sing and dance
in The King and I—except it wasn’t her singing.

In 1961, audiences saw film star Natalie Wood sing and dance
in West Side Story—except it wasn’t her singing.

In 1964, audiences saw film star Audrey Hepburn sing and dance
in My Fair Lady—except it wasn’t her singing.

In each of these movies, the singing voice was provided by Marni Nixon, who was paid to sing and be silent about it.
And so she remained uncredited for many years.++

“The fact that a lot of the stars
couldn’t sing was only a minor inconvenience
to the big producers.”

Frank J Prial, author of
Voice of the Many, but Rarely Herself +++

In 1965, movie audiences finally got to see Marni Nixon’s face
though they still wouldn’t know all the places they’d heard her before.

And you can see her, too!
Below is a clip from Marni Nixon’s movie debut.
(Sorry if there’s an ad…)

In The Sound of Music, the star Julie Andrews—of course—
provides her own singing voice.
Marni Nixon plays the part of Sister Sophia.

In this clip Marni Nixon is the second one to sing—
She’s the one with the line:
“She waltzes on her way to mass and whistles on the stair.”

** Happy 89th Birthday **
Marni Nixon

born February 22, 1930
in Altadena, Califonia

Linger Awhile:

I’ve been thinking this week about how the lyrics
of a song, when constructed just right, can
take us on a journey.

Here is a close look at one deceptively simple song.
It was written for a fairy tale movie
that premiered on television 62 years ago this month.

It is a song full of contrasts:
Outdoors vs. indoors. Earth vs. the heavens.
And the strong assertion of full engagement
vs. a hesitant kind of wondering.

The song begins when a young man sees a
young woman walk through a door.
It concludes with him flying—and perhaps never
coming down to earth again.

The song is Ten Minutes Ago.
It’s from Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella.

On the left are the lyricsby Oscar Hammerstein II. <<<

>>> On the right are thoughts and notes—by me.

If you’d like to hear the song first, scroll down and
you’ll find a video clip.

♪ ♫ ♪ ♫ ♪ ♫ ♪ ♫ ♪ ♫ ♪ ♫

♪ ♫
Ten Minutes Ago I saw you.

The precision of a clock. Very objective.

I looked up when you came through the door.

Two dispassionately observable acts—and within a room.

My head started reeling,

The start of an inner experience.
(Cool word choice, since reeling is a kind of dance.)

You gave me the feeling
the room had no ceiling or floor.

…Now he’s dissolved the building.

♪ ♫
Ten Minutes ago, I met you
and we murmered our how-do-you dos,

Back to inside the room—back to an
objectively observable act.
There’s a polite hesitancy: Murmur, not say or shout.

I wanted to ring out the bells and fling out my arms
and to sing out the news.

Inner experience. And bells imply being out-of-doors.
This is strong assertion and full engagement.
(Also a triple inner-rhyme, which feels exorbitant.)

♪ ♫
I have found her! She’s an angel
with the dust of the stars in her eyes.

More strong assertion and full engagement.
He associates her with the heavens: angel, stardust.

We are dancing,

Quick return to objectively observable.
This is the only time we get the word dancing
though the whole song feels like dancing.

We are flying
and she’s taking me back to the skies.

And now we’re into the heavens!

♪ ♫
In the arms of my love I’m flying
over mountain and meadow and glen

No more objective—this is all inner experience.
Interesting that a list that starts with mountain
could have led to raging rivers or roiling oceans
instead we get
these pastoral words: meadow, glen.
There’s a hesitation, as if he’s wondering about
turning back.

And I like it so well that for all I can tell
I may never come down again!
I may never come down to earth again.

He may never. More hesitant wondering?
Also, he likes it—not loves it.

♪ ♫ ♪ ♫ ♪ ♫ ♪ ♫ ♪ ♫ ♪ ♫

So our song ends and our young man is flying,
but he is also still wondering. 

