Category Archives: Favourite art

Songs that make me tear up or choke

So our assistant principal is taking early retirement and we spent the end of the day today eating cake and listening to speeches and songs showing how much everyone at school have appreciated his presence and efforts. One of those songs was Erik Vea by Norwegian group Di Derre, a song that can make me tear up at the best of times. Watching the soon to be retiree sing it with friends and colleagues definitely did, and then he sat down and they and we sang it again, this time with rewritten personalized lyrics. I admit I couldn’t get all the words out.

I’m not usually a sentimental guy. Admittedly I once cried watching the President’s speech in Independence Day just before they go out and kick alien butt, but I’d been awake for 30 hours and I was also 21 and on a plane bound for the US to hang out with people I only knew through the internet. But when it comes to songs there are some that just hit me in the feels every time, even when I’m not sleep deprived, and on my bicycle ride home from work I wondered if overdosing on them would lead to an increasing or a decreasing effect and decided to run the experiment.

The experiment I’ve just done is seriously flawed. For instance I didn’t properly establish a baseline, but relied on anecdotal evidence in the form of my memories of previous encounters with these songs, and I hadn’t set up the criteria for rejecting the null hypothesis, or even decided on a null hypothesis, ahead of time. But what I have learned is that attempting to sing along greatly enhances the effect, something I already knew, and that in a poorly designed experiment there’s no evidence of a reduced effect.

Here’s the list of songs I did emotional battle with today:

Let It Go – from Frozen, preferably the movie version, not the record version with a different singer. (Yeah, I know the name of that singer, I just don’t want to mention it, since I never remember the name of the singer on the version I do like.)

It’s of course the whole context of this song that gets to me. How Elsa’s been emotionally imprisoned all through adolescence, but is now freed by the unintended revealing of her secret. Even just reading these lyrics affects me despite the attempt at desensitization.

Conceal, don’t feel,
don’t let them know
Well now they know

American Pie – Don McLean. This one was getting to me even before I knew anything about the back story.

I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died

And not as powerful (I can sing this one without choking most of the time) but worth an honourable mention, Weird Al Yankovic’s rewrite of this song to tell the story of Star Wars Episode I – The Saga Begins. One of the best songs Weird Al has produced from someone else’s. (He’s written some great original songs as well.)

And the Jedi I admire most
Met up with Darth Maul and now he’s toast
Well, I’m still here and he’s a ghost
I guess I’ll train this boy

Seasons in the sun by Terry Jacks appears to affect me less now than 20-25 years ago, but it was part of this experiment, and it was probably the first song that I couldn’t sing along to.

Learned of love and ABC’s,
skinned our hearts and skinned our knees.
Goodbye my friend, it’s hard to die,

And finally, one of my favourites. Listed as number 23. on this list of the 30 Top 12 string guitar songs of all time by Guitar World and described there as a sci-fi masterpiece, Queen’s ’39 is the only song I know that involves Einstein’s relativity and time dilation. Written by astrophysicist / rock superstar guitarist Brian May it’s a brilliant song, with excellent use of the 12 string guitar.

Don’t you hear my call though you’re many years away
Don’t you hear me calling you
All your letters in the sand cannot heal me like your hand

For my life
Still ahead
Pity Me.

And if you’re now thinking, but what about the song you mentioned first, well here’s a tiny little bit about Erik Vea by Norwegian group Di Derre. A song about a speed skater aiming for a way too ambitious result in the Norwegian national championships of 1973, and how watching this attempt and inevitable failure inspired the singer.

My translation of the refrain:

Does anyone remember Erik Vea
From the championships in ’73
Is there someone who can say where he is now
Did he go home?
Did he get his lap times down?


Books ( Goodreads)

Books are great! Sure, there are books that are horrible in content or style. But the general concept of a book is one of the greatest things there is. And one of the best things is sharing your favourites with others or calmly and rationally discussing how your favourite book is a literary masterpiece and anyone disagreeing or liking a book you find unimpressive is a dimwitted poo-poo-head.

One site facilitating such discourse is Goodreads. You can register the books you own, or read, or plan on reading. Rate them, comment on them or discuss them. My main use of the site is as the (lessee one, two, …) fourth incarnation of a system for keeping track of books I’ve read so I don’t get disappointed halfway through chapter three when I realise it’s not just that the author is predictable, I have actually read the book before.

It’s also good for showing off that I own well over a hundred books and have read more than 1500.

Til ungdommen – To youth

(English text follows below)

Nordahl Griegs Til ungdommen har alltid virket sterkt på meg. Det er ikke uten grunn at den er et fast innslag i humanistiske konfirmasjonsseremonier i Norge, med et sterkt og gjennomgående budskap om det ansvaret hver og en av oss har for å leve etter og styrke menneskerettighetene for alle. Og nettopp dette budskapet har gjort den til et element i flere minnemarkeringer for sommerens omkomne, nå sist som avslutning på den nasjonale minneseremonien. Den kommer ikke til å virke mindre sterkt på meg i framtida…

Herborg Kråkevik – til ungdommen

Kim Larsen – Kringsat af fjender

Nordahl Grieg’s poem Til ungdommen has always had a strong effect on me. You can find the original poem as well as several translations at the wikipedia article. I recommend the one labeled “Beautiful English translation” by translator unknown,  or learning Norwegian and listening to Herborg Kråkevik through the youtube link above. It’s a poem with a strong message that each and every one of us have a responsibility to work and strive for the human rights of us all and is known to many in Norway as a fixture of humanist confirmation ceremonies. This message, in such an emotional package, made it a natural part of the several memorial ceremonies this summer, culminating in it being the finale in the national memorial ceremony today. I doubt I’ll ever be able to hear it through without getting teary eyed again.