In any event, my nomination is a delightful mis-rendering of the text of “O Fortuna” from Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. (It’s by someone called “Famished Mammal” – a name that I strongly suspect is fictitious.) As it turns out, there are quite a few of these “O Fortuna” videos on YouTube: it’s a thriving little sub-genre. But as good luck would have it, I first came upon the one I think is the best. I’ve posted it below.
It’s irreverent, in the best sense of the word. It pokes fun at the urgent tone and grandiose seriousness of the piece. And it also exposes the piece as “sentimental.” That might seem like a strange word to describe Carmina Burana – but Mr./Ms. Mammal shows us that it fits James Joyce’s definition of the word: full of “unearned emotion.” Orff thrusts us directly into a high drama without any kind of musical explanation or argument as to why we are there. He has written music that self-consciously strives to be “important” simply by insisting on its own importance.
Furthermore, this video also skewers the audience – reminding us that however often we’ve heard this piece, we probably don’t really know what the Latin lyrics actually mean. For most listeners, the words could mean anything.
All of this is fertile ground for Famished Mammal, and the others who have had a little fun at the expense of Carmina Burana. By reducing the piece to utter nonsense, FM delivers a sucker-punch of music criticism: striking at something that looks imposing and powerful, but which is really quite vulnerable.
By the way, I still like Carmina Burana (in moderation). But thanks to FM, I’ll never listen to it again without a smile.
© Colin Eatock 2012