What I admire so much
is the careful crafting of Hammerstein’s lyrics.
The song brings us along step-by-step,
from observable, pedestrian events
on up to the skies.

The emotions conveyed are complex enough to feel
full of exuberance,
yet still leave room for a hesitance to fully commit.

Which is as it should be. 
After all, they only met ten minutes ago!
(And the plot needs somewhere to go.)

Richard Rogers & Oscar Hammerstein II originally wrote
their musical version of Cinderella
to air on March 31, 1957 as a live broadcast starring Julie Andrews.
More than a million people watched it on tv that night.

Since then,
Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella has been performed
countless times as live stage shows, movies, and television series.

Here’s a clip of the song Ten Minutes Ago
from the 1997 television remake, produced by Whitney Houston.
Paolo Montalbán plays the prince,
Brandy Norwood plays Cinderella.

Music by Richard Rogers,
Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II.

“Half-Cup More”

Match the songwriter on the left
with the song title that she wrote on the right.
Just for fun!

(Note: Answers in comment section at end of this post)

1. Mrs Chilton Price

a. “Since You Asked”

2. Joni Mitchell

b. “Give Me One Reason”

3. Dorothy Fields

c. “God Bless the Child”

4. Tracey Chapman

e. “Slow Poke”

5. Carole King

d. “Free Man in Paris”

6. Judy Collins

f. “Up on the Roof”

7. Billie Holiday

g. “What Good Can Drinkin Do”

8. Janis Joplin

h. “On the Sunny Side of the Street”

Take-Away Box

Bet you can guess what song I’m singing!

me on the walk down from Zwölferhorn
near Salzburg, Austria
May 1989

Ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing,
only a signal shown, and a distant voice in the darkness;
So on the ocean of life, we pass and speak one another,
only a look and a voice, then darkness again and a silence.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Thank you for reading!
Kelly J Hardesty

Thoughts? Questions?
Scroll down to the endand you can leave me a note!
Always so lovely to hear from you.

+++ Prial, Frank J. “Voice of the Many, but Rarely Herself”,
The New York Times, March 6, 2007, accessed February 21, 2019

++Here’s an interesting interview with Marni Nixon,
Published on Jul 27, 2016
Marni Nixon: Singing voice of the stars
CBS Sunday Morning


Please note:
Whenever you click on ‘Post Comment’ your comments always come to me first. Then I post them below.
If you’d rather they stay between us, just let me know.
© Kelly J Hardesty 2024

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1 thought on “A Voice and a Silence”

  1. Below are the answers to the matching game.
    Thanks for playing!
    By the way, these songs span more than 60 years of American music —
    from 1930 to 1995.

    ** ANSWERS **
    1) e. Mrs Chilton Price wrote the music & lyrics to “Slow Poke.” Her associate Redd Stewart recorded it first in 1951.
    2) d. Joni Mitchell wrote the music & lyrics to “Free Man in Paris.” It appeared on her 1974 album Court and Spark.
    3) h. Dorothy Fields wrote the lyrics to “On the Sunny Side of the Street” in 1930. The melody was credited to Jimmy McHugh, though there’s some controversy on that. It quickly became a jazz standard, recorded by dozens of artists.
    4) b. Tracey Chapman wrote the music & lyrics to “Give Me One Reason.” It appeared on her 1995 album New Beginning.
    5) f. Carol King wrote the music to “Up on the Roof.” The lyrics are by Gerry Goffin. It was recorded first by The Drifters in 1962, and dozens of artists since.
    6) a. Judy Collins wrote the music & lyrics to “Since You Asked.” It appeared on her 1967 album Wildflowers.
    7) c. Billy Holiday co-wrote the music & lyrics to “God Bless the Child” with Arthur Herzog, Jr in 1939.
    8) g. Janis Joplin wrote the music & lyrics to “What Good Can Drinkin’ Do” in 1962. It was her first recorded song. She was 19 years old.

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