be warned of another of my outrageous projects combining musical (autoharp related!) content with (formally ambitious) silliness!



Allow me please a little musing before I turn to the music.

   With language, we can distinguish between form and content. If we happen to express a message in a wrong form, we may be misunderstood (there's been examples on this list, also recently!). On the other hand, nonsense clothed in fine form can appear as serious content. (Or so I hope!)

   With music, such a distinction doesn't make much sense: Music *is* form! A song, consisting of music *and* language, derives its character, of being sad or merry, most often from the words, not from the tune. In folk songs (as e.g. "Bury me beneath the willow"), there is often a stark contrast between the sad or cruel content and the light, merry form of the melody.

   I'll come back to the issue of form and content later on.



Some time ago we were given (by Gregg A.) a link to a video of a group playing EL CONDOR PASA. Listening to this made the tune stuck in my head and I was faced with the necessity to learn it on the autoharp.


Researching on the Internet, I learned that the Simon & Garfunkel version, "El Condor Pasa (If I Could)", is copyright restricted. So it was clear that I wouldn't use the original title if I ever upload my version to my Web site. Instead, I contrived a kind of "mondegreen":

   Pronounced according to the Received Pronunciation, the noun "passer" would sound much like the Spanish verb form "pasa"; and so the sounds of

   E L C O N D O R P A S A

are convincingly, I think, emulated by the sounds of

   E L K O N D O O R P A SS ER

or, differently typed,

   Elk On Door Passer !

   (Additionally, it would probably help, if the "r" in "door" is pronounced like George the Scotsman does.)


Now I had a title, although a silly looking one. But how can nonsense be made acceptable? By using an elaborate, sophisticated form, giving reason by rhyme, of course!

   What I had to do was to invent a story, making plausible an elk on someone passing through a door. Which I did. (But wait ...)


Parallel to plotting my story, I researched further and came across a Web site that promotes the indigenous language Runasimi, spoken in the Andes:

   This site also presents sheet music showing the original composition by Daniel Alomia Robles (1913), on which Paul Simon based his version of 1970. You find the original tune by scrolling down to the bottom of .

   Guessing from what I see on that site, I conclude that using this sheet music for non-commercial use is legal if the source link is given - you just saw it right here!

   It is for this version that I made an autoharp arrangement. 

   You find it in the row with ID label "condor" in the Table of Music and Musings on my Web site: 


Note that the tune's empty key signature (no flats, no sharps) designates not only the key of C major but also A minor, and here, especially, A *harmonic* minor, consisting of the chords Dm, Am and E7. In my understanding, the tune stays mainly in A harmonic minor but seeks relief in C major in a few places, clearly recognisable by the out  of scale (!) _g_ notes. 

   (The 7th degree in a harmonic minor scale is raised by a half step, becoming _g#_ in A harmonic minor,  as we recently were reminded of in a posting by Charles Whitmer.)

   The assignment of Dm (instead of Am) for the _a_ notes in measures 8 & 9 and 12 & 13 is due to the _f_ harmony notes below the _a_ melody notes in the corresponding places in the Piano y Canto score, on the Web page (just mentioned) immediately above the notation ("Kuntur phawan") which I use for my version.


The discovery of the free version threatened to make my invented story superfluous. But meanwhile I loved my crazy idea so much (yes, such am I!) that I adapted my words to the structure of Robles' original tune (that differs slightly, mainly rhythmically, from the Simon & Garfunkel one).

   The tune has an A part, repeated once, and a B part, repeated once  -  the B part contains a longer phrase that is repeated within each repetition of the B part. According to this structure I divided my story also in two parts: the A part asking a question, the B part answering it.

   And now the faint-hearted may skip the rest of this mail, all others, better gird your loins, for here it comes (cf. my sheet music):



Elk On Door Passer



How come that you are carrying that elk / on your back / through the door?

... It looks so silly, strange, so strange!

Are you a stand-in for a catafalque? / Does the elk / live no more?

... And then your nasty mange, bad mange!


I can this easily explain / for I've been told / riding an elk

will instantly, at once, regain / my skin of gold / without a whelk

... so I've been truly told, been told.

I got this, bumping in my car, / wapiti kind, / and rode it through

this door so low: I hit the bar, / I fell behind! / What could I do?

... So do not chide and scold, don't scold, don't scold!



Well, now you probably see what the notion "providing reason with rhyme" is meant to mean!


(I hope that at least Paul Roberts appreciates my folly. Do you, Paul?)



Practising the Robles version quite a lot, I've grown to like it better than Paul Simon's pop version. I hope you will be able to agree.





    Ziggy in Cologne, Germany



If you don't know the term "mondegreen", you might look up this page:



The "content" of my story was developed from the title, naturally, and from one word, "whelk", the only rhyme with "elk" that I found. (The other one I'm rhyming with "elk", "catafalque", is not fully satisfying because of the slightly different vowel sound. But, on the other hand, if Philip Larkin rhymes "breadths" with "paths" [in his poem "An Arundel Tomb"], why should I be over-diligent?!)

    I can't remember where and when I first met the word "whelk", meaning not a mollusc but a pimple. Perhaps in an advertisement like the one I just made up for a fictitious AAA, an Anti-Acne-Application:

   No whelk, no wheal,

   we safely heal!

   Take our Super AAA,

   you'll be looking like a fay!

("Super AAA" seems to be directed only to girls.)


Ah, what would life be without rhyme??   Without reason!! (Or at least without a lot of fun!)


(If you wonder where from I get my inspiration, let me tell you that I recently read again, after more than 35 years, Dorothy L. Sayers' detective novel of 1933, Murder Must Advertise. No autoharp in this novel, only a bombardon [played by a member of a street band, who gets frightened by pennies thrown into the tuba funnel from the roof of a six stories building by Lord Peter because "The penny goes down with a tremendous whack"]  and a penny whistle [which serves to disturb a woman].